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Gerry Spence

Gerry Spence is a lawyer in the USA. He has written a few books. He is also a multi-millionaire. He used to win cases against insurance companies for example. He would win multimillion cases against large corporations. He now seems to be an advocate for the "little guy" and for freedom. He came from a very dysfunctional family, which he wrote about with admirable openess in the book "The Making of a Country Lawyer". I read his books in the 1990's. I used to have his notes burried in my other book notes, but yesterday I came upon a video of him talking about an American who was wrongly imprisoned, a victim of the Patriot Act. Also, I found a quote I liked from him about emotional honesty, (Openly revealing our feelings establishes credibility.) so I decided to start this page on him.

S. Hein
November 2007

Notes from "The Making of a Country Lawyer"

Notes from "How to Argue and Win Every time"

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Notes from The Making of a Country Lawyer

"Mother would always feed the bums."

Compares selling religion and insurance. Placation of fear [first church creates it like mafia]

stern german grandfather. kids laughed at his homemade clothes. mother paranoid

one time father said "That's what you said about little Peggy?" (the sister) Mother got defensive. Gerry asked if they were going to get a divorce. Father said you run along, everything will be alright, but it never was again.

Bringing goat home father invalidated him when goat was urinating father said open the window. It won't kill you. We'll be home soon.

Embarrassed about renting out his room to tourists & sleeping in tent out side.

Mother cut his hair - pulled it out by the roots.

Made a bargain with god and gave son to him because he didn't get peggy's disease. Enslaved him against his will.

Mother told him hold his nose when he went past bar.

Whatever will we do if we miss the train, mom said. & Gerry feels fear when he goes to airport,

Grandfather yelled at grandmother for forgetting the salt.

Grandfather was a Zionist (Zion IL) & went to wait to be redeemed. Shot all his pigs.

country lawyer

"whatever are we going to do" mom says

when parents came back from Bolivia - mother was distant, cold, unemotional, even with him announcing a baby on the way. He wanted her to be exuberant to "cover his own rising anxiety."

like a duckling snuggles up to a large wooden decoy...

p 220 Thought to self- "don't you care that I am about to enter law school. You'll be proud." But I couldn't say any of that to her. She stood there stiff and silent. Maybe she smelled cigarette smoke on me. ... or in the house, or maybe she saw beer in the refrigerator when Anna (his first wife) pulled out the chicken. - He internalizes things, like all kids, blames himself, thinks he controls her moods.

He needed to apologize for not having a rug. ... he said for no reason at all except that I felt embarrassment... p 221

Suddenly during the conversation she said, "We have to go." Then she explained... giving 3 reasons. "her politeness cut like a cold sword right through me.

p. 223 how real lawyers think: "logically, without passion... with thoughts unconnected to emotions. Drive out all feeling."

professors: arrogant and out of touch. Justice: a sentimental idea to them.

driving a nail into a tree. tree will grow around it, but nail remains.

231 - lists all the evidence against him: smoking, drinking, sleeping with prostitutes, rendering his mother powerless to keep her covenant with "God." he thought he was in control of her life. he felt guilty for killing his mother - by making her break promise to god illusion. Old neighbor said, "You killed her with your drunken behavior."

p 234 "I needed power. Perhaps my mother's death reinforced my determination to become a lawyer, for lawyers have power."

p239 marketing people dictate baby food, formula. whose principal interest was sales and profits, not the health and growth of his child.

p 241 pulled over a trucker on an empty highway to exert his power when he was 21 as public service commission paperwork inspector.

243 on his marriage to anna- she went to a place where reason and logic could not enter & it empowered her ... (not quote) she was the mother he revolted against, "the more I sought her mothering, the more I fought against her authority.

I lived in ever-replenishing anger. I was angry at God, at my own dear dead mother. But I missed her beyond the telling. I grieved for her I tried to strike her from my memory and my life, but she spoke to me everyday not with an hallucinatory voice, but with her silent presence, her ever watching, judging eye. ... he raged, attacked with words, then was filled with guilt.

SPH: eventually though he learned to justify his attacks against the corporations & insurance companies. He never figured out that the insurance companies are just spending our money. He thinks he is helping, but he is not, because they just charge higher premiums to cover their legal costs. -- I am more convinced that education is the answer.

p. 245 I came to loathe law school even more. In class the people in the cases never seemed real--faceless names, people with labels like "plaintiff," "defendant," "appellant," "appellee." The facts were usually some judge's summary of the evidence provided to him by his clerk, a kid fresh out of law school who had earned top grades, but who likely never in his life come face to face with a poor person trapped in the law, and whose principal life's experience qualifying him for personhood was that he had survived three years of law school at his parents' expense. **

cases..none described the anguish or fear or the anger of the human beings seeking justice. .... I never read a case where "a parent's agony over the death of a child killed by a drunk was communicated to us through the words of a judge. .. We never learned from the cases what it must feel like to be an innocent accused, or even a guilty man whose rights to a fair trial were stolen by the prosecutor. ???? In the cases I read in law school and since, passion was treated like some crazy step-sister locked in the closet. As if passion were shameful and feelings a crime, the judges wrote their antiseptic opinions. **

p. 249 Judge said to him in a mock trial. (after he attacked everyone and everything "You will never become a trial lawyer, Mr. Spence. You may just as well face that fact now. I am doing you a favor by being brutally honest with you. I offer you not the slightest encouragement. You have absolutely no native ability whatever to size up a situation and to act upon it appropriately. You are severely lacking in judgement. If you must stay in law, and I recommend that you don't, you should confine yourself to office work. The trial of cases requires not only skill and judgment but grace and subtlety. You have none of these attributes. In sum, your performance here today was disgusting". ... I was devastated. -- I knew that underneath all the noise and ego that had paraded up and down the courtroom the judge was right. I didn't have the stuff of a trial lawyer. ...

p 256 your mother wasn't one to talk about things that were bothering her. "grin and bear" it was a familiar cliche in our house.

Doctor shrugged mother off before she killed herself. Father was angry at him.

Suicide was the one unforgivable sin, according to his mother.

p. 257 "this at-a-distance, intellectual love provided a means by which Christians might avoid those unchristian passions -anger, hatred, revenge, and the raging passions of the body.

"My mother would as likely take the side of the other child against me. 'Remember, Gerry, he is a poor boy whose parents don't go to church except on Christmas and Easter. He doesn't know any better.'"

Her father's description as hating and judging everyone on p 257

p 258 "But a child wants his mother's love to be a private possession, not a resource for everyone else. -- His mom always found an extra dollar for the poor.

p 258 father denied to his sister that mother was crying over him the night before. "She wasn't crying. You must have dreamed it'. But I know I didn't dream it.".... They made things go away by refusing to admit they were there.

failed his bar exam-further hurt his self-esteem... thought that he had fooled all his professors when he graduated top in class.

He lost his first case about the kid in railroad yard p 284 more damage to his self esteem.. He blamed self and heard judges words ringing in his ears that he was never meant to be a lawyer.

p. 286 ..He thought I was being contentious and stubborn, whereas I was really frightened and incompetent, but too proud (wrong) to admit it (insecure).

Lost his second case too.

When he became prosecuting attorney he shut down the cat house., shut down a bar that was serving liquor on sunday.

P312-15 prosecuted mexican drunk for murder, then felt bad when he realized his power & asked appellate judged to change sentence, which he did.

p 350 calls society, religion insane

p 353 got drunk off & postal worker who stole money - later by attacking postmaster & making up a conspiracy against clerk; he was smart enough not to put his client on the stand. TOTALLY WRONG.

p. 361 won a big settlement - calls the corporate attorneys big shots and motherfuckers - biggest $$ in states history for personal injury against ford. But he didn't get the respect from the other lawyers he wanted & craved & needed. ..."they acted like I was nobody" He brags about how he started getting more and more money. He is a hypocrite though because he says money isn't important. Why didn't he try to get change instead of dollars.

p 362 " A true trial lawyer is a story teller." "If I were to choose but one skill from the grab-bag of skills necessary for the successful trial lawyer, it would be the skill of story-telling. !

p. 369 admits he was always afraid of being found out - guilty of over-achieving. still insecure after ten years of not losing any jury trials. Didn't think he deserved success.

p. 370 "Nobody offered a class in the universities called Successful Parenthood 101. Nobody offered a class in school on how to be a successful child to one's parents."

He felt defensive about making money & his kids being called rich kids.

"Once in a while I took the belt out, which I admit was wrong. But I also squeezed them till they hollered and I wrestled with them and I loved them right out of their baggy pants. And they knew that I loved them.

He would "confess" to them that he wasn't worth a damn as a father and they would protest - You were a good father (invalidation) 372 You just think I was good because you don't have another to compare me to. (Feeling unworthy, undeserving)

cheated on his wife for a while, then divorced her. went back and forth a couple of times.

p. 384 he represents an insurance company. Gets a verdict of 12,000 in a case that was worth millions.

"I didn't know how I felt. I'd won. But what did I win? I saw the family walk out of the courtroom, stunned, their lawyers too dumbfound to speak. Then like the hunter, the one ingredient that every trial lawyer must have - the will to kill- took over. The hunter kills in the forest, the lawyer in the courtroom. You are there to fight for your side, to kill for your side. And you lay it all down. The morality is not in the killing, not in whom or what you kill, but how you kill. We all agree it is immoral to win even the most just case by, say, bribing a juror. On the other hand, lawyers find nothing immoral about winning an unjust case if they do it by honest lawyering. That's why decent men and women can go into court and with their trial skills cheat honest folks out of their justice, and then go home at night and sleep like an old dog in the shade.

The insurance company said let's pay $100 k. He said no, but they did anyhow.

Later he went into counseling because he realized he was messed up.

His counselor, John Johnson called himself a recovering Catholic. Encounter group. "How do you feel" was the key to the epiphany. p 387

The idea of the group was simple and right: to become a person, one had to first become acquainted with oneself, and that required one to become aware of one's feelings. And after that, to become a person, one had to develop the elusive skill of sharing one's feelings with others. When the notion of those simple propositions sank through, it struck me like salvation staggers the born-again."

Before that he fought back his feelings. Feelings caused pain. Feelings were dangerous, the enemy in fact.

p 387-390 is very good... if one could contain one's feelings, perhaps one could survive in this world.. he went to other groups, one with some preachers. "I found a fragile man, a man who was afraid and had always been afraid"

p 391.. the more power the judges flaunt the... the more they threaten, intimidate, belittle, then the more their power is perverted.. the more fear he engenders, the more hate and contempt for the law is born, and the less justice is found in his courtroom.

After his epiphany, he learned he does not have to destroy the witness, that if the witness feels heard, he will start to hear the lawyer. .. with all of his power the judge feels powerless because he alone can't bring on justice, that the lawyers do not help, that they wade through the waters of justice and muddy it.

"I learned that great power grew out of listening and hearing. And I realized that something happened in the courtroom when the lawyer could feel. ... etc

The courtroom is a lonely place. the judge is in the loneliest place... because no one can speak to him as a person (not quote) p 392

Real power demands simple honesty.

His new babe was married when he met her at a ski resort. He later decided to stop representing insurance companies. Won huge cases against McDonalds, US Steel etc. But he is not changing much. He still has an ax to grind and still has a chip on his shoulder. He is training young lawyers to fight corporations. Why not work for larger change?


Notes from "How to Argue and Win Every Time"

52 The polygraph attempts to analyze our physiological responses when we lie, but each of us is many times more sophisticated than that primitive device. Our senses record hundreds of signals over the course of a brief encounter, and, faster than any computer, we assimilate the information, and pronounce our judgments.

53 There is valid biological explanation why all cultures past and present hoist honesty to the top of the moral totem pole. Those who lie to us put us in jeopardy.

55 Openly revealing our feelings establishes credibility. We are what we feel (so if we pretend to be someone who feels another way, we are committing fraud)

Our child's conduct may make us angry, but we are afraid our child will get into serious trouble. (secondary emotion) 55

p. 65 The problem of credibility, of course, arises when what we say is not what we mean, when we speak of caring but do not care, when we feign deep beliefs but our soul is empty. The problem of credibility arises when we fail to tell the truth--when we fail to tell the both the factual truth and the emotional truth, when we fail to tell how we feel.