by Aaron Bindman and Thomas W. Nardi, Jr.; edited by John Basenfelder
Temple Law recently held the Herbert F. Kolsby Distinguished Lecture in Trial Advocacy. The lecture is named in honor of Herbert Kolsby, LAW ‘51, who was a legendary Philadelphia trial lawyer and the inaugural director—now director emeritus—of the Master’s in Trial Advocacy program at Temple Law.
The lecture was delivered by Thomas J. Duffy, LAW ’81. Mr. Duffy is the founding partner of Duffy + Partners, a Philadelphia firm focused on helping victims of catastrophic injuries. Mr. Duffy titled his lecture, “Important Lessons Never Taught in Law School.” He offered eight practical lessons he has learned that should be applicable to every lawyer. First, he explained that every lawyer needs to learn patience. Lawyers need to be accepting of the fact that legal proceedings can take an inordinately long time to complete; he described one case that lasted ten and a half years. That length can also, however, be used to the lawyer’s benefit. Judges, at the end of the day, are people too, who can be sympathetic to plaintiffs going uncompensated in the face of technical appellate issues. Mr. Duffy also emphasized that an attorney needs to be accountable. He explained that holding himself accountable has earned him respect from judges and juries. Moreover, people can determine quickly if a lawyer who dropped the ball is hiding behind a paralegal or a junior associate.
Mr. Duffy’s next two lessons were closely related. He explained that there are a lot of lawyer bullies in the legal field and it is important to not let them take advantage of you. Equally important, Mr. Duffy stated that a lawyer should not bully others. He explained that the jury will think you are a jerk and opposing attorneys will not want to work with you. The next lesson Mr. Duffy offered was that attorneys have to think outside the box. Another lesson he learned is that an attorney must keep moving. Mr. Duffy described this to mean that you can never sit back and be complacent. Instead, attorneys should think about what effect each decision they make will have years from now.
Mr. Duffy ended his lecture with a final lesson. Lawyers have a duty to not just “give until it hurts,” but to “give until it feels good.” Trial lawyers, he said, are in a unique position to give back to the community. While recognizing that many students graduating at Temple Law will be saddled with increasingly large debt burdens, Mr. Duffy said it was not enough to do small things. Lawyers should not focus just on little, self-interested things, like coaching your child’s softball team, but on broader goals like funding public interest law. He explained that lawyers are in a unique position to give the help that many need. Mr. Duffy wished that he had learned this lesson and the others earlier in his legal career.
Watch the presentation here.