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Friday, December 26, 2014

Young Lawyers and Hero Worship

The new edition of Texas Monthly has a fawning puff piece about Joe Jamail, The Greatest Lawyer Who Ever Lived, Or So Says Joe Jamail. 
In fairness, the subtitle lets the reader know that Jamail is a foul mouth egotistical bully: "At the age of 89 the state's most famous attorney - and one of the wealthiest - is still dropping F-bombs and crushing opposing counsel. Can someone get this man another scotch?"

The main takeaway from the article is that Jamail is a charismatic, brilliant lawyer who hangs out with other celebrities like Willie Nelson, Billy Joe Shaver, Darrell Royal, and gives millions of dollars to the University of Texas. Sure, he curses and insults opposing lawyers and witnesses, but hey, that's just being colorful.

I was a young lawyer starting out in Houston when Jamail tried the Pennzoil case. Another celebrity lawyer was also in the news, Gerry Spence, the cowboy lawyer from Wyoming. He also liked to intimidate his opponents, every goosing them in the courtroom.

I looked up to Jamail and Spence. But I soon learned that if most lawyers acted like they did, karma had a way of showing you the error of your ways. They are great lawyers, yes, but they are also like Frankenstein monsters. Judges let them get away with conduct that they would lock most lawyers up for. They fawn over them, and the juries pick up on it.

Maybe the most telling anecdote in the Texas Monthly article is the one where Jamail laughs about getting a $16MM verdict for a drunk driver injured in a one car wreck. Some witness claimed that a big truck, owned by the defendant, ran him off the road. How lucky to have an eyewitness like that.

1 comment:

  1. When you were a young lawyer, looking for inspiration and role models, how did you feel about Ralph Nader?