Larry De Respino is the assistant general counsel/litigation for U-Haul International. Here, in his own words, he tells how he became a “legal storyteller.”
By Larry De Respino
My mother always said that I was born with a baseball bat in one hand and a glove in the other. As a child, all I ever did was dream of being a big league baseball player. My entire world revolved around baseball. If I wasn’t playing the game, I was going to Shea Stadium in Flushing, N.Y. with my dad to watch those Amazin’ Mets or playing the Strat-O-Matic Baseball Game with my best friend, Barry Elberg.
I got to follow my dream further than most. I was an all-city baseball player at Cardozo High School in Queens and played four years of college baseball at Amherst College in Massachusetts. After graduation, I dedicated three years to the pursuit of a Major League Baseball career. Alas, that dream came to an end and I was confronted with the reality of choosing a new life/career path. Thank God I was good at one other thing: arguing!
My father had a great saying about me: “Not always right, but never in doubt.” Looking back, I’m not sure he meant it as praise, but I always took it as a compliment! Along with my gift of persuasion, I also had a great deal of exposure to the legal profession as a child and young man. My mother worked at law firms as a paralegal and I would do odd jobs around her office in the summertime. I was intrigued by the similarities between sports and trial work: (1) there is a winner and a loser; (2) there are detailed rules that apply; (3) there are a variety of strategies that can be used; (4) they promote very competitive behavior; (5) they require performing under stress and pressure; and (6) those who excel must be able to handle the “spotlight” and react on the spur of a moment.
Fortunately, I was accepted to Vanderbilt University School of Law in Nashville, Tennessee, and have had the pleasure of practicing law for more than 25 years, the past 14 with U-Haul International. During my career, I have focused predominantly in the area of trial/litigation work, staying true to my love of competition and my desire to win.
Although I was originally drawn to my career because of the similarities to competitive sports, the aspect I most enjoy is something that is NOT found in sports. It is something I call “legal storytelling.”
Legal storytelling is my shorthand way of describing the convergence of the rules of law that apply to a case, the witnesses and documents that tell the story of a case, and the judge and/or jury who decide a case. The enjoyment and excitement I derive come from the challenge of getting these to converge at the most powerful, persuasive and believable story. It requires an excellent command of the facts, a strong understanding of the applicable law and, most importantly, a keen ability to persuade total strangers that your position is fair, just and proper.
Every case is different. Every situation poses unique issues. Every occurrence presents new opportunities and challenges. Yet, one thing remains constant: Can I tell a compelling and moving story to my audience? Gather ‘round children.
Are you interested in joining Larry with a position at U-Haul? If so, take a look at our current job openings.