I have been a trial lawyer for over fifty years with a law practice focused on those who have suffered damages or harm due to the fault of someone else. I’m usually content with what I have done for others during this last half century of being a lawyer until I go to an affair like the one I just attended. Last year I was inducted into the National Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame along with Phil Corboy, Chicago; J.B. Spence, Florida; Russ Herman, New Orleans and Richard “Racehorse” Haynes, Texas – all great and nationally known plaintiff trial lawyers. Past inductees include Edward Bennett Williams, Melvin Belli and Gerry Spence. It was a humbling experience to be included with these lawyers when I was made a member of the Hall of Fame last year
This year, in Las Vegas, Joseph Cotchett, California; Fred David Gray, Alabama; Elaine R. Jones, Virginia and Sheldon Schlesinger, Florida were inducted. Cotchett was the lead trial lawyer on behalf of senior citizens against Lincoln Savings & Loan, represented 8,600 Filipino children abandoned when the Island Naval base closed and has a life long history of pro bono legal work. Gray has dedicated his life to eliminating racial discrimination in Alabama. He represented Rosa Parks in he bus boycott and was the lawyer for Martin Luther King. He hs been involved in every major racial discrimination matter in his home state and performed a life time of professional pro bono work. Elaine R. Jones has led the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational fund and was the first black woman to defend death row inmates. She has spent her life doing pro bono legal work in the civil rights area of law. Lita and I have known Shelly Schlesinger and his family for over thirty years. In addition to his record setting jury verdicts he had dedicated his work and his money to civic and charitable causes in Florida.
As I sat on the stage with these people while their accomplishments were given I felt out of place with people who had dedicated so much of their life to free legal work because they knew it was the right thing to do. When we hear about trial lawyers who have dishonored their profession, think of these lawyers who have contributed so much for others.
From Thursday July 30th through Sunday August 2nd the Washington State Association for Justice held it’s annual convention. John Budlong as President, put on a wonderful conference at Suncadia Resort near Cle Elum. The new incoming President is Brad Fulton, son in law of Dan Sullivan. Dan is one of this state’s finest plaintiff lawyers, now retired, who was my mentor and has been my good friend for thirty years. Brad has long been active in the organization and received the President’s award in 2007. I was flattered to receive the same award this year at the convention. Carol Johnson is the president elect. Blaine Tamaki & Betsylew Miale-Gix were co-chairs of the convention which featured a series of seminar speakers Friday and Dr. Arin Reeves on diversity in the legal profession on Sunday.
On Saturday Gerry Spence and I did a seminar the called "A morning with Paul Luvera and Gerry Spence." We put it on from 8:00 am to 11:30 that morning. I was pleased the attendance was the largest in the history of the organization and it was rewarding to see all the lawyers who were in the room.
The night before we spoke, Lita, who ismy wife of thirty years as well as mylaw partner, fixed dinner forGerry andme at a house we rented.Over dinner we discussed what we were going to do the next morning. We decided that we would each make a brief introductory talk. After that wewould askthe audience what topics they wanted discussed. From that list we would each gave a response. There were a lot of topics todiscuss the nextmorning. We coveredeverything from how to argue money to what to do about problem clients. It was a free flowing discussion with demonstrations and examples.
It was a pleasure to see Gerry at his finest. He was brilliant and he had the audience’s complete attention at all times. I’ve been his friend and admirer for twenty eight years. I’ve worked with him at the TrialCollege and watched him try lawsuits. Ihave seen him speak many times, but he was in top form at this seminar. He was inspiring as well as captivating. The audience loved him. I was proud just to be on the stage with the greatest trial lawyer of the this century since Clarence Darrow.
Not only that, I enjoy being around Gerry. When we made our photography trip to Mexico a year ago and had time for just the two of us to spend time together we found out how much we have in common and enjoyed the leisure time. However,when he is talking to lawyers with passion and enthusiasm, hecarries you along with him. When the seminar was over, I shared avery long standing ovation,but wanted to join the audience in applauding him. At eighty years of age, he continues to amaze me with his energy and charisma. This seminar was video taped by the Washington State Association for Justice. (www.wstla.org) I don’t know when it will be available, but it’s worth owning just to see a master trial lawyer like Gerry.