Dan Baldwin 2014-01-17 05:47:02
Kelly Kilgore “Most lawyers never try a case. I’ve done around 85 jury trials and I take that experience and use it for the benefit of other attorneys,” says (Charles) Kelly Kilgore, Attorney and founder of the 11th Hour Trial Lawyers Group in Lexington and Beverly Hills, CA. When the butterflies won’t go away, lawyers call Kilgore. He steps in at the 11th hour and either 1st chairs or 2nd chairs trials for attorneys with little or no trial experience. He is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court, the Eastern District of Kentucky, the Central and Southern Districts of California, and the state courts of California and Kentucky. He has also handled cases in Alabama, New York, Mississippi, Virginia, Oklahoma and Nebraska. He is a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law (CA) and has been featured on CNN’s Burden of Proof, the National Enquirer, and on TV’s Best Car Chases. As a lawyer for lawyers, Kilgore brings an objective viewpoint and a fresh look at each case, which gives him a unique perspective on the challenges facing many of his lawyer clients. When the attorney is facing his or her first jury trial, he often asks their goal when going into trial. He says the answers always follow a pattern. The attorneys want “to win” or “to do well” or “to have a good outcome for my client” and so on. Kilgore says none of those or similar answers are true. “In the deep recesses of these lawyer’s hearts and minds, what they want more than anything is to avoid looking stupid. They don’t want to do anything to tip off the Judge, Jury, or anyone in court, that they have never done this before. That’s where I come in and help,” Kilgore says. The focus needs to be the client’s cause, not the new lawyer’s nervousness. Attorneys needing Kilgore’s expertise and experience generally fall into one of three categories: lawyers who have never done a trial and are absolutely scared to death of the experience; an attorney who might have limited trial experience someone who thinks he or she will get a settlement far less than what their client deserves and who needs someone to assist with the trial to make sure that a fair settlement is obtained; and lastly a lawyer who is simply too busy to go to trial, someone who can’t afford to take several weeks away from his or her business, which could bankrupt the practice. “There are times when an attorney has ‘butterflies in his stomach’ and the butterflies just won’t go away. That’s when they call me,” Kilgore says. 11th Hour Trial Attorney at Your Service Many of Kilgore’s fellow law school graduates began hiring him to handle their jury trials, which led to the formation of his 11th Hour Trial Attorney Group. “I had this idea in mind for a couple of years. In October I got organized and began this in California and at the same time realized it would be a good idea to do the same thing in Kentucky. Forty-five days ago I was at home on a Sunday when I got a phone call from an attorney in Lexington who said, ‘I’m getting ready to start trial; a medical malpractice case Tuesday and I’ve never tried a case. Can you help?’ I said yes because this was exactly what I was looking for and exactly what I want to do. This was exactly what I had envisioned.” Kilgore says, “This was an Attorney who had those butterflies that wouldn’t go away. He was completely prepared. He knew his case backwards and forwards. He had been working on it for a number of years, but he had never done a jury trial. I helped with voir dire, opening statements, evidentiary issues, objections, bench conferences, I did background investigations on the jurors and I second chaired the entire trial.” Because he is the 11th Hour Lawyer and must be ready to respond quickly and professionally at a moment’s notice, he keeps an office in Kentucky, in California and on his Kentucky farm. He scans all his documents on computer so he has immediate access regardless of location. And to keep the lines of communication open between him and his clients, he keeps his cell phone active 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Kentucky Roots Kilgore grew up in Lexington, attended local schools and graduated from UK. He attended Pepperdine, a small Christian law school affiliated with the Church of Christ, where he still mentors Pepperdine students, speaks at orientation and is heavily involved with the school. He was on the alumni board for two years. His wife, Tina, is from Oneida in Clay County. Kelly and Tina currently teach a GED class at Oneida Baptist Church on Thursdays. He found an interest in a legal career as a senior at Tates Creek High School. He was the president of the Key Club, which held a “shadow day,” a day in which students followed a business person around for a day. Kilgore shadowed a local attorney and was intrigued by his practice. Being an attorney wasn’t his first career choice. While in college and after graduation Kilgore worked with Thoroughbred horses. He moved to California in the race horse business. Eventually, this path led to a dramatic change in direction. “I saw people being laid off from their jobs because of economic downturns and I didn’t want that to happen to me, so I thought that if I became an attorney and worked for myself then I would not only be able to help people, but I would be able to chart my own course and steer my own ship,” he says. He was 33 years old when he graduated from law school. Kilgore was concerned that he would be faced with age discrimination in looking for work. “A law firm could hire a 24 or 25 year old and tell him what to do and kick him around in a way they were not going to be able to do with me,” he says. Additionally, the nation was in a recession at the time and opening positions were scarce for someone who had just graduated from law school. Kilgore sees his late entry into the profession as an asset. “I had been in business, I had worked in the international business realm and I had a lot of confidence and a lot of experience.” He has lived in such diverse places as London, Moscow, Palm Beach, Miami, Los Angeles and, of course, Lexington. His life experience is the main reason he is able to identify, select, work with, and persuade jurors from different walks of life. The decision to go out on his own was never second guessed. “Within six months I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I was able to make my own decisions. I was able to choose my own clients. It would have taken an awful lot of money to go to work for a firm. And that wasn’t because I was making a lot of money. I was experiencing a lot of professional satisfaction that I would not have if I had gone to work for a firm.” When Kilgore returned to Kentucky he had plenty of jury trial experience, but he lacked experience in the legal realm in Kentucky. He gained a lot of experience quickly by doing public advocacy work in six counties (Lee, Estill, Owsley, Powell, Wolfe, and Breathitt) over two different circuits. “That experience will always be treasured and I made a lot of contacts and met people whom I greatly admire and respect.” Putting Down More Kentucky Roots Kilgore, his wife Tina, and children Conor, 14, Keenlyn, 12, Caidan and Austin, both 10, live on a farm in Lexington. The children all attend public schools in Fayette County. Balancing a busy legal career with an equally busy family life can be challenging, but he manages, he says. “For example, I can be there when my kids come home from school. I can leave the office early and be at the farm by 3 o’clock, but that doesn’t end my work day. I can continue to work. At my house everyone does their homework as soon as they come in. By the time everyone’s finished with their homework and ready to move on to something else, it’s 5:30 or 6 p.m. and I’ve put in a full work day.” In addition to being a home base, working on the farm is respite from working in the office and the courtroom. “We have cattle, pigs, goats, ducks, chickens and a pretty substantial deer and turkey population. We grow a big garden. It’s like therapy. I can work on a trial for two or three hours and then jump up and get on the tractor. There’s nothing like a tractor to bring you peace of mind.” While Kilgore was in California for trial, Tina moved a cabin from southeastern Kentucky to the farm. “My wife went back and forth with a trailer for three straight days and nights to dismantle and move my cabin. We also have a cedar cabin we built from our forest.” They entertain with bar-b-ques and pig roasts. They enjoy snow skiing and hiking. During the Christmas season the children gather mistletoe at the farm and sell it at Triangle Park in downtown Lexington. He is a devoted reader of “anything and everything.” He says he usually reads two books at a time, one being a practical study and the other fiction, such as a historical novel. “We are huge supporters of the library. We get our books there, our CDs and DVDs. We spend a lot of time at the library,” he says. He attends Southland Christian Church in Lexington and served three years of middle school ministry there. Kilgore maintains an equally powerful commitment to his practice and his lawyer clients. “My philosophy is to always do the right thing. I receive inspiration from Michael Josephson, of the Josephson Institute for Ethics. A retired lawyer and law professor, Josephson insists on always doing the right thing, even when it might cost more than we want to pay. I always give strong, aggressive, ethical representation to my clients. At Pepperdine ethics were instilled early and incessantly. We like to say we were into Ethics before Ethics were cool. “My role model is Atticus Finch and I find that the best part of the law is securing justice for someone who richly deserves it.” “When the butterflies won’t go away, that’s the time to bring me in.”
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