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Dean Robb: An Unlikely Radical Interview Part 6

Welcome to GAL Radio brought to you by the Greatest American Lawyer Blog, changing the way law is practiced through technology, innovation, and creativity.  Turning the business of law on its head and shaking things up to the betterment of clients, lawyers, law firms and society.  This is one in a series of shows featuring Dean Robb, activist lawyer and a leader in the legal arm of the civil rights movement.  Dean is the subject of the book: “DEAN ROBB: An Unlikely Radical.”  Now here’s your host, Steve Quick.

Steve Quick:  Hi, this is Steve Quick.  We’re continuing our conversation with Dean Robb, lawyer, activist and subject of the book: “An Unlikely Radical.”  Dean, over the past, at least quarter of a century, you’ve spent a lot of energy in working with young lawyers.  Could you tell us something about that?

Dean Robb Dean Robb:  Yes, well it starts, of course, with my own feeling that I’m really proud to be a lawyer, and I think that lawyers have more power than any other profession, and we’ve done lots of great things in that we’ve kept the Bill of Rights alive.  We don’t have a perfect government system, but lawyers are the ones that challenge authority.  They’re the ones that keep the police in line, a little bit.  They’re the ones that stand up to prosecutors who make unfounded charges against people.  Lawyers work in the appellate courts to try to keep free speech alive, separation of church and state, search and seizure, all of these important constitutional protections…..  We’re the gardeners.  We’re the water carriers to keep those principles alive.  And so, it’s natural, to do that, we need to tell the younger lawyers and help the younger lawyers become more powerful, to see that challenging authority and questioning the past sometimes is what we’re about.  And we’re to stand up for the individual, to keep individual rights alive, to keep, I’m not a big protector of property rights, but in the sense that, we need to keep the torch burning of freedom, and that sounds kind of corny, maybe, but lawyers are the ones that do that.  And so, it’s been exciting for me to share my experiences, and I’ve spent a lot of time on seminaring.  I’ve been in about forty different states in my life putting on seminars on how to try a case or how to pick a jury and how to do these things that make the difference between the success and failure.  I can’t tell you, it’s so satisfying to share this information.  The good thing about lawyers, we don’t get paid for this sharing.  Doctors write a paper or they appear at a seminar, they get paid.  Lawyers don’t get paid, very seldom.  I haven’t been paid enough to buy a bus ticket for all the sharing I’ve done, and I’m just one of many.  Enrico Schaefer, who’s sort of the sponsor of this interview in a sense, his Traverse Legal and his group, that’s what they’ve been doing.  They’ve been on the internet sharing knowledge and sharing experiences, enlightening ordinary people, as well as lawyers, about their rights, and what this whole area of intellectual property and so forth, which is new stuff for us, so we all have to learn about that.  So, mentoring young lawyers is a thrill.  I just gave a talk on Thursday night to a scholarship program at Michigan State Law School, and I told them my favorite story about comparing the medical profession to the legal profession.  It reminded me of this story of when Jack Ruby was on trial in Dallas, Texas.  Melvin Belli was the lawyer that was hired to defend Ruby.  And Belli came up with the psychomotor epilepsy defense which just fell flat.  I mean, it didn’t go anywhere in Dallas.  And the medical profession invited him to speak to their annual dinner meeting, and the toastmaster gave Belli this really sarcastic introduction.  Stupid, psychomotor epilepsy defense, Mr. Belli. I didn’t see the exact wording of it, but it was sarcastic.  So, Belli gets up and he says.  “Gentleman of the medical profession, I must remind you of one thing.  When my ancestors at the bar were writing the Declaration of Independence, your ancestors in the medical profession were putting leeches on George Washington’s ass to cure his blood poisoning.”  That may be one way of taking care of our competition.  There’s no, there shouldn’t be competition, but professions mean what it sounds, professing something.  We’re not a business.  We have a calling, like ministers and dentists and doctors.  We are professionals, and we’re supposed to be guided by intellectual and ethical principles, and the big part of that is sharing.  And that’s what I keep trying to stress every way I can and try to live it myself.  The way to feel better when you’re down is to help someone else.  And when you need to feel that you’re worthwhile is help someone else get up.  It’s so therapeutic.  And to do that same thing with a group of young lawyers is a thrill.  It’s not just telling them stories, but it’s empowering them.  There’s no prototype for a successful lawyer.  They don’t all have to be moving star looking.  They can be of any size, shape or color, as long as they are ethical and as long as they have integrity and work hard.

Steve Quick:  This is Steve Quick. We’ve been talking with Dean Robb, lawyer, activist, and subject of the book: “An Unlikely Radical.” 

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