Attorney at Law Magazine sat down with Bob Latham, a partner with Jackson Walker LLP. Bob Latham has earned his place as one of the leading trial lawyers in the country. He has 39 years of experience and a deep knowledge of media law and intellectual property litigation. He is also a published author, columnist and sought-after speaker.
AALM: What’s your best tip to give to a new lawyer as they are beginning their career?
BL: Learn from good mentors. Find things that don’t just pay the bills but that you also find meaningful.
AALM: Why did you decide to pursue media law and intellectual property litigation?
BL: I believe strongly in the freedom of speech and freedom of the press, so working on cases in the early part of my career where my job was to uphold those principles was meaningful to me. The IP litigation started as an outgrowth of that, as media clients had IP related issues as well. And I found that I enjoyed working on those types of cases, be it a musical copyright issue or even patent cases. I started out in college as a physics major, before switching to liberal arts, so cases with a scientific bent to them were not uncomfortable to me.
AALM: What is the biggest success in your career?
BL: I would not necessarily put the result in any once case above any other – though there are certainly cases where you feel like you pulled a rabbit out of a hat. Rather, I think the wonderful long-term relationships that I have been able to enjoy with a number of clients would be my greatest success. And if I hope that I have provided useful mentoring to younger lawyers – if so, that would be up there as well.
AALM: What are some of the habits you’ve developed that have led to your success?
BL: Be prepared. There is no substitute for preparation. Keep your eyes on the big picture, and don’t obsess over the little things.
AALM: How do you work to maintain balance between your home life and work life?
BL: This is always a challenge. I think there is a tendency to think that balance requires these two aspects of a person’s life to be totally separated. But I think you can arrive at a balance by having them integrated. Your work colleagues and those close to you in your home life need not be strangers. That said, you do need to set aside personal time that is inviolate – and I try to do that.
AALM: What do you enjoy most about your day-to-day job?
BL: No day is like any other day – and you don’t even know when you start out what the day may hold. It keeps things fresh. There are always new challenges.
AALM: Can you share with us more about your ARTICLE 19 involvement?
BL: My involvement with ARTICLE 19 is really just an outgrowth of my belief in, and advocacy for, freedom of expression. I came to know of ARTICLE 19 through my association with other media law practitioners around the world, whom I had met at conferences and otherwise. Being involved with the challenges of promoting freedom of expression in areas that have nothing like the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution brought new perspective. I was invited to join the board in 2018, and last year I was elected chair when Paddy Coulter, the previous chair, termed out.
AALM: How are you involved in your community? Is there one group you support especially?
BL: I have had a great deal of involvement in the sports world. I was on the board of directors of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, and I stay involved in the Olympic movement. I played rugby for many years and served two terms as the chairman of USA Rugby. I now sit on the executive board of World Rugby, which governs the sport worldwide. And I am a former president of the Dallas All Sports Association, which brings together the professional sports teams in the Dallas area to raise money for needy students to attend college.
AALM: Who are your mentors? How do you seek to emulate them?
BL: The partners in the trial section of my law firm, Jackson Walker LLP, when I first started out were first rate. They taught me what was important in my approach to the profession and what wasn’t. And they taught me the importance of maintaining your integrity and credibility. Not coincidentally, I have also had great mentors in the rugby world as well – people who respected the game and their opponents and brought the best out in their teammates. My answer to this question would be incomplete without including my late parents. They set an example of honesty, genuineness and compassion that still inspires me.
AALM: What is the most interesting deal you have worked on in your entire career?
BL: I had a libel trial that was telecast live on Court TV for seven weeks. It was an interesting dynamic to have live coverage. This was before that became more normalized in the U.S. A case for which I became a hero to all young children in my orbit was when I represented Barney the Dinosaur.
AALM: Tell us something about yourself that has nothing to do with your career as a lawyer?
BL: I played rugby for my first 12 years practicing law. The joy, the release from the pressures of law practice, and the relationships I made during that time have kept me involved with the sport to this day. And my go-to karaoke song is Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.”
AALM: Is there anything else you would like to add?
BL: It might be worth noting that ARTICLE 19 filed an amicus brief, that I co-authored, in the Gonzalez v. Google case that the U.S. Supreme Court heard today.