When you think of the greatest trial lawyers in the recent history of the United States, those that have made the most profound impact on the practice of law, there are just a few names that stand head and shoulders above the rest of this extraordinarily accomplished field of court room warriors.
Clarence Darrow of course, considered one of the greatest champions of the labour movement, the poor and the most hopeless of death-row cases.
Melvin Belli, who transformed the civil litigation landscape with his highly innovative use of demonstrative evidence.
Gerry Spence. Original painting 2020. Collection of the artist.
And F Lee Bailey, arguably the most accomplished criminal defence lawyer of the 20th Century.
However, as much as these great figures may have inspired other attorneys, and in Belli's case given rise to excellent ongoing legal education....... it is Gerry Spence who through his teachings, books and famously challenging Trial Lawyer College, that has undoubtedly left the most indelible mark upon hundreds of leading plaintiff civil and criminal litigators across the nation.
Tirelessly fighting for the rights of ordinary people is how he describes himself, never having lost a single criminal case and not a civil case lost since 1969.
Ask any Trial Lawyer College graduate and they will tell you that his unique quality is his ability to inspire and train a new breed of lawyer -- a warrior who has the courage to become a real person first, (through group analysis and psycho-drama) who then has the heart to fight for justice in their own passionate voice.
I had the fortune to meet Gerry Spence on many an occasion, to hear him speak often and to attend his workshops, and today, inspired by his dedication and commitment to his calling, I am beginning a portrait of the great man, pictured in less contentious times standing before his beloved Thunderhead Ranch in Wyoming where the College had been located for over 25 years.
It is perhaps fitting that I start this painting now, as with sadness and some rancour the College is in turmoil and its future uncertain.
Nonetheless, its work in influencing and positively motivating hundreds of attorneys a year will remain at the core of so many who fight every day as true champions of justice in a troubled world.
The first psycho dramatist at the College, Don Clarkson, taught over the years, that “How you say goodbye is an indication of how you have lived your life.” and although today Gerry Spence is still relatively well, and we all wish him good health and longevity, I shall undoubtedly never see him again.
This is my Good Bye Tribute to the one and only Gerry Spence.