Years ago, I spent lots of time mooning and crooning around Gerry Spence's ranch in DuBois, Wyoming. That's where the Trial Lawyers College convenes each summer. Ambitious lawyers from around the country rub elbows with the great and near great. And they blow smoke up one another's posteriors about how it's them against all the oppresses the little guy.
A lot of smack get's talked out there. Spence strides the big barn lecture room boasting that "no one can beat me." And relationships get formed among lawyers that sometimes last for years.
I was seduced. I hoped that I, too, was a special lawyer, gifted in ways that others were not. Then I returned to Connecticut, recovered from my Rocky Mountain high, and resumed the workaday role of lawyer. Some clients love me, some don't and come to hate me; I win, I lose and I struggle day by day with the flotsam and jetsam of the psyche that is the practice of law in a small firm.
Some people never recover from the Rocky Mountain high. Consider, for example, the strange case of Joseph H. Low, IV, a self-proclaimed tough guy aspiring to national prominence. I'm A Tough Guy Low bounced around for several years in the firms of other Trial Lawyers College alumna, notably Milton Grimes of Rodney King fame, and personal injury guru Rex Parris. His new web site is replete with glowing testimonials, all from current or former members of the Trial Lawyers College staff: You stroke my ego, and I'll stroke yours.
I haven't followed Low's career much in the past few years. His ambition is wearying; his need to boast infinite. I have never understood people who thought they needed to fly out of state to find cases. California is a populous state. Something's wrong if you need to travel to find work.
I stumbled across Low's name today in a piece about the right to counsel of choice. I'm Not Fungible; I'm A Genius The case sounded familiar. Hadn't Low been kicked off a case in Missouri? Yes, I recall now. He wasn't kicked off for being too smart, I heard. Rather, he was too abrasive, too unaccustomed to following the rules, too out of control. It turns out that Low's case, a case in which a judge banished him to the spectator's section, is headed to the Supreme Court. The client claims a violation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel of choice.
Anger is a cheap and easy drug. Addictive, too. From what I heard, Low road into Missouri with a California-size chip on his shoulder and offended the court. He was not permitted to appear pro hac vice. The Court didn't try to tilt the playing field against the defendant; it simply side-lined a tough talking young loud mouth who wanted shout the shout before he learned to crawl the crawl.
Perhaps we should have the right to counsel of our choice. But once chosen we have an obligation as lawyers to behave like lawyers. Joe Low's ego is out of control, and a Missouri court saw it. So, too, will the Supreme Court. Only the folks out at Gerry's ranch will regard him as a hero. And that says all you need to know about the Trial Lawyers College: Grown men and women trying to make reputations of their own by mimicking others.
Was Joey doing what he thought Gerry would do?