Death of a Giant of the Tennessee Trial Bar

Nashville trial lawyer John T. Conners, Jr. died yesterday in his home in West Meade.  He would have turned 90 in March 2010.    He was a name-partner at Boult Cummings Conners & Berry in Nashville and practiced law over 50 years.. 

To say that John Conners was an excellent lawyer is an understatement.   He was a living legend in the Bar at the time I was admitted in 1981 and joined his firm.  He remains a legend to this day.

I believe the key to Mr. Conners’ success in the courtroom was his preparation.  He left no stone unturned.  He did not sit in his office and practice law – he investigated his own cases and was unafraid to get his shoes dirty.  He prepared hours and hours for every deposition.  He would write out his opening statements and closing arguments three, four, or five times, revising and improving it each time.  And then he would deliver it – from memory – flawlessly.  His directs and crosses were done the same way – revision after revision after revision – and then conducted from memory.   He dominated the courtroom.  

Mr. Conners, a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, enjoyed  the utmost respect from the Defense Bar.   They knew  that he could be trusted.  Always.  He fought hard, but fair.  

Mr. Conners was the master of straight talk to clients.  He gave advice – and expected his clients to take it.  He was not afraid to express his opinion.   He was not afraid to tell clients that they were wrong.   He was a gentleman.

I had the good fortune to be trained by Mr. Conners.  I spent 11 1/2 years working for him, and I say without hesitation that what I know about the lawyer’s craft I learned from him.  What  I did not learn is a result of me being a poor student and is no reflection either on his knowledge or his ability to share it.  There is rarely a day that passes that I do not come across a difficult problem in one or more of my cases and ask myself how he would address it.  

He will be missed.