by Kathryne M. Morris
The Dallas Bar Foundation will honor Jim E. Cowles by presenting him with the prestigious Fellows Justinian Award at the 24th Annual Fellows Luncheon at the Belo Mansion on Wednesday, April 1, 2015. Each year, the award is presented to an attorney “who has adhered to the highest principles and traditions of the legal profession, and has served the community and the profession with the highest ethical standards.” There is no greater honor, and it is fittingly conferred upon Mr. Cowles.
As one of this state’s most successful and seasoned litigators, Mr. Cowles has now practiced law for over 50 years. By the time he graduated from The University of Texas Law School in 1961, he had already served as an officer in the United States Navy, and with the court’s permission, tried 10 cases to a jury verdict, winning all of them. Since that time, Mr. Cowles has tried over 500 civil trials to verdict, winning most.
When asked to explain why Mr. Cowles deserves to be honored for his professionalism, Auston Cherry, of Cowles & Thompson, P.C., said the following: “Call it respect, call it courtesy, or call it professionalism—it’s all the same to Jim Cowles. All he knows and has known his whole life is that you treat everyone with dignity. Walking to the office every morning around 7 a.m. you can hear him call out, ‘Hey Ron, how’s it going?’ to the man who has a shoe shine business in the building. Or asking Jimmy, the off duty police officer, how his wife and kids are.”
John Scully, of Cooper and Scully, P.C., emphasized Mr. Cowles’s humility and respect for the profession with a similar story: “Many years ago, before our courthouse was renovated, the hallway walls were discolored and dirty. I got to court early one day for trial with Jim to find him alone in the hallway scrubbing the walls with a brush and soapy water. Pride in our profession.”
Additionally, Mr. Cowles is regarded as an exemplary mentor. Trey Dowdy, of Strasburger & Price, LLP, noted the sheer number of lawyers who have been trained by Mr. Cowles: “As a young lawyer I had the privilege of practicing with Jim at what was then Touchstone, Bernays and Johnston… Besides being an excellent trial lawyer, Jim was always more than willing to train young lawyers regarding the preparation for and the trial of lawsuits. I would venture to say that there are literally hundreds of lawyers today who were mentored by Jim Cowles.”
Jim Grau, of the Grau Law Group, described the impact of Mr. Cowles’s mentorship as follows: “For as long as I have known him, Jim Cowles has embodied the noble tradition of the servant mentor, teaching by word and deed that law could indeed be practiced ethically, honorably, and with fierce excellence. Much of the best legal instruction I ever received came early in my career on Saturday mornings in the coffee room at Cowles & Thompson where Mr. Cowles consistently engaged young lawyers in discussions of new law developments, client care, case strategy, and ethical pitfalls, always spiced with plenty of war stories. It should come as no surprise that many of the most effective and trusted attorneys in our community were mentored by Jim Cowles. For his wise counsel and his inspiring example, we owe him a debt of gratitude.”
Brent Cooper, of Cooper and Scully, P.C., credits Mr. Cowles for having immeasurably influenced his career: “I clerked with Jim Cowles and spent the first 15 years of practice under Jim…. Jim set a very high bar not only for the level of his skills, but more importantly for the ethics and integrity with which he conducted himself. It has been a tremendous honor and privilege knowing and practicing with Jim. I can honestly say there is no doubt in my mind that I would never have accomplished what I have without his tutelage.”
Prior to joining Strasburger, I also had the pleasure of practicing under Mr. Cowles. During that time, I realized that Mr. Cowles truly loves being a lawyer. Seeing him practice with such enthusiasm inspired me, and all those around him. I should add only that his laugh makes other people laugh, his words are somehow always wise, and he has an uncanny ability to give compliments that are genuinely unforgettable.
In short, generations of attorneys have benefitted by the example set by Mr. Cowles. He is a gentleman, a courtroom legend, and model of what every lawyer should be. As stated best by Ms. Cherry, “if you throw a stone in water, you will produce ripples. Jim Cowles has produced a lot of ripples which have benefited the legal community and will continue to benefit the legal community for years to come.”
For information about the Dallas Bar Foundation’s 24th Annual Fellows Luncheon on April 1, please call Elizabeth Philipp at (214) 220-7487 or visit the website at www.dallasbarfoundation.org.
Kathryne M. Morris is an associate at Strasburger & Price, LLP. She is Co-Chair of the Morris Harrell Professionalism Committee and Chair of the Transition to Law Program. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.