Athletes in Law Special Issue

Attorney at Law Magazine spoke with personal injury lawyer Jack Salvatore of the Law Office of Jack Salvatore about his time as an NCAA swimmer for Tufts University for the Athletes in Law 2020 issue of Attorney at Law Magazine Phoenix. 

AALM: Tell us about some individual sports highlights, team highlights, individual awards or team awards.

JS: I was four-time All-American for the 100 and 200 butterfly in 1970-71. I was Tufts’ first All-American swimmer.

AALM: What lessons did you learn from the sport that you apply to your practice today?

JS: I think work ethic best describes it. I trained year-round in swimming.  You learn to put your head to the grindstone and, well, grind.  My one day record for yards swum in a day is 21,000 yards. No wonder my shoulders are trashed! Prolozone injections next week on both. Fingers crossed!

AALM: What are some of the most important lessons your coach taught you?

JS: Not so much life lessons as how to maximize performance. Not blowing it all out in the first half of the race. Take it out at a good pace but finish STRONG. “Swing free and be inertial.”  Those things do have carryover value to “real” life.

AALM: Who is your favorite swimming idol and legal idol?

JS: My favorite swimming hero would be Mark Spitz. My legal hero is Justice William O. Douglas. I always felt if I really wanted to know what a case was about, I’d read Douglas’ dissent or concurrence; he’d tell the real story of what the case was REALLY about.

AALM: What are three reasons you like being part of a team sport?

JS: The three reasons I liked team sports: No. 1: misery loves company, so working out is much easier with a team.  No. 2: when you train with a team, especially a Masters team, you know that each and every person on the team is interested in their health and well-being. No. 3: camaraderie.

AALM: What are three reasons you like being an attorney?

JS: I went to law school to learn about law, not necessarily to be a practicing attorney. I felt that to learn about the law was to learn how society is put together. Good information to have. I ended up in the TV business as a news anchor/investigative reporter for 10 years after being admitted to the bar. I switched to law and enjoy it because I enjoy being around smart people (and most lawyers are smart) and because I enjoy the challenges presented by the adversarial system.

AALM: Relate competing in a sport to competing as a lawyer?

JS: I am VERY competitive. That’s a good quality to have for swimming, law and life.

AALM: Who watched you swim at every match?

JS: My dad, who died recently one day before his 100th birthday. I grew up in a working-class, Italian neighborhood outside New York City.  There were no All-Americans; no one went to college. My dad had an auto body shop and always said he wanted us kids to go to college so that “we didn’t have to work as hard as he did.” I was the first in my family to go to college. The All-American thing was like some sort of dream. He would travel to watch me swim, even to Nationals in Detroit in 1970.

AALM: What qualities make a teammate a good team captain, what qualities make for a good law partner?

JS: I was co-captain of the swim team at Tufts. Honestly, I just tried to work my butt off and kick you-know-what and take names as a competitor.  So I guess maybe just providing a good model of what it takes to excel was my contribution. As to law partner, never been one. Over the last 40 years, I’ve been a law clerk on the Arizona Court of Appeals (same panel as Sandra Day O’Connor; my office was right next door to hers), then 10 years in the television business, then 30 years in a solo practice.

AALM: What did you do to calm your butterflies before you’d compete, what do you do to calm butterflies before trial?

JS: Before a swim meet, I would focus on my event and how I’d want to swim it. I would be mindful. Before a trial, it’s the same — Focus. Be well-prepared. Be mindful.

AALM: Who was your favorite coach at any level and why?

JS: Charles E. “Red” Silvia, PhD, Springfield College. Brilliant mind, analyzed swimming from the perspective of anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, physics. Absolutely the most brilliant coach I’ve ever come across. His theory of swimming is so far advanced from that of any other swim coach, it’s not even a contest.

AALM: What is your favorite mantra?

JS: Actions should be based upon rational thinking, not feelings.  If feelings and your logical thinking coincide, fine.  If they do not, you go with what your intelligence tells you makes logical sense and do not base actions on feelings.

AALM: Do you think attitude was a factor in winning in a sport as much as it is in practicing law?

JS: Of course, it is critically important to both.

AALM: How did competing at the NCAA level in swim make you a better attorney?

JS: I mean, look. You learn if you don’t put the work into what you’re doing, you’re not going to get to where you want to be. This is not done with bells and whistles. You bust your hump, you achieve. It’s just that simple.

Further affiant sayeth not


Favorite Swim Movie:  The Swimmer
Favorite Legal Movie: To Kill A Mockingbird
Favorite Swim Quote: Swing free and be inertial
Other Sports He Played:  A bit of high school football
Food He Ate before A Big Competition: Ate light, like a caterpillar
How He Celebrated Victory: Shared the good vibe with my teammates
Who Inspired Him: Mark Spitz

Attorney at Law Magazine

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