December 27, 2010

F. Lee Bailey makes case for fresh start in Maine

"This has been my best year in memory," says the famed lawyer, who moved to Yarmouth last year.

By J. Hemmerdinger
Staff Writer

YARMOUTH - Dressed in a crisp black suit and black leather boots, F. Lee Bailey gazed southeast over Casco Bay through the wide windows of his rented home in Yarmouth.

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At his desk in Yarmouth, F. Lee Bailey is surrounded by evidence of a life in the spotlight, including covers of Time and Newsweek magazines relating to famous trials, and of his passions, aircraft and yachts.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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F. Lee Bailey poses with his business partner and girlfriend, Debbie Elliott, in her salon in Yarmouth. Bailey and Elliott Consulting helps clients on a wide range of business matters.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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"I used to swim there when I was a kid," he said, pointing to an outcropping a quarter mile from the rocky shore. "I always knew this would be my ultimate settling place."

Last year, Bailey, the 77-year-old lawyer of O.J. Simpson-trial fame, moved from Massachusetts to Maine. He now lives with Debbie Elliott, his girlfriend and business partner, in a rented home on Prince Point, only steps from the cottage where he spent childhood summers.

But Bailey, who's also a pilot and mariner, isn't practicing law. He's not even licensed to practice anymore.

Since arriving, he and Elliott have launched Bailey & Elliott Consulting, selling a range of services as diverse as Bailey's background.

Bailey said it's time for a new chapter in his life.

"This has been my best year in memory. Everything is starting to break exactly right," he said as he sat at an uncluttered, polished wooden desk in his office, which he shares with Elliott and Boots, his 14-year-old West Highland white terrier.

The new firm consults on general business matters and a variety of specialized topics and industries, drawing on the backgrounds of Bailey and Elliott, a longtime small-business owner and former business development specialist at the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.

Bailey has long invested in boat and aviation companies and owned countless airplanes and yachts. Now, he consults with prospective plane and yacht buyers to estimate operating costs and pick the craft best serving their needs.

Bailey, who helped form the American Polygraph Association and ran his own investigative firm, also consults on polygraph testing and private investigation. The most high-profile example has been his involvement in the case of Dennis Dechaine, a Maine farmer convicted of killing 12-year-old Sarah Cherry in 1988, who is seeking a retrial.

Elliott, who once owned salons in Portland and Newport, heads the cosmetology side of the pair's consulting business. She cuts, colors and styles clients' hair and provides other personal care services.

Bailey said the services are related. Elliott can take care of clients' appearance; meanwhile, he preps them for court.

Bailey said he's planning to launch another offering, a mediation service he calls Quickset. It would let private parties settle disputes with an arbitrator -- possibly a retired judge -- within a month and for as little as $2,000. Bailey said he plans to start promoting Quickset in television and radio advertisements early next year.

The alternative is the civil court system, which Bailey called impractical for all but the largest cases and "a terribly inefficient way" to settle small, private disputes. Cases can slog through court for years, racking up tens of thousands of dollars in lawyer and court fees.

Bailey said Quickset can let smaller businesses, such as construction companies, continue work while seeking damages.

"I think it can spread around the state," Bailey said.

Greg Fryer, a corporate and securities lawyer with the law firm Verrill Dana LLP, heard Bailey speak at a recent Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce event. Fryer called Bailey a masterful public speaker.

"He is fully capable of talking for an hour and a half without notes. He is a great trial lawyer and has had a lifetime of thinking on his feet," said Fryer.


Law is a subject Bailey knows well. He has appeared in courts in every state but Montana, written law books and represented a host of high-profile clients.

He defended Albert DeSalvo, suspected of being the Boston strangler; Army Capt. Ernest Medina, who faced court martial for his involvement in the My Lai massacre in Vietnam; and newspaper heiress-turned-bank robber Patricia Hearst.

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