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Tulsa Law

TU Law ranked as #37 by Above the Law

The University of Tulsa College of Law (TU Law) has recently been recognized by Above the Law as #37 in its 2018 Top Law School rankings. Above the Law’s rankings focus on student outcomes from the graduating class of 2017 including employment, costs and debt, and alumni satisfaction.

Above the Law limits their list to the top 50 law schools including those with quality employment prospects outside of their particular region as well as for students who do not graduate at the top of the class.

For the same year, TU Law is also ranked as #15 nationally and #1 in Oklahoma for 2017 graduate employment in full-time, long-term Bar License required and JD Advantage positions ten months after graduation.

TU Law was founded in 1923 and offers fall, spring and summer starts. For more information, contact us or read about us online.

Cybersecurity law scholar Ido Kilovaty joins TU Law

Cybersecurity scholar Ido Kilovaty joins TU as the Frederic Dorwart Endowed Assistant Professor of Law.

Ido Kilovaty has been appointed to hold the Frederic Dorwart Endowed Assistant Professor of Law position at The University of Tulsa College of Law. He will teach cybersecurity law, internet law and international law.

Kilovaty comes to TU from Yale Law School where he was a Cyber Fellow for the Center for Global Legal Challenges, a Resident Fellow for the Information Society Project, and involved in co-teaching a course titled, “The Law & Technology of Cyber Conflict” offered both to law students and computer science majors.

“I am delighted to be joining The University of Tulsa College of Law,” said Kilovaty. “I am very much looking forward to be working with the outstanding faculty and students at Tulsa.”

Focuses on domestic and global cybersecurity.

Kilovaty studies the connection between technology, law and policy, with a focus on domestic and global cybersecurity. His recently authored “Freedom to Hack” which proposes a solution of ethical hacking for the improvement of smart-device security is forthcoming in the Ohio State Law Journal. He has also written on election interference through cyberspace, “Doxfare: – Politically Motivated Leaks and the Future of the Norm on Non-Intervention in the Era of Weaponized Information” appearing in the Harvard National Security Journal (2018).

Kilovaty’s recent scholarship includes – “NATO, ICRC, and the U.S. –Direct Participation in Hacktivities under International Humanitarian Law” (Duke Law & Technology Review); “World Wide Web of Exploitations—Peacetime Cyber Espionage under International Law” (Columbia Science & Technology Law Review); “Virtual Violence: Disruptive Cyber Operations as ‘Attacks’ under International Humanitarian Law” (Michigan Telecommunications & Technology Law Review). Kilovaty has also published op-eds and essays in the Harvard Law Review Blog, Lawfare, Just Security, WIRED, and TechCrunch.

At Yale Law, Kilovaty developed a project to connect the legal and technical aspects of cybersecurity.

At Yale Law School, Kilovaty developed a cross-disciplinary project on cybersecurity bringing together lawyers, policymakers and technology experts to engage in constructive discourse on the current state of affairs on cybersecurity law and policy. The project was a collaboration between Yale Law School and Yale University’s Department of Computer Science designed to bridge the gaps between the legal and technical aspects of cybersecurity.

Kilovaty earned his Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) degree from Georgetown University Law Center, his Master of Laws (LL.M.) from the University of California Berkeley School Of Law, and his Bachelor of Laws LL.B.) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

 

Famed attorney Jan Schlichtmann to speak at TU Law’s Richard B. Risk CLE Practicum Series

Jan Schlichtmann is a nationally known environmental and civil justice lawyer whose work has inspired a book and movie. Schlichtmann, named one of “The Best Lawyers in America” via peer review process, is coming to The University of Tulsa as part of the Richard B. Risk Continuing Legal Education Practicum Series.

Schlichtmann graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1973 followed by a law degree from Cornell University in 1977. He began private practice in 1978 in Massachusetts and it did not take long for his work to be recognized.

Hear Schlichtmann speak Wednesday, April 4 at 6 p.m. in the Lorton Performance Center, free and open to the public.

Schlichtmann is most known for his work on the federal lawsuit Anderson v. Cryovac, Inc. where he represented eight families from Woburn, Massachusetts, in 1986. There were multiple instances of leukemia that affected each of the families and, after taking the case, Schlichtmann alleged from the evidence he found that the water was being contaminated by Cryovac, a subsidiary of W. R. Grace and Company; Beatrice Foods, the operator of a tannery; and UniFirst, a laundry service. UniFirst settled first and the money received from that company was put to the case against the other two. The jury found Beatrice not liable, but Schlichtmann received a settlement from Cryovac. This case and the events surrounding it were documented in the book A Civil Action written by Johnathan Harr in 1995. The book became a best seller, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction and was made into a 1998 movie starring John Travolta as Jan Schlichtmann.

Since the case in Woburn, Schlichtmann has won many other cases and is known for his work in civil justice, science and the environment. In the late 1990s, he represented 69 Toms River, New Jersey families, who claimed that their children had developed cancer from pollution by three companies. They reached a settlement in 2001. Schlichtmann was also a co-founder of the Legal Broadcast Network (LBN) in 2004. LBN helps bring attention to important issues of law through blogs and podcasts

Schlichtmann has also lectured at many law schools and conferences offering his insights from his experiences. Schlichtmann’s Tulsa lecture is titled, “Justice & The Lawyer – Lessons from the Environmental Wars.”

TU Law alumnus Dick Risk makes the TU Law CLE Practicum Series possible.

Prior to the lecture, there was a private reception and showing of A Civil Action at the Circle Cinema with lecture sponsor and TU law alumnus, Richard “Dick” Risk, in attendance. TU law students, alumni and lecture registrants were invited.

Risk graduated from Oklahoma State University in 1963 and decided to attend law school in 1998. After graduating in 2001 at age 60, he decided to start his own solo practice. He settled a large class action suit early in his law career and wanted to do something for TU so he used part of the settlement to create an endowment for the law school in 2011. “At then-Dean Janet Levit’s suggestion, we created a practicum series to help new graduates of the law school learn things about practicing law that the law school doesn’t teach,” said Risk.

These regular lectures are available to students, the Tulsa legal community and anyone with interest in law. Risk wanted to add special lecture to the series. He said, “I suggested to Dean Lyn Entzeroth that we should consider in addition to the regular noon series having a speaker who would be recognized by the general public to talk about the virtues of the legal profession and its positive impact on our society. I immediately thought of Jan Schlichtmann, and I’m thrilled he accepted my invitation for this event.” Risk had heard Schlichtmann speak at two different seminars and thought he was a powerful speaker and a delightful person. “Jan and I are both advocates for truth and justice, and I am honored that he will be the first evening lecture sponsored by the Risk Practicum Series,” said Risk.

There will be a reception at 5:30 p.m. in the lobby of the Lorton Performance Center preceding Jan Schlichtmann’s lecture at 6 p.m. and the event is free and open to the public.

TU Law given an “A” for facilities

The University of Tulsa College of Law has been selected as one of the “Best Law School Buildings” by preLaw Magazine, March 2018. TU Law received an “A” for its campus facility, aesthetics, technology, library and amenities.

Tyler Roberts, editor of preLaw magazine noted in the article, “When applying to law school, it is important to consider the academic rigor of each school, its employment statistics and its bar-passage rate. But don’t forget that once law school starts, you could be spending 40-60 hours a week there. You may spend more time – at least awake time – there than you do at home. This is why preLaw magazine started its evaluations of law school buildings in 2014.”

TU Law building’s points-of-interest include:

MABEE LEGAL INFORMATION CENTER (LAW LIBRARY

The Mabee Legal Information Center (MLIC) is a resource-rich and technologically advanced facility giving students and the Tulsa legal community access to the highest standard in legal study and research. The MLIC has a 400,000-volume collection and is staffed with three professional librarians. The building also provides space for three law journals, certificate programs and the school’s alumni office. Features include an electronic classroom, compact shelving, and digital access to electronic and alternative research sources. During regular business hours, students, faculty and staff may reach a reference librarian at 918- 631-2404 or mlic@utulsa.edu.

TU LAW DIGITAL COMMONS

The University of Tulsa College of Law preserves and allows users to access the intellectual output of our community in the TU Law Digital Commons. This repository is a joint project of the Mabee Legal Information Center (MLIC) and the college’s Department of External Relations.

CLASSROOMS

Classrooms are equipped with the latest technology including HD projection systems, touchscreen controls, computer and laptop connections (VGA and HOM1), integrated audio systems with wireless capabilities, Sympodiums, Blu-ray players, document cameras and built­-in classroomcapture/recording systems. See the classrooms in our TU Law virtual tour. All classrooms are linked together with a full HD mesh that allows audio and video to be transmitted between rooms. The Pit, a student lounge, is equipped with a fully integrated audio system and a quad screen video wall used for digital signage applications and event broadcasts.

WM STUART PRICE AND MICHAEL C. TURPEN COURTROOM

The Price and Turpen Courtroom at TU Law is designed for the future of legal instruction. The courtroom boasts a state-of-the art sound system, broadcast and HD recording capabilities, HD video conferencing equipment and a wireless network. The courtroom is used for moot court competitions, classroom instruction and a number of symposia and lectures throughout the year.

BOESCHE LEGAL CLINIC

The Boesche Legal Clinic houses the Immigrant Rights Project, the Tulsa Immigrant Resource Network and the Lobeck Taylor Community Advocacy Clinic. The facility allows law students the opportunity to meet real clients and face challenges in a workplace setting. Students are able to put legal skills and classroom education to the test while under the close supervision of a staff attorney.

ACCESSIBILITY

Elevators

  • An elevator is located in the Mabee Legal Information Center (MLIC) to provide easy multi­level access to the various research facilities.
  • An elevator is also located in the College of Law lobby for access to the Pit and lower level of the MLIC.

Classrooms

  • All classrooms at the College of Law are accessible without having to use stairs.

Restrooms

  • All of the restrooms at the College of Law and in the MLIC are ADA compliant.
  • The restrooms in the MLIC and on the east side of College of Law are larger and more accommodating for persons with disabilities.

SUSTAINABLE FEATURES OF THE LAW SCHOOL BUILDING

The University of Tulsa Law building contains a number of modern sustainable features including:

  • Building automation for temperature and humidity controls
  • Occupancy sensors for lighting
  • Efficiency optimization of existing light fixtures in remodeled areas
  • Variable frequency drives on key air handlers and heating water pumps
  • Recycling stations for students, faculty and administrators

 

 

Downing Wins National Writing Competition

M. Dalton Downing, a third-year law student at The University of Tulsa College of Law, recently won first place in a national writing competition sponsored by the Association of Securities and Exchange Commission Alumni (ASECA).

His first-place finish came with a $5,000 prize and a trip to the ASECA Annual Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C. The annual dinner featured the most prominent members of the U.S. securities community, including current and former SEC Commissioners. Downing was honored alongside Alan L. Beller, former SEC Division Director of Corporate Finance, who is the 2018 William O. Douglas Award Recipient.

The title of his winning paper is Picket Signs Versus Pocket Books: Using U.S. Securities Law to Compel Corporate Lobbying Disclosure. The Tulsa Law Review originally published the article in Fall 2017, and it will be reprinted by ASECA later this year. You can read the article at this link.

Downing is currently writing two other articles, one addressing corporate political spending from a state law perspective and the other making the case for a self-funding SEC.

During his time at the University of Tulsa College of Law, Downing served as editor-in-chief of the Tulsa Law Review and recently externed with Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Senior Judge Stephanie K. Seymour. Following graduation this spring, he will join the Washington, D.C. office of Latham & Watkins LLP.

Book reviews featured in this issue of Tulsa Law Review

The annual book review issue of the Tulsa Law Review is now available for reading. Editor-in-Chief and TU Law student M. Dalton Downing prefaces the issue with the following comments about the tradition of publishing book reviews relevant to law.

“In an essay published by the Texas Law Review nearly a decade ago, Sanford Levinson lamented the degree to which law journals were abandoning book reviews. He felt that law journals—the legal profession’s chief scholarly fora—had a duty “to serve as a venue for serious discussions of important books relevant . . . to thinking about law.” The following year, in collaboration with Levinson and Mark Graber, the Tulsa Law Review published its inaugural book review issue.

So began our rich tradition of publishing book reviews that not only offer careful, evaluative criticism of prominent books, but that also bridge disciplinary divides. As you will see in the nearly two dozen essays that follow, both the books under review and the reviewers come from an array of disciplinary backgrounds—from law, of course, but also from sociology, philosophy, political science, and history. Skillfully pairing thought provoking books with astute reviewers, our co-editors, Professors Julie Novkov and Stuart Chinn, assembled a collection of reviews that capture the depth and complexity of each book, stimulate interdisciplinary conversation, and offer original insights. ‘

The Tulsa Law Review owes a debt of gratitude to all who made this issue possible: to Sanford Levinson (whose book is reviewed herein) and Mark Graber for inspiring and establishing this tradition; to Professors Novkov and Chinn for their thoughtful, diligent editorship; and to the reviewers for crafting insightful, fascinating essays that educate and inspire our readers.”

To read this issue of the Tulsa Law Review click here.

Pallarez and Young win Native American moot court competition

Manuel Pallarez and Randall Young, third-year law students at The University of Tulsa, won first place in the National Native American Law Student Association Moot Court Competition, March 2-4, 2018.

The 26th annual competition included 200 law students from 45 schools and was hosted by the Arizona State University (ASU) Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law NALSA Chapter in Phoenix and the ASU Indian Legal Program.

200 students from 45 law schools competed

Each year, the moot court competition gives students from across the U.S. an opportunity to argue the most compelling issues in federal Indian law and tribal governance. Throughout the year, team conduct intensive legal research to write an appellate brief and prepare oral arguments.

“The College of Law is very proud of Manuel and Randall for achieving this honor in the national NALSA moot court competition,” said Lyn Entzeroth, dean of the TU College of Law. “Students in our Native American Law education program have the opportunity to study with our outstanding Indian Law faculty.  Manuel and Randall are impressive students who represent our law school well.”

“I was shocked when our team was announced as the victors.”

Pallarez said, “As a two-year member of the National NALSA Moot Court Team, it was an honor and a privilege to represent TU Law in Phoenix. I am most thankful to our coaches, June Stanley and Brenda Christie (Tulsa-area attorneys). It was their belief in our abilities that made the victory possible. I will be the first to admit that I was shocked when our team was announced as the victors. The entire weekend felt like a dream as we kept advancing. The most satisfying part of the victory was being able to win with a great friend, two great coaches, and for the entire TU community. This will absolutely be a memory that I cherish for a long time.”

Young added, “Throughout the competition, every team we played would have made their law schools proud. Particularly in from the elite eight moving forward, we encountered insightful legal analysis and stellar advocacy. Competing with our colleagues from among 45 sister schools helped us hone our arguments going into the final round. That being said, as an alumnus of The University of Tulsa’s History and English programs, and now a 3L at the TU College of Law, I felt especially prepared to learn quickly, think of my feet and argue persuasively. In my mind, our accomplishment represents not only our personal dedication, but also the University’s mission to foster critical thinking and excellence.”

For more information on TU Law’s Native American Law Center, visit our website.

 

Forsyth externs with Federal Court of Appeals

TU Law student and Oklahoma Bar Association (OBA) Student of the Year Hope Forsyth is serving as an extern for Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Senior Judge Stephanie K. Seymour. Forsyth’s skill set along with support from TU Law professors and the professional development office helped her secure this coveted legal externship.

“After hearing a judge speak in my first year of law school, I knew I wanted to learn at the federal court level,” said Forsyth. “Internships and externships in chambers involve learning from judges and their staff, observing the court in action, analyzing both frequent and unusual legal issues, and drafting written work for the judge to consider including in orders and opinions. Working for judges in law school gives an incomparable lesson in how to be an effective advocate.”

Forsyth is externing at the appellate level in her final year of law school.

Forsyth is an outstanding student all around. She earned a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in communication and media studies with minors in English and philosophy from The University of Tulsa, where she was also an Oklahoma Center for the Humanities research fellow, Honors Scholar, Presidential Scholar and National Merit Scholar.

Now, Forsyth is a third-year student at The University of Tulsa College of Law. She is the executive editor of the Tulsa Law Review, a student member of the Council Oak/Johnson-Sontag Inn of Court and a member of Phi Delta Phi. She has earned 11 CALI Excellence for the Future Awards for the highest grade in various classes and the George and Jean Price Award for legal reasoning, research and writing.

In addition to her appellate externship with Senior Judge Stephanie K. Seymour, Forsyth has gained experience at multiple levels of the court system through internships with Chief Judge Gregory K. Frizzell, former Magistrate Judge T. Lane Wilson and Magistrate Judge Paul J. Cleary, all of the Northern District of Oklahoma.

Forsyth credits her professors at TU Law for providing a solid education, mentorship and individual attention to all students. “TU Law is a close-knit and mentoring community with world-class legal professors,” said Forsyth. “They’ve had a formative influence on my education.”

“TU Law is a close- knit and mentoring community.”

Forsyth grew up in Cushing, Oklahoma, where her father practices law. Outside of law school, Forsyth is an America’s Test Kitchen home recipe tester and a volunteer sacramental catechist at her Catholic parish.

After graduation, Forsyth will join GableGotwals in Tulsa as an associate attorney.

 

 

 

Student authors solutions for Oklahoma’s overcrowded jails

Leslie Briggs, right, shown with TU Law Dean Lyn Entzeroth at the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship reception.

TU Law student Leslie Briggs is working towards a career to “help people with pressing problems that seem insurmountable.” To achieve that goal, Briggs has been heavily involved in rights-oriented work including serving as an intern at the Tulsa County Public Defender’s Office and the OK Policy Institute and as the Tulsa-area organizer for Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform. Recently, Briggs’ article titled, Bail reform should be the solution for Oklahoma’s overcrowded jails, was published on the OKPOLICY.org website and is included below.

Oklahoma voters know that the time is right for criminal justice reform for our state, and they showed it by passing State Questions 780 and 781 by wide margins last November. Not all stakeholders were on board: Just before the questions took effect on July 1, some Sheriffs and District Attorneys raised concerns about rising county jail populations, since many low-level drug and property offenders are no longer eligible for terms in state prisons. While overcrowded jails are a real problem, the state can do much more to solve it by reforming bail practices than by undoing recent reforms.

Like state prison populations, both urban and rural local jail populations have dramatically increased to a point that is breaking our ability to operate them safely. Oklahoma County jail, for example, was originally designed to hold 1,200 inmates; its average daily population has reached twice that size in recent years. But the vast majority of jail inmates in Oklahoma County – about 80 percent – are being held pretrial, which means they haven’t yet been convicted of a crime but can’t afford bail to get out of jail before their case is resolved. Nationwide, about 9 in 10 pretrial inmates have a bail amount set but are unable to meet the financial burden to be released from jail.

Jurisdictions across the country have shown that we can reduce that number by implementing an evidence-based, pretrial release program that relies on individual risk assessments rather than money bail. Doing so at the state level would save counties huge amounts of money without risking public safety.

Pretrial detention doesn’t just contribute to jail overcrowding. It also creates big problems for defendants, their families, and taxpayers. It costs over $51 a day to house an inmate in jail. In many counties, this cost falls on the inmates themselves through jail fees — and if they can’t afford bail they aren’t likely to be able to pay off the fee debt, either. When those fees can’t be collected, the costs must be covered by city and county taxpayers.  An extended pretrial stay in jail may also result in a defendant losing their job, losing their children to state custody, and being evicted from their home. That’s part of why defendants who are detained before trial are much more likely to plead guilty and take a plea bargain — whether or not they are actually guilty — to obtain faster release from incarceration.

We have better options to make this system more just and less expensive. Instead of using money to secure bail, courts should use the information available to them to determine who is at most risk to reoffend or fail to appear for their court date. Strong, empirically-based pretrial risk assessments have been developed and put into use federally and in several states. The Arnold Foundation’s Public Safety Assessment (PSA) is one risk assessment tool that estimates the likelihood that the defendant will commit a new crime, commit a new violent crime, or fail to appear for their court date. These policies save taxpayer dollars, improve public safety, and reduce unjust outcomes for low-income defendants.

For example, Allegheny County (PA) Jail saw a a 30 percent decrease in the number of defendants sent to jail after preliminary arraignment once they integrated a risk assessment tool into their bail setting process, among other reforms. Washington D.C. has gone even further by eliminating money bail in favor of pretrial release that may come with conditions like GPS monitoring, regular drug testing, and checking in at court by phone or in person. Over the last five years, 90 percent of those released under D.C’s system have remained arrest free before their cases were resolved.

“This creates a paradox for those sitting in jail: bond out and be required to hire an attorney who charges $350 per hour, or stay in jail and risk losing your job, home, and children, only to then feel pressured to take a plea deal for less time in incarceration.”

In the absence of these reforms, private bail bondsmen often play the role of facilitating release by paying off bail and supervising defendants in exchange for high interest charges on the bail amount. Proponents of the current money bail systemcontend that bail bondsmen save taxpayers money and do the job of making risk assessments in the interest of public safety. But bail bondsmen do not have a standardized, evidence-based system for determining who is a potential threat to public safety, and they do not consider the type of crime committed in their assessment of who they will bond out. They also don’t face a penalty if the defendant they bond out commits a new crime after release. These incentives mean that bondsmen are primarily concerned whether defendants are a flight risk and whether they will be able to pay off the interest, not whether they are likely to commit a new crime.

The second major issue is access to justice for low income defendants. Only those who cannot afford to hire an attorney are eligible for representation by a Public Defender. Under Oklahoma law, when a defendant posts bail it creates a “rebuttable presumption” that the defendant is not indigent, making it more difficult for them to be represented by a Public Defender. This creates a paradox for those sitting in jail: bond out and be required to hire an attorney who charges $350 per hour, or stay in jail and risk losing your job, home, and children, only to then feel pressured to take a plea deal for less time in incarceration.

Just this month, 67 former District Attorneys and Department of Justice officials from across the country – groups that are rarely outspoken proponents of reform – filed a brief detailing how money bail harms the criminal justice system and urging wider adoption of individual assessment of defendants. In Congress, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) showed the bipartisan support for bail reform with a bill that would provide grants to local justice systems that implement risk assessments. With criminal justice reform remaining at the center of attention in Oklahoma, the time is right for bail reform. We should not let State Questions 780 and 781 stand alone. We should build upon them with evidenced-based reforms.

This article was originally published August 16, 2017.

King and Yeakley join McAfee & Taft

TU Law alumni and 2017 honors graduates Andrew M. King and Stanton Yeakley have joined Oklahoma’s largest law firm, McAfee & Taft.

Andrew King is a transactional lawyer whose practice encompasses a broad range of business and commercial matters, including business entity formation and organization, mergers and acquisitions, divestitures, real estate transactions, contract negotiations, business taxation and family wealth planning.

King graduated with highest honors from The University of Tulsa College of Law, where he  worked for the Immigrant Rights Project at the Boesche Legal Clinic, was a member of the Board of Advocates and received the CALI Award for Advanced Legal Research.

Prior to embarking on his legal career, Andrew served in the Oklahoma Army National Guard for six years and led a mortar fire team in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Stanton Yeakley is a trial lawyer whose civil litigation practice involves the resolution of a broad range of complex commercial and business disputes in both state and federal courts and in arbitration proceedings.

Yeakley graduated with highest honors from The University of Tulsa College of Law, where he served as an editor on the Tulsa Law Review, was a member of the Phi Alpha Delta legal fraternity and the Phi Delta Phi legal honor fraternity and earned three CALI Awards. At graduation, he was named to the Order of the Curule Chair.

 

 

Stiles featured in magazine for work in immigration

This story was first seen in Tulsa People, November 2017, featuring Elissa Stiles, a 2L law student at The University of Tulsa College of Law.

Stiles serves on the TU Board of Advocates, the Immigration Law Society, Women’s Law Caucus and the Student Bar Association.

 

Welcoming refugees – Three Tulsans help others establish “home” in the U.S
By Bria Bolton Moore and Morgan Phillips

TU Law alumnus Bill Carmody featured in Forbes regarding his career

This story was first seen in Forbes, November 6, 2017. Bill Carmody is an alumnus of The University of Tulsa College of Law. He is a nationally recognized trial lawyer who tries bet-the-company cases for plaintiffs and defendants in state and federal courts throughout the country. He is a permanent member of Susman Godfrey’s executive committee and heads its New York office. Carmody is perennially listed in the Lawdragon 500, the guide to America’s leading 500 lawyers. He’s ranked in the Chambers USA Guide to America’s Leading Lawyers and included in Benchmark’s Top 100 Trial Lawyers.

Bill Carmody Of Susman Godfrey: ‘You Can’t Persuade A Jury If You Can’t Communicate With Them’
David J. Parnell , Opinions expressed by Forbes contributors are their own.)

Over the past 38 years, Susman Godfrey LLP has built itself into one of the most recognizable litigation boutiques on the market. Steve Susman founded the firm in 1980 – joined two years later by Lee Godfrey – with the vision of taking high-profile commercial cases on a contingency basis; a relatively unheard of strategy at the time, but one that paid off for the firm. Today, between running Susman Godfrey’s New York office, serving on its executive committee and trying cases for high-profile clients like GE and Uber, Bill Carmody has found himself in an enviable position – both in the market and within the firm. Below we hear from Carmody as he discusses some of the things he’s learned along the road to trial attorney success, including the attributes necessary to achieve trial stardom, how he keeps himself sharp, building trust in clients, his firm’s stance on fees, and more. Please see a revised version of our exchange below:

 

On Attributes Necessary to Climb in The Profession

Parnell: Talk to me about climbing to the top of your profession. At a 10K ft. view, what do you think got you to where you are today? Or maybe otherwise asked, if a young attorney wanted to be you someday, what are the fundamentals they’d have to achieve in order to get there?

Carmody: Some traits are fundamental to being a great trial lawyer: superior analytical skills, creative thinking, writing and speaking persuasively—and always being ready to roll up your sleeves and work hard, really hard. Those are all essential to out-thinking and out-working the other side.

But the singular trait that has served me the best is resilience. Mike Tyson has a great quote: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Every day in law and life, we suffer real setbacks. But great trial lawyers—like great fighters—are those who are able to take a big hit and get back up into the fight again. Almost two decades ago, I lost a trial the National Law Journal called the case of the year, which was devastating, both emotionally and financially. That loss was a wake-up call to me as to how tough running my small trial firm had become. Yet, persevering through that low period ultimately led me to join Susman Godfrey, which is the best thing that could have ever happened.

On Defining His Skill Set as a Litigator

Parnell: There is a good mix of art and science necessary to be a good trial attorney, which can make it difficult to define what the skill set comprises. How would you define your legal skill set? What would you say are the major components, or mechanics, of it?

Carmody: Because I try complex business and IP cases, I often think of myself as a translator. For example, there are many lawyers who are brighter than me, and who understand the technical aspects of our IP cases at a far deeper level than I do. What I bring to the table is an ability to translate the technical areas to a jury.

You can’t persuade a jury if you can’t communicate with them. That’s the heart of my skill set, and it begins, for me, with presenting the stories of our cases in a conversational style. Even more important is a lawyer’s authenticity. That’s because a lawyer’s credibility with the jury turns on the ability to be his or her most authentic self, which the jury will innately sense and respond to. After 30 years of trying cases, I’m getting comfortable enough in my own skin to open up and be a real person before the jury. And that’s made all the difference.

On Keeping Himself Sharp

Parnell: If you’re working constantly, it can be very difficult to keep your sharp – as Steven Covey calls it, “sharpening the saw.” With that in mind, how do you keep yourself sharp? Do you have mental or physical routines that you follow?

Bill Carmody: “You can’t persuade a jury if you can’t communicate with them. That’s the heart of my skill set, and it begins, for me, with presenting the stories of our cases in a conversational style.”

Carmody: One of my constant mental exercises is thinking and rethinking how to refine a complex set of facts into a simple and compelling story. But as much as I love trying lawsuits, I also love to escape the craziness of NYC and recharge at my respite on the eastern end of Long Island, where I’ve been known to indulge in all things delicious just a tad too much. But, because balance is important, I suffer through a rigorous physical regime of constant massages and, every once in a while, an honest-to-goodness workout.

On Building Trust in Clients

Parnell: In bet-the-company cases, in particular, clients often trust you with the lives of their businesses. And trust is a very valuable, and difficult to come by commodity. Can you talk to me about building that kind of trust? What is imperative to building this?

Carmody: Clients likely give me big cases because they trust my judgment. For one thing, they know I am going to be straight with them. Sometimes lawyers tell clients what they want to hear because it’s the easier way to keep them happy in the short term. My credo is to act in a client’s long-term interest, and if you keep that perspective it’s a lot easier to be brutally candid with them. Clients trust us for that straight talk.

Good judgment comes out in other ways, too—like taking the time to get to know what’s important to them, and acting on it. I’m always looking for the quickest and best business solutions to our legal disputes, even if it means cutting myself out of work. It’s that kind of understanding and action that lets your client know that you’re putting them first. It cements the trust.

On Becoming a Rainmaker

Parnell: As a rainmaker yourself, what advice do you give to young partners looking to build their books of business?

Carmody: Getting business really comes down to two things: getting great results and letting the world know about them. But to get the word out you’ve got to hustle, period. I tell all lawyers who ask me that they should be hustling business the same way that they’re working their cases. It’s not something to treat like a luxury and do in your spare time. It’s the lifeblood that keeps us going.

Now, every lawyer has to hustle business in the way they’re most comfortable. For those inclined to get involved in bar activities, that’s a great way to meet sources of potential business. Others, like me, choose different paths. My secret has always been to focus on the human connection. So, I’ve frequently flown across the country just to have dinner with a potential referral source, because I know the bonding that happens over a dinner trumps 10,000 emails. And even if it doesn’t work out, I’ve never regretted going to great lengths for a great dinner.

On Susman Godfrey’s Fees

Parnell: You discuss fees on your website – at least to a degree – and you offer contingent, fixed and hybrid arrangements. Can you talk to me about that a bit? What is the firm’s overarching thoughts on fee arrangements?

Carmody: The idea is for us lawyers to move away from playing the role of a vendor to our clients, albeit one providing important services, to becoming a true partner with them. At Susman Godfrey, we do that by crafting results-based fee deals, regardless of what side of the docket we’re on. Our results-based deals tie our fees directly to the outcome of the case. If we get a big win for our client, we get paid a lot more than our hourly rate, and if we lose we get much less or nothing at all. These deals align our interests directly with our clients’—and they love it.

On His Greatest Challenge

Parnell: What is the greatest challenge you’ve overcome in your career? What were the tools necessary to overcome it?

Carmody: A little over ten years ago, I returned to New York City to help build our Susman Godfrey office here. We had a national reputation but were still just getting off the ground in the country’s biggest legal market. There are so many great law firms in New York City, but there was room in the market for a unique trial firm like ours that bets on the results we get. We’re not built to handle some of the huge corporate investigations that some of the big firms handle, but we excel at stepping in to try one-off, bet-the-company cases. Those special missions best suit our battle-tested team. Some missions call for the Navy, but other times you need to bring in the Seals.

On Attorneys He Admires the Most

Parnell: What attorneys outside of your firm do you admire the most? When you think about them, what are the qualities that come to mind when you consider them?

Carmody: A handful come to mind, the first and foremost being Gerry Spence. He taught me about the power of authenticity for a stand-up trial lawyer, which has been invaluable.

Other trial legends I admire are David Beck, Paul Bekman, Evan Chesler, and Bob Van Nest. They’re all fabulous trial lawyers, but more importantly, they’re all first-rate people. While lesser lawyers sometimes stray into unnecessary and contentious discovery disputes, these old-school pros never make things personal and only spend time on what ultimately matters. They’re the most formidable adversaries you can face. Yet at the same time, it’s a joy to see them in a case because you know they will fight for their clients the right way and step up everybody’s game.

TU Law’s Hope Forsyth selected as 2017 OBA Outstanding Law Student

Hope Forsyth, a 3L at The University of Tulsa College of Law, has been selected as the college’s Oklahoma Bar Association (OBA) Outstanding Student in 2017. Annually, each law school in the state selects a graduating student to receive the award at the OBA meeting in November.

2017 OBA Outstanding Student, Hope Forsyth

“I’m honored and excited to be selected as TU’s representative for this great honor,” said Forsyth. “I greatly appreciate the stellar education, mentorship and opportunities I have received throughout both my law and undergraduate education at TU.”

Forsyth is the executive editor of the Tulsa Law Review, a student member of the Council Oak/Johnson-Sontag Inn of Court and a member of Phi Delta Phi. She has earned eight CALI Excellence for the Future Awards for the highest grade in various classes, and the George and Jean Price Award for legal reasoning, research and writing.

During her time at TU, Forsyth has gained experience at multiple levels of the federal court system through internships for Chief Judge Gregory K. Frizzell, former Magistrate Judge T. Lane Wilson and Magistrate Judge Paul J. Cleary, all of the Northern District of Oklahoma. In the spring of 2018, Forsyth will extern for Tenth Circuit Senior Judge Stephanie K. Seymour.

Forsyth’s law review comment, “Mutually Assured Protection: Dmitri Shostakovich and Russian Influence on American Copyright Law,” will be published in the Tulsa Law Review Spring 2018 issue. Prior to law school, her examination of the historical and current use of the word “forum” was published in Princeton University Press’ Digital Keywords: A Vocabulary of Information Society and Culture.

Forsyth grew up in Cushing, Oklahoma, where her father practices law. She earned a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in communication and media studies with minors in English and philosophy from The University of Tulsa, where she was a research fellow for the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities, Honors Scholar, Presidential Scholar and National Merit Scholar. Outside of law school, Hope is an America’s Test Kitchen home recipe tester and a volunteer sacramental catechist at her Catholic parish.

After graduation, Hope will be an associate attorney at GableGotwals in Tulsa.

TU Law 3L Dalton Downing featured in national “Why Law” video

 

As law schools across the country continue to manage rapid change, 12 deans have come together with the help of their students to highlight how the next generation of lawyers will make a difference in their communities and in the profession. The result? A viral video that features students talking about their legal aspirations. One of the students featured is TU Law’s Dalton Downing.

Downing is a 3L at The University of Tulsa College of Law who also serves as editor-in-chief of the Tulsa Law Review (see Dalton featured at 1:56 on the video). He also served as a 2L diversity scholar and summer associate at Latham & Watkins in Washington, D.C. In creating the video, students representing each law school were asked, “Why Law?” Their answers serve as an important reminder for practicing attorneys and current law students, and as an informative message for those considering the value of a degree in law.

In addition to being shared online by each participating school, the video and accompanying letter explaining the project is being sent to The National Law Journal, the National Jurist, Above the Law, ABA Journal, Business Insider, JD Journal, Association of American Law Schools and to each law dean across the U.S.

Participating schools with featured students include Albany Law School, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, UCLA School of Law, University of Florida Levin College of Law, University of Georgia School of Law, Suffolk University Law School, University of Maine School of Law, USC Gould School of Law, The University of Tulsa College of Law, University of Toledo College of Law, Wake Forest University School of Law and West Virginia University College of Law.

Those considering a degree in law can learn more about legal career options and the JD program at The University of Tulsa College of Law, rated a Top 100 Law School by the U.S. News & World Report 2018 and the #1 Best Value Private Law School by PreLaw Magazine 2016.