Friday, October 30, 2009

John O'Quinn 1941-2009

I was very saddened to hear yesterday of the fatal car crash that took the life of one of Houston and arguably the world's greatest Plaintiffs lawyer, John O'Quinn. I was fortunate enough to work on the legal team with John O'Quinn, and attorneys Tammy Tran and Lloyd Kelley as we all worked to get wrongfully accused Dynegy accountant Jamie Olis out of prison.

Much has been said about John O'Quinn's enormous monetary verdicts, but not much is shared about the causes he tirelessly worked for and contributed to. John O'Quinn was a true Texas scrapper; he loved nothing more than a good fight. In Jamie Olis's case he saw a man wrongfully targeted as a fall guy for his superiors. O'Quinn jumped into the ring to take on the fight armed with his brilliant legal mind and his financial backing. There would be no big payout at the end of the case, but that wasn't what O'Quinn cared about for this case, in his soul O'Quinn really just loved fighting for the little guy.

I remember walking into John O'Quinn's office past framed pictures covering every inch of wall space in his hallways detailing his enormous verdicts, victories and inspirations. Upon meeting him I was struck that his larger-than-life personality was equally matched by his larger-than-life stature. John O'Quinn was enormous in every sense of the word. O'Quinn's office contained no computer, and my media strategy for the Olis case had to be printed out double spaced for him to see and make notes on. Instantly the focus of the messaging was changed to suit his needs of "humanizing" Jamie Olis. O'Quinn's greatest gift was telling the story of his clients in a way that resulted in the jury empathizing, sympathizing and ultimately benefiting O'Quinn's client. I was expected to create a plan for that same effect in the court of public opinion.

After hours of working out a new strategy and examining the case from every possible angle we ordered dinner, by then it was 11 p.m. and O'Quinn was still working. The energy of a tiger, the famed lawyer was just settling down for another meeting with some of his associates when we finally left at 1:30 a.m. Before we headed out to the parking lot, O'Quinn asked us all to hold hands and stand in a circle. O'Quinn said a prayer for Jamie Olis and his family and before he said, "Amen" he asked God for the strength and guidance to make the right decisions for the Olis family. I looked at him with his head bowed and eyes closed and was comforted that even someone that brilliant and accomplished still looked for the ultimate guidance above.

Rest in peace John O'Quinn.

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