Ben Norris 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Phoenix Attorney Daryl Williams Stays on the Cutting Edge At 63, Daryl Williams can only laugh when asked if he plans on retiring any time soon. “I’m startled by that question because I think I’m just figuring out how to do this,” Williams said. “I wouldn’t retire because now I know where to stand in the courtroom.” Williams, a partner at Baird, Williams & Greer, is undoubtedly one of the most respected commercial litigators in Phoenix, yet remains firmly grounded. He is as eager to absorb knowledge today as he was when he first walked onto BYU’s campus as an undergrad. Williams has represented plaintiffs and defendants alike in lawsuits involving complex business contracts, unfair trade, racketeering, trade secrets, securities fraud, commercial fraud, and construction/land development cases to name just a few. He served as defense counsel during the $577 million fraud trial brought against the Baptist Foundation of Arizona and more recently won a $47 million verdict in an international breach of contract suit involving claims against a multi-billion dollar child care provider. For a man who went to law school on little more than a whim, Williams is still enthralled by the practice of law and the constant process of learning, adapting and improvising. Finding His Way in the Field of Law “My wife, Karly, is why I went to law school,” Williams said. “I was getting a degree in economics, and I was very focused on microeconomics and econometric regressions. I tried to explain what an economist did after we were married; she was never really swept off her feet by that. She knew BYU was launching a new law school, so I decided to take the LSAT to keep peace in my new marriage.” The dean of the new law school, Rex E. Lee, got the results and recruited Williams over dinner to be a member of the school’s charter class. “So I go to law school with no idea what lawyers did other than litigate because, of course, I had seen Perry Mason,” Williams remembers. “People would ask me what kind of lawyer I wanted to be, and I thought there was only one kind.” He graduated, cum laude, in 1976 and put his economics background to use by jumping into commercial litigation, primarily complex business, finance, accounting, securities and anti-trust, which he calls an economist’s wonderland. Williams quickly discovered that law school was just the very beginning of his legal education. His early years were a period of trial by fire, to say the least. Williams started at a larger Phoenix firm, where he assisted two senior partners in preparing cases for litigation. Within 18 months, his mentors left the firm leaving Williams with a heavy caseload. “I began trying cases I had no business trying,” Williams said. “There was a steep learning curve, but it taught me a great deal about what to do and what not to do in the courtroom. I was shocked to learn that the world of the courtroom is not this idealized perspective you get in law school or watching television.” While his notions of the justice system and courtroom crumbled around him, he turned into a stronger attorney, rather than giving in to disillusionment. His romanticized views gave way to a more practical approach. “It became quickly obvious to me that the courtroom was full of bias and prejudice, even bigotry, that controls how people judge a case,” Williams said. “It’s not, as you learn in your ninth grade civics class, about right and wrong or truth and justice. Go to church if you want those things. The courtroom is about win or lose. Once I figured that out, I started winning most of my cases.” Many jurors have the same idealized views Williams had when he was starting out. His success comes in part, by keeping that image alive. Williams is animated, energetic and passionate in the courtroom. “They are going to have a play presented on stage and you are the director of that play,” Williams said. “The principal actor in that play is the lawyer, not the witness.” His success in the courtroom also hinges on his use of technology. In fact, in Williams’ opinion, lawyers who are not using technology to present their case are committing malpractice. Williams is not on good terms with Power Point presentations. They are too static, too planned, and linear: impossible to adjust when the narrative needs to change on the fly. When Williams wanted a better way to use technology when presenting evidence, he went straight to the source, working with software developers to create custom programs, which would later evolve into the programs most widely used today. Early on, it was not easy getting others on board with using new technology, and Williams even had a secretary quit on him when he wanted to switch her from an IBM correcting Selectric to a computer with a screen. The two met again years later and laughed; she had long since switched to a computer. Today, Williams is an adjunct professor at ASU’s Sandra Day O’ Connor College of Law, where he teaches a class on technology in the courtroom. Staying Well Rounded Outside of work, Williams stays busy with literature, woodworking, music, and flying, among other things. He built a 1,500 square foot woodshop in his home, where he crafts custom furniture for family and friends. Williams is also very involved with his church and studies the Bible and Book of Mormon daily. “I am a student of the Bible,” Williams said. “It is one of the most complex books I have ever encountered. It has as many as five or six levels of literary style telescoped together. Digging down into it is a very stimulating, intellectual exercise, and I think it is a good tutor for the analytical skills needed by a trial lawyer.” Williams is also an accomplished pianist and was one of two students to study under the composer in residence at BYU. He plays regularly, has a concert grand in his living room and gives the occasional recital. “I play the piano every day,” Williams said. “It’s a different sort of intellectual exercise in a different part of my brain.” Another love is a Cessna 421C, an eight-place pressurized and airconditioned plane that will go up to 30,000 feet. Williams flies between 200 and 300 hours a year, primarily on business, but also for leisure. Williams also volunteers a good portion of his free time to a number of community organizations. He was a member of the board of directors for the American Diabetes Association for many years. He was on the board of governors for the Arizona School for the Arts during its early years; it is one of Arizona’s first and now best charter schools. He was a scoutmaster for many years. He and his wife are benefactors of the Gammage Broadway Series. He has written extensively and speaks about the complex issues surrounding immigration.
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