Noted Texas litigator Randy Johnston, known for his brilliant legal mind and unique approach to his profession, has been selected the Dallas Bar Association’s Trial Lawyer of the Year for 2016.
Johnston, founder and managing shareholder of the law firm Johnston Tobey Baruch, was chosen by DBA President Jerry Alexander and a vote of the Association’s board of directors.
A pioneer in legal malpractice
Johnston is one of the first Texas attorneys to make professional malpractice – suing fellow lawyers, accountants and investment advisors – a significant part of his law practice.
“We’ve followed a path that’s not really designed to make us popular with other lawyers,” Johnston says. “You don’t expect to win awards given by people you might have sued. That makes this award even more of an honor for me.”
For years, he was known as the only attorney with a pony tail to win a major verdict in a Dallas courtroom. The pony tail is gone now, in typical Randy Johnston fashion. Several years ago, he auctioned off the right to cut his long hair for charity. This gesture raised almost $8,000 in contributions for legal services for the poor.
Author and poet has received countless honors
He is the author of the Texas best-selling book, Robbed at Pen Point, which tells that more money is stolen these days by contracts and scams than by guns. He is also a published poet and prolific essayist.
Johnston is also a fervent opponent of the death penalty, having represented a man on death row for over five years and getting him a new appeal before ultimately losing to the state’s desire to execute him. He also was the first to successfully sue Upjohn over its powerful sleeping pill, halcyon. His client was a former police officer who killed his best friend under the influence of the drug.
He also handles business and commercial litigation, fiduciary litigation and insurance bad faith matters. His clientele used to be strictly individuals, but as litigation has become more complex he is as likely to represent small, closely held corporations and large companies that have been cheated by others.
Johnston is board certified in civil trial law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He taught a course in professional ethics at the University of North Texas College of Law. He has lectured at continuing legal educations courses for lawyers over 200 times and was given the “Standing Ovation Award” as an outstanding volunteer by the staff of the State Bar. He is currently featured as one of the city’s best litigators in D Magazine. He is also a fixture on the list of Texas Super Lawyers chosen by his peers and was featured in Texas Monthly as one of the 100 Top Attorneys in Texas (2010-2011).
He was featured as the state’s top professional malpractice attorney in Texas Lawyer’s Go-to Guide in 2007. The Tort and Insurance Practice section of the Dallas Bar Association awarded him the 2012 Texas Trial Legends Award. He has also been recognized by Best Lawyers in America (2011-2016).
A musician and speaker with a serious message
Johnston usually gives more than 20 speeches a year to legal and professional groups, using these occasions to inform his fellow attorneys about how to avoid disciplinary actions and legal malpractice claims. He is an accomplished blues guitarist, so many of his talks come with a twist. He often writes a song that illustrates the point he wants to make in his talk and performs it for his audience.
Opposing counsel actually like him
He is widely recognized as an outstanding courtroom lawyer by colleagues and competitors alike, including Rod Phelan, last year’s DBA Trial Lawyer of the Year and a frequent adversary in litigation.
“Randy is sui generis,” Phelan says. “From pony tail to politics, from music to stories about himself, there’s just nobody like him; and for me, it is always entertaining. He is just a fun and funny guy. He is also unusually smart, exceptionally articulate, and dead honest. If it weren’t for the possibility of losing – because of his gifts – there’s nobody I’d rather have on the other side. He’s a pro. To borrow one of Randy’s phrases, he might kill you, but the knife will be in your chest, not your back. He’s done a lot of good for a lot of people. If he were right a little more often, he’d do even better.”
Johnston will receive the Trial Lawyer of the Year Award at a DBA meeting in September.