Henry had developed a knack for getting his name in the papers.
But the flap over the got Henry gallons of ink. Thomas J. Henry is a brand. Henry was sitting at his glass desk in a low-rise building in an office park in northwest San Antonio.
But they also had six mouths to feed. Every year, he spent more on marketing than he did the year.
He employs a public relations firm that sends out press releases about his family birthday parties and invites paparazzi to them. Henry presenting a check to nonprofit Elf Louise to purchase Christmas gifts for the needy. Corporate defense attorneys are often the product of top law schools, judicial clerkships, and white-shoe firms. He started with billboards. Juries award damages without being given full knowledge of such limitations, and judges reviewing big-dollar verdicts routinely shave off millions in damages simply to put them into compliance with Texas law. You can be paralyzed.
Frank had settled his wife and six kids near Abilene, Kansas, toward the end of his military career, looking for a simpler life. And Henry the man has built Henry the brand by saturating the airwaves. That might be one for the G1s. Do you know how many people are killed and maimed by people who have nothing, no insurance? Henry wants the to convey seriousness of purpose.
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He is the driver of the fanciest cars, the thrower of the most lavish parties, the bestower of the most conspicuous gifts. You want to be the kind of lawyer that prepares for trial all the time. Other times, he will be captured staring purposefully into the middle distance. Henry is a gringo.
Meet the flamboyant, fame-seeking heavyweight champ of texas personal-injury law
A zero-edge pool dissolved into an unblemished stretch of Hill Country scenery sprawling west to the horizon. He employs a public relations firm that sends out press releases about his family birthday parties and invites paparazzi.
But when Henry looks at himself, he sees a self-made man, an up-from-the-bootstraps striver who is not so far removed from his early life as a Kansas farm boy who hauled five-gallon buckets of slop a quarter mile every morning to feed the pigs. Henry works most closely with the G4s, and one of their most important traits is the ability to stare down the defense. Henry delivering a turkey at his annual giveaway. There was a total of eight-and-a-half minutes available to local advertisers.
Henry has five older children by two marriages. When potential clients call the firm, their cases quickly get triaged. Since arriving in the Alamo City, Henry has rarely wasted an opportunity to make, or draft off of, the news. The first season, which debuted in Decembertracked the Henrys as they planned Thomas Jr. Henry had been paired with Serenity Blue Suarez, a nine-year-old with alopecia universalis, an autoimmune disease that causes full-body hair loss, and he approached her with a grin and a mischievous twinkle in his eye.
The smallest cases go to the most junior lawyers, known as G1s, who will then try to seek a settlement. Then, inthe Supreme Court, by a 5—4 margin, declared lawyer advertisements to be constitutionally protected. South Texas was one of the best places in the country to practice personal-injury law.
While anyone can be an accident victim, the demographics skew to the less affluent. That morning, the Ferrari kids would be paired with local Ferrari owners, who would drive them around in their cars for fifteen minutes, then escort them through the high-end Shops at La Cantera outdoor mall, where a red-carpet arrival, an Italian lunch, and a salon session awaited. In sophisticated legal circles, such bluster is greeted with a combination of chuckles and eye rolls, and Henry says that he pretty much agrees with this assessment.
Henry, peering at the case details on his iPad, wanted Partin to walk him through her battle plan. For most of the twentieth century, in fact, no lawyers in the United States advertised. In the mids and early s, he was busy blanketing the city of Corpus Christi with his name. The Henrys looked fabulous. In the field of Texas personal-injury law, which has long been populated with big spenders prone to displays of pharaonic excess, Henry is the current heavyweight champion.
He placed an ad on the cover of the Corpus phone book. An d Henry, free of reality-show obligations, returned again to the subject of his hardscrabble upbringing and how it has informed his work. Azteca was wearing a pink Balenciaga hat. When it works, the jury verdicts can be astonishingly large.
Personal-injury lawyers make most of their money by suing or threatening to sue corporations on behalf of individuals, and acquiring such clients can be tricky. In the late nineties, there were only three lawyers working at the firm. Henry is enjoying the view. They smell it. You can be killed. He put up a for his business at his own personal address.
Henry does not use those terms. It was also awash in illegal ambulance chasing. An hour later, he was back in his Ferrari, roaring toward his house near Boerne, still talking about the value of hard work. Then he bought on a public-access TV station that had hours of dead airtime.
Those s make good advertising copy—and Henry likes to use them in his commercials—but the reality is that in Texas, the big dollar amounts tend not to stick. Who can count? Inhis television commercials ran for five-and-a-half minutes during the Corpus-area Super Bowl broadcast.
Then he purchased spots on the local ABC newscast. Sometimes Henry would show up to school with pig feces smeared on his jeans, and the ki ds from fancier homes would laugh at him. He never clerked for a judge and never worked at a white-shoe firm.
Henry boasts that his personal-injury firm is the largest in Texas. His face is bathed in dramatic lighting. Henry nodded. He got stock-room jobs at Kroger and Albertsons. When the family moved to Corpus inFrank made it clear that Henry would be paying for his own things. Corporate lawyers who help structure mergers and acquisitions can drum up business by belonging to the same country clubs and nonprofit boards as their potential clients.
Sometimes Henry will be striding across a stage telling the story of a former client. By the time Henry moved to San Antonio inhe employed more than 40 staff attorneys—a that he has since tripled. And as Henry held court at the Shops at La Cantera, he wanted to make sure everyone stopping by knew just what kind of grit he valued.
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There were no towering shelves of legal books or photographs of Henry wi th dignitaries. When Henry gave away 10, frozen turkeys last Thanksgiving in the South Texas towns of Alice, San Diego, Freer, and Corpus Christi, he traveled between locations in a helicopter, touching down amid the crowds so he could shake hands, pose for pictures, and distribute a few birds himself.
He is always impeccably dressed. Large numerals representing multimillion-dollar jury verdicts flash on-screen.
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Even though most of his cases settle at some point, he argues that his willingness to go to trial is what makes his practice work. This is largely a consequence of tort reform laws passed in the Legislature in and that severely restrict medical malpractice payouts, place a hard cap on punitive damages, and, through a doctrine known as proportionate liability, shield corporations and their insurance companies from taking on full responsibility for an accident. Henry quizzed Partin on just how she would be presenting the details of the operation to the jury.
People became familiar with the sight of the brash attorney buying rounds of drinks at the Tom Foolery bar. When Henry started his own firm, in Corpus Christi inhe was 31 years old, basically unknown, and faced the question that all new lawyers face: How do you get clients?
By that point, he was a hometown household name. South Texas in the early nineties was one of the best places in the country to practice personal-injury law.
But Tom does it well. Frank was an officer and then had a pension. Partin fidgeted. You can get bad blood. Henry sees himself as battling the snobs on behalf of the little guy. The surest way Henry would avoid that fate was to embrace advertising, which he began to do his first week in business.
Henry still takes big-dollar lawsuits to trial himself, but as his firm has ballooned in size he also spends his time at the helm of a massive law machine, directing his team of attorneys. But television remains the place where most Texans learn about Henry. When Henry wanted to advertise his namesake firm during the Super Bowl, he ran a commercial that showed him deplaning a Learjet and ducking into a silver Rolls-Royce.
Still, getting big verdicts matters. His father, Frank, had been a tough taskmaster, a Korea and Vietnam veteran who expected a lot from his son. Left: Henry presenting a check to nonprofit Elf Louise to purchase Christmas gifts for the needy.
Thomas Jr. Henry, who at five feet, six inches tall is four inches shorter than his daughter, looked more understated than the rest of his brood. Doctors revolted, blaming Henry for encouraging a litigious culture that made it impossible for them to work.