Gerry Spence: Author, The Making of a Country Lawyer by LawCrossing


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   LAW STAR                                                                                   1. 800.973.1177

                            Gerry Spence: Author, The Making of a Country Lawyer
                            [By Megan Rellahan]
                            With courtroom victories against Kerr-McGee, Penthouse, and McDonald’s, among many others, Gerry Spence is a small-
                            town attorney at the very top of his game.

Born on January 8, 929, in Laramie, WY,           in history. However, they did lose “Little       buddy, Jim Brown, and the two impulsively
Gerry Spence was welcomed into the world           Peggy,” Spence’s younger sister, who died        ventured out into the world. Working as
by his parents, Gerald and Esther. He spent        unexpectedly from cerebral meningitis.           sailors on a ship, Spence and Brown spent
his childhood learning what it meant to live                                                        their free time drinking, smoking, and acting
off the earth. In early childhood, Spence          “My first memories were of a small angel,        like rebellious teens, free from their parents’
learned how to hunt animals for food. In           she barely three and I four, her eyes as         rules and regulations for the first time.
fact, he lost several of his “farm pets” when      luminous as fire, her happiness, it seemed
they became supper. Through Spence’s               an inexhaustible flame,” wrote Spence.           However, when it was all said and done,
experiences growing up in the wilderness, he                                                        both boys returned to Laramie, where they
discovered that “killing in the courtroom is       “I do not remember ever hearing her cry,         enrolled at the University of Wyoming. They
like killing in the mountains.”                    but memories edit. And it was hard for me to     had hopes of becoming big-shot criminal
                                                   understand how a perfect angel could die,”       lawyers like the legendary G.R. McConnell—a
“Like all killing,” explained Spence in his        said Spence.                                     Wyoming attorney who defended a
autobiography The Making of a Country                                                               bootlegger and won by drinking the whiskey
Lawyer, “it carries with it the same ethical       Spence refers to Peggy as his first friend,      referred to by the court as “evidence” right in
standards I saw my father live by when I was       and losing her had a permanent effect on his     front of the judge and jury.
a child. One does not kill in the courtroom for    entire family. With stories of death swarming
the sheer sport of killing. One does not kill      around them, it is no wonder that when the       When Spence’s father signed a three-year
the opponent simply because one can. Only          insurance men came knocking on the Spence        contract with a Bolivian company, his entire
mad dogs, a few rogue wolves, and trophy           family’s door, Gerald and Esther handed over     family moved and left Spence behind to
hunters with piddling self-esteem, who line        their entire savings. However, in the end, the   attend college. Still drinking and goofing
their walls with the innocent dead, kill for       insurance they purchased barely covered a        off, Spence and Brown rented a room in a
pleasure.”                                         week’s worth of hospital expenses.               basement and went to school. With feelings
                                                                                                    of intense dislike for himself mounting for
“The killing, the blood on the hands, the          “Years later, as a lawyer,” explained Spence,    all the “bad” he had done, it did not come as
hands deep into the entrails of the witness on     “I viewed the insurance companies with           a surprise that his classmates failed to ask
the witness stand—the whole process known          their pay-on-death policies and the carnival     Spence to join their fraternity. In Spence’s
as the trial must not be a mere exercise in        crooks with their shell games and the Mafia      mind, he blamed himself for not fitting in.
killing. Instead, it should be the means by        chiefs with their protection scams as all        Without knowing that his destiny was to
which justice is nourished and by which the        kindred under the skin.”                         become a highly prolific lawyer who boldly
rights of ordinary people are, at last, fed,”                                                       defends the underdog, Spence felt as if he
wrote Spence.                                      “They all peddled the same thing—the             were nothing.
                                                   placation of fear. All understand the
During the Great Depression, the Spence            dominant motivations of the species—fear         Because he was not a frat boy, he “didn’t get
family did not lose all of their savings.          and greed. In the end, fear wins out.”           the girls,” according to Spence. However,
Nor did they succumb to unsanitary or                                                               although it hurt back then, he realizes now
unsafe working conditions, which ended             After Spence graduated from high school,         that it was a blessing in disguise.
the lives of many people during this time          he plotted to escape Wyoming with his best

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   LAW STAR                                                                                     1. 800.973.1177

In The Making of a Country Lawyer, Spence         easy voice of the mind, to give in to it, and to   famous Idaho federal standoff case. In Utah,
wrote, “Not having been chosen was one of         write the exam as it dictated.”                    Spence received a medical malpractice
the great gifts of my life.... What if my life                                                       verdict, which established a new standard for
was won or lost depending upon the clubs I        In his early law-practicing years, Spence          nursing care in that state.
belonged to or the socialites who invited me      worked as a prosecutor and built up an
to their deadly stand-up cocktail parties?        insurance clientele, later becoming one            Spence has not lost a jury trial since 969
What if I ended up representing banks who         of the leading defense attorneys in the            and has never lost a criminal case. Along
robbed the poor rather than representing the      Intermountain West. However, with the              with his outstanding performance in the
poor, some of whom robbed the banks? What         memory of his parents’ insurance plan along        courtroom, this small-town lawyer with big
if, after a lifetime, I had no extra chamber      with other observations of hardworking             victories is the author of 4 published books
in my heart for the widow mopping the             Americans who had been “screwed” by the            as well as a lecturer at law schools around
toilets and the laboring man coughing in the      system, Spence eventually took an entirely         the country. He is the founder and director of
mines?”                                           new direction. He became the most well-            the nonprofit Trial Lawyers College, where
                                                  known attorney to defend the “little guy”          attorneys learn to try cases on behalf of the
In October 949, Spence’s world turned            against large corporations, insurance              people.
upside down when he received the news that        companies, banks, and big businesses.
haunted him for years to come. His mother                                                            From 995-996, Spence teamed up with
was dead; she had killed herself. As a rebel      With multiple multi-million-dollar verdicts        NBC to create The Gerry Spence Show,
without a cause who had been repeatedly           in his favor, Spence has won more criminal         where he discussed legal and social issues
warned by his mother to behave, Spence            cases than any other lawyer in America. His        that affected the lives of the people of our
blamed his bad behavior on the bullet that        first case that gained worldwide recognition       country. He is also the founder of Lawyers
ultimately ended her life.                        was against Kerr-McGee in the Karen                and Advocates for Wyoming, a nonprofit,
                                                  Silkwood case on behalf of her children.           public interest law firm. Having guest-
“My mother’s suicide was a monster                Defending Ed Cantrell in the famous Rock           hosted and appeared on Larry King Live
pounding at the door. Locked behind the           Springs, WY, murder case and winning               and the Geraldo Rivera Show numerous
door, I barred it and shoved the furniture of     big while earning $26.5 million against            times, he was also a legal consultant for
my life up against it,” wrote Spence.             Penthouse for Miss Wyoming were just a few         NBC throughout the O.J. Simpson trial and
                                                  of his large victories.                            founded The Spence Law Firm.
As a way to distract himself from his own
deadly thoughts of self-loathing and blame,       Spence went on to receive a $52-million            ON THE NET
Spence dived into his studies. In 952, he        verdict against McDonald’s Corporation on
graduated cum laude from the University           behalf of a small, bankrupt, family-owned          The Making of a Country Lawyer
of Wyoming Law School. Explaining                 ice cream company. In 990, Spence won   
his methods of surviving the grueling             an acquittal for Imelda Marcos on multiple         /0326940?v=glance
exams in school, Spence stated, “I never          charges after a three-and-a-half-month trial
struggled with logic, for the answers that        in New York City. The year 992 saw Spence         Larry King Live
logic produced often seemed brittle and           win a $5-million verdict for emotional  
superficial. I never sought to follow the loud,   damages incurred by his quadriplegic client
lawyerlike reasoning that the up-front brain      against a major insurance company. In 993,        Trial Lawyers College
spilled out, for on paper it made little sense.   Spence defended Randy Weaver on murder,  
At last, I had no choice but to listen to the     assault, conspiracy, and gun charges in the


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