Lawyerin’ Ain’t Easy

If you’re a lawyer in Texas, and probably elsewhere, you’ve almost certainly heard of Joe Jamail. Joe Jamail, the so-called King of Torts, made his fortune as a plaintiffs’ lawyer in Texas, and is now worth well over $1 billion. Jamail first rose to fame in 1984, when he represented Pennzoil in a suit against Texaco for encroaching on its contract to purchase Getty Oil. Jamail won a verdict for Pennzoil in the amount of $10.53 billion, the largest jury verdict ever at that time. Texaco later managed to settle for $3 billion, and Pennzoil paid Jamail $1 billion for his services. Jamail now claims over $12 billion in jury verdicts and over $13 billion in other verdicts and settlements.

Jamail didn’t get to where he is now by being a softy, though. In Paramount Communications Inc. v. QVC Network Inc., Jamail represented one of the Paramount directors. During the course of the case, Jamail was defending a deposition when the following exchange took place:

Q. . . . Do you have any idea why Mr. Oresman was calling that material to your attention?

MR. JAMAIL: Don’t answer that. How would he know what was going on in Mr. Oresman’s mind? Don’t answer it. Go on to your next question.


MR. JAMAIL: He’s not going to answer that. Certify it. I’m going to shut it down if you don’t go to your next question.

MR. JOHNSTON: No. Joe, Joe –

MR. JAMAIL: Don’t “Joe” me, asshole. You can ask some questions, but get off that. You could gag a maggot off a meat wagon. . . . .

This exchange was apparently only one example of a number of similar exchanges. The Delaware Supreme Court actually added an addendum to its decision, noting “an astonishing lack of professionalism and civility that is worthy of special note.” You can read more about Jamail’s behavior in that case, and a few other examples of hard-nosed lawyers, in an article here.

Jamail’s remarks in the deposition in Paramount may seem extreme, but many depositions see similar, if not quite so egregious behavior. Depositions are conducted by attorneys, and no judge or jury is present. As a result, the deposition is supervised by the lawyers, and if the lawyers get out of hand, well, there’s nothing to stop them. Any litigator can tell you similar stories. Anyway, this post is primarily to provide some background for the following video. Jamail is conducting a deposition, questioning a witness that appears to be a former Monsanto research scientist. Hilarity ensues…

Update, April 10: Youtube appears to be down this morning, and as a result, no video appears below. I expect that the problem should clear up shortly, so check back in a bit to see the video.

Update, later April 10: Youtube is back up, so the video should be working now.

This entry was written on Thursday, April 6th, 2006 at 8:16 PM, filed in Law, and tagged , , , . Follow the comments here with the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response or trackback.

10 Responses to “Lawyerin’ Ain’t Easy”

  1. tristan forward said:

    wow !

    american lawyers are such good fun !

    … but i hope i never need one to represent my interests

  2. Tim said:

    Good thinking, because we’re all like that. ;)

  3. Igots said:

    If Jamail weren’t a lawyer, he’d be in the mob.

  4. Buzz said:

    This is the 2nd best depo I’ve ever seen, the best being the “Gidget Lewis” deposition (Houston area, early 1990’s) where the pro se plaintiff’s daddy puts a stocking over his head when he realizes he’s being taped, and later ends the depo by assaulting the camera man.

  5. Overlawyered said:

    How Joe Jamail conducts a deposition…

    Dignity of the profession dept.: this YouTube video of the famed Texas lawyer and UT benefactor in action is making the rounds (warning: offensive everything). It’s discussed by BrainWidth, Froomkin, Childs, Hurt, Kirkendall, Caron, Metafilter,……

  6. Lauren said:

    I can’t find the link for the video. I opened up this page on my Mac at home and again on a PC at work.

    I MUST see this video asap. I have two depositions this week and I need to brush up on my skills.

  7. PinkDome said:

    When Lawyers Go Bad…

    Joe Jamail, the so-called King of Torts, made his fortune as a plaintiffs’ lawyer, and in this video deposition you can get a glimpse of the profession everyone has at least one good party joke about. Ah, such articulate arguements……

  8. ven said:


  9. kilgore said:

    As a practicing lawyer of 20 years, I was positively disgusted with the lack of professionalism of the lawyers involved in this deposition. This is not representative of how the vast majority of attorneys practice law. I found utterly represensible the vulgar language and rude behavior of these over-grown adolescents trying to “out-macho” each other. No wonder lawyers have come to be held in such low esteem by the general public.

  10. hear me roar! » lawyers behaving badly… said:

    […] « short dream   […]

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