Buddy Payne

We’ve met some wonderful and interesting people in our years working with trial lawyers. One of those was R.W. Payne, Jr., better known as Buddy. Buddy was a true southern gentleman, hailing from North Carolina, then Virginia. He took control of the room when he entered, walking with the swagger of the former Marine and former professional football player he was. Melissa and I first got to know Buddy not long after we moved to south Florida in 1991. He was a client of the trial consulting firm where we worked before starting Magnus. Buddy, and his firm, were legends in the Florida legal community, having had tremendous success as a plaintiff’s firm for many years. Buddy was a big guy; he’d have been imposing on the football field or in the Marines. He lived large, and ran with other “big dog” attorneys and south Florida movers and shakers. And he did have some stories, the type that can’t be repeated here. When Melissa and I learned that he was retiring from his practice, we asked him if he would consider helping us. We thought his connections and perspectives would be helpful to us, and we were right! I will say that I didn’t know how or in what ways he would help and I was surprised by some of them. He tried to get me to add some Miami style to my wardrobe – including using a pocket square – that was unexpected. He also related stories about how some of his success was because he realized everyone with whom he came into contact could impact his case, his client, and his life. He told how simple kindnesses to “assistants,” such as judicial assistants and secretaries of opposing counsel, had improved his trial successes. When other attorneys were rude, or even ignored, court staff, he always made an effort to acknowledge them and thank them for their help. This was a natural thing for him, not a ploy, yet as simple as it is, it helped him help his clients. (This was the main catalyst for a program we instituted to thank the paralegals and legal assistants, the unsung heroes, of the clients with whom we work; a program that continues today.) Buddy largely served as a sounding board for us. Running a small business is difficult in that one often doesn’t have anyone in whom one can confide about the business operations. One certainly can’t, or shouldn’t do so with staff, and other than Melissa and me, and then Buddy, there was no one else. Buddy and I shared March birthdays, he was a day, plus about 25 years, older than me. But, it was fun to have this connection. Buddy was a class act and we’re better for having known him!

I have met few people throughout my life who possess the charisma and charm of the late Roland W. “Buddy” Payne, Jr.  Buddy was one of the most successful attorneys in the U.S.A. during his many years of practice as a trial lawyer.  Buddy was a trial lawyer in Miami at a time when trial lawyers actually went to the courthouse for trials (as opposed to now, when most “trial lawyers” settle more cases than they try).  Buddy was a tall, exquisitely handsome, Southern gentleman whose presence commanded every room from the moment he entered until the time he left.  Buddy wore expensive Italian suits, smelled of expensive cologne, and was, in every way imaginable, extremely cool.  Spending time with Buddy was never dull or boring.  His stories of scandalous experiences in Miami, including at his house in Stiltsville, were riotous!  Some of the people with whom he socialized in his younger days went on to be successful judges, politicians, etc., and, if they only knew the tales he told about them, they would be quite shocked (or maybe not!).  Buddy’s long time law partner was none other than J. B. Spence, who remarked to me the last time I saw him that he was, indeed, a legend in his own mind.  Both Buddy and J. B. seemed larger than life to me.  Upon meeting Buddy for the first time, in 1991, I instantly liked him.  He was one of the most pleasant clients with whom I have ever worked and boy, could he persuade a jury.  His charming ways were an asset to him in his multi million dollar cases and in life, in general.  In 1996, Buddy had a tragic accident and was forced to retire from the practice of law.  Having become close to him in the 5 years since we met, I asked him if he would be willing to work with Magnus as a consultant, with the goal of opening some doors David and I would never be able to open on our own.  To my delight, he immediately said, “Yes, of course,” and David and I were fortunate to spend a considerable amount of time with him until his passing in 2011, at the age of 75.  Buddy helped us in many ways, including attending meetings with prospective clients and extolling the virtues of Magnus in ways only a client can do.  I will always have a little bit of Buddy with me every day.  I wear a beautiful ankh ring, made of 24 karat Egyptian gold, that Buddy brought me from Egypt for my 40th birthday.  I love my ring because it reminds me of Buddy and I am proud to have called him my friend for 20 years.

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