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Tucked away in a remote corner of Wyoming is a ranch dedicated to something special. Lawyers flock there from around the country. All strive to serve a common, though unstated, goal: the immortality of Gerry Spence. I know whereof I speak, because I was a member of the flock for four years. Spence is the lawyer you see on television dressed in a trademark buckskin jacket and black shirt. For the past five or so years, he has been the annual author of a book on one thing or another. He is also the guru-in-residence at a college sculpted in his own image, named, appropriately enough, Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyers College. Not bad for a man who markets himself as a country lawyer. What is it that Spence seeks now? This man who boasts of never losing a criminal case, and of not losing a civil case in decades, has become a stranger to the courts. Unlike William Kuntsler, who tried cases and lost cases, and then died a gladiator, Spence has become a cosseted celebrity. He has surrounded himself with acolytes all dedicated to “being real.” But whose reality? Gerry Spence’s reality is that of a romantic populist. Imagine Jean Jacques Rousseau with a law degree and the wealth of Croesus. Fame and the search for it are powerful narcotics. Spence may well have overdosed. Real lawyers take their clients as they find them and fight, win or lose. Celebrities worry about their image and such intangible concepts as name recognition. Too cynical? There is the Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyers College coffee mug. The Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyers College T-shirt. Autographed books. Autographed photographs. Audiotapes. Videotapes. And a speaking tour that rivals that of an ex-president. I know I am burning a bridge here. Staff at the college have advised against writing this column. Friends who have pledged love have withdrawn the pledge, protecting their investment in the meteor’s tail. Don’t get me wrong, the college does do good things and is an important means of educating lawyers about trial advocacy. But it’s getting close to Kool Aid time, and I am leaving before the cup is passed. Power is an odd thing. Psychoanalysts speak of the concept of transference: our tendency unconsciously to give what we imagine to be the power to fulfill our deepest needs to another. Doing so gives the object of our transference enormous power to define us. Spence, like so many powerful figures in American life, has perfected the art of serving as a transference lightning rod. Otherwise powerful lawyers will contort with anxiety, wondering whether they will be invited back to Spence’s ranch as staff members. I have so contorted. It is a sad spectacle. We each tumble from the womb alone. And, barring a plane crash or multi-car accident, we die alone. Autonomy means sculpting our own vantage point on what is real. Sorry, Gerry, I am taking my marbles back. I admit it. I am jealous of Spence. He has amassed the sort of wealth that lets him define his own reality. And he has perfected the art of drawing others to himself. Immortality of a sort is within reach. Perhaps I, too, can seize destiny. But so much is chance in this vale of tears. Let me gamble here, and risk all: Any takers for the Norm Pattis polo shirt?

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