TLC Faculty members David Humphreys and Luke Wallace are trial lawyers who specialize in consumer law in Tulsa, OK.  While they have a great record of receiving multi-million dollar verdicts, what really drives them in this unique area of law is the satisfaction of making sure that their clients are listened to, and heard, and have their “day in court”.  So many clients end up feeling emotionally beat up by the corporations on the other side of the issue, and process itself which includes predatory practices to cause delays, obscure the charges, and in some cases cause financial hardship to the very individuals who are seeking justice.  We wanted to sit down with David and Luke and talk about how they apply the TLC methods to consumer law.  Here is their story.

 

How do you use the methods taught at the Trial Lawyer’s College to find a way for your juries to connect to consumer law cases that tend to be so focused on contracts and detailed numbers – I mean, where is the human story in that?!!   

Luke:  What’s interesting is that most people think that consumer law is where you’re dealing with a bunch of documents like a Truth in Lending, or a contract, and you’ve got to understand the percentage rate and talk about $100 violations. When, in reality, we’re really dealing with human dynamics. There is a story of betrayal in every one of our consumer law cases. It could be that the customer went to a car dealership and thought he was buying a new car, when in fact it had been wrecked and repaired by the dealership. Or it could be the mortgage situation where the customer runs into financial difficulties and they reach out for help from the lender. They agree to a plan, the customer sticks to it, but the bank is sitting on the backend ready to steal their home. It’s the dynamic of believing in somebody, then investing thousands of dollars, only to find out they betrayed you. Our training with TLC has helped us understand these cases by teaching us how to “reverse roles” with our clients and understanding what they went through, what they lived, what this has been like for them, and then “reversing roles” with the other side (the bank or the dealership or another type of company) to understand why they did what they did. In some ways, consumer law is easier than personal injury cases because we’re dealing with entities who intended to do what they did and commit the fraud that they did. There is no mistake about it – the opponents of our clients were 100% of the time trying to steal money from people, and it’s just a matter of figuring out how clever or devious they were in that pursuit, and showing that to our juries.   

David: Luke is so right about the importance of “reversing roles” with all of the parties to our litigation so that we go into the courtroom fully aware of what happened.  Through the use of all the methods we’ve learned at the Trial Lawyers College, including psychodrama, we know and can understand the impact that the betrayal has had on our clients and their families.  In our cases, we’re often talking about someone’s home — where kids are going to have supper and sleep at night.  About a family’s automobile or their relationship to lenders, like credit card companies.  The stress these cases can create within the family is enormous, and enormously disruptive and harmful.  Many of our clients are being targeted with collections systems that are designed to create maximum pressure on folks – this can tear the family up with far-reaching consequences far beyond just the money that the other side wants from the lawsuit. With the methods we learned at TLC, we are able to get through to these people and really help them. We create a trust bond, and with that important relationship with the family, we can learn how the situation has impacted them so that we can better share the tragedy with our jurors.  We could not represent our clients well if we hadn’t learned how to listen to them and re-live the event with them.

Luke: Yup – we live it with our clients.  Through re-enactments and knowing how to re-create the event, we are able to literally see it and experience it again with our clients.  Once we have done that, we can go into the courtroom fully prepared to present it and live it and experience it with our juries in a very different and powerful way.

 

How has working with TLC’s methods over the years made a difference to you personally?

Luke: Early on and fresh out of the Trial Lawyer’s College, we made a great sacrifice. We had been practicing together for three years.  After graduating from TLC, we decided to terminate everyone in the firm except for me, David and his wife. We got rid of all of our clients except for five of them, and we moved out of a big office building and into a warehouse in downtown Tulsa that had nothing in it except for our three desks.  We had a legal assistant who told us, “You can fire me, but I’m coming with you anyway and I’ll work for free”.  (We let her come along!)  We went and worked on those five cases over the next several years. The first case we tried, we put a tremendous amount of time, effort, and money into. I mean, it was our lives for the first year plus. We won the case — but we also lost the case. The jury found for us, they found that the other company engaged in malice and wanted to award punitive damages, but they gave us zero actual damages and zero punitive damages. That was so hard to accept.  We felt like we’d been gutted.

David: I think we ended up $20 bucks ahead after that case! 

Luke: Yeah. But we picked ourselves up after that, we analyzed it to see what we needed to do better the next time, and we got back after it and we started working on our second case – which we won and the verdict was huge! Then we knew we were doing the right thing. We have three lawyers now in our firm and we just work our tails off on very small stuff and go for the win every single time.  We take nothing for granted and believe that no justice is too small for our clients.  None of our cases are cookie cutter – they are each unique and very different from one-another.

David:  We’re very lucky because we are able to only get involved in cases that we really believe in. Many times I have felt that if we truly do what we know how to do, there’s not a case we can lose. It’s because of the way we have been trained at TLC, and the way we work together, that we cannot lose the case. We live it, we experience it, and the way we do what we do, together. And it’s not just Luke and I. Anybody who is willing to do what we’ve done to be trained and to perfect our art of trial lawyering can do this. People need our help – and I mean the collective help of trial lawyers for people. If we do our work, we put ourselves into the case, and develop a killer Opening Statement and establish credibility with our juries during Voir Dire, we will get justice.

Luke: It’s really gratifying. The cases that stand out to me, the ones I’m most satisfied about, are the ones that don’t necessarily even go to trial, but our clients get their houses paid off after they’ve been screwed around by a mortgage servicer. Then they get enough money to put in the bank so they don’t ever have to live paycheck to paycheck again if they handle themselves right. They end up with a house that is paid off, some money in the bank, and they’ve got a fresh start on life. The stress is gone and no one has died. No one lost an arm or a leg or eyesight. It’s really rewarding to be able to put people in a position like that. To give them a fresh start on life, really.

 

You two have been on TLC’s faculty for some time now.  What can students expect at a TLC seminar?

David: One of the most important things that we teach is what we at TLC call, “the listening exercise”. It’s such a profound thing. It opens people up to what could be a very deep place for them. Once you’re there with them, then you work on a case. This is a very, very different way of working on a case.

Luke: We always want students to bring some ideas of cases and facts to work on and we teach them how to put it into action so they can more easily develop their case. The next seminar is its 3-day urban Regional Seminar on Opening Statement in Newport Beach, CA from Jan 20-22, 2017.  There is a Voir Dire Seminar in Texas in early April.  At both these seminars, we will teach folks in small groups on their cases with many of our colleagues who have also been trained at TLC and are doing fabulous work in their communities. At both of these events, students will also get to participate in personal psychodrama and communications training with Josh Karton.  Every bit of TLC training helps and it never gets repetitious because you are always encouraged to get better and improve your own game – find out more, be more compassionate, listen more, find and understand the betrayal – it’s a great method and we never tire of it!!