A Meaningful Difference: The Value of a Single Lawyer

Most of the time this blog focuses on Equity and Equitable Remedies. But, careful or frequent readers also know that from time to time, I also post other matters related to the legal profession and the study of law in general. This post is not so much equity – as a look at the legal profession itself.

Of course, we all have heroes or people who we truly admire in every profession. The late Louis Nizer is a lawyer who I immensely admired (although I never had the privilege of knowing him personally).

Dean John Benfield of the Charleston School of Law asked me to speak to a group of accepted students at an open house this coming Saturday, June 9th, about how a single lawyer can make a dramatic difference in the world and in our society.

After thinking about the assignment – I seized on a single incident that has been written about in Nizer’s own book, My Life in Court, about the trial of Quentin Reynolds v. Westbrook Pegler long ago in 1954. Nizer was looking for witnesses who would back up the claims of his client, Quentin Reynolds, that Reynolds served honorably in World War II as a reporter and was not, as asserted by Pegler, a “war coward.”

Nizer travelled to London to interview Lord Louis Mountbatten about a difficult period of time in World War II – the so-called Dieppe Raid in August of 1942.  For many reasons, this was a very sensitive topic for Lord Mountbatten to discuss – and at first, he told Nizer he would only have 3 minutes to ask questions and discuss it. In fact, the men spent hours talking about Reynolds’ heroic role in the raid and Lord Mountbatten’s testimony was instrumental in a jury returning the largest single damages award for libel ever reached by an American jury up until that date.

Nizer explains in his book what he did and said to convince an indifferent / if not outright hostile witness to talk for hours. It is a perfect example of how a lawyer can make a huge difference in the world – in just a few minutes. It is a story I hope to share with these future law students about why – even in this age of endless criticism about law / lawyer / law schools – there remains something very grand, and great, and honorable, about this profession.

After you see the attached PowerPoint, for interested readers, I certainly would recommend Nizer’s book, My Life in Court, which is a “great read” and if you want to know a little bit more about Quentin Reynolds, listen to the You Tube broadcast of “London can Take it” from the German Blitz in the year 1940.


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