Fill the Void Left by the Passing of Justice Birch and Larry Wilks

As a Roman Catholic, I am familiar with the concept of a saint. For those unfamiliar with the concept of a saint, they are additional examples of people who have lived extraordinary lives, lives worthy of praise and imitation.  By that definition, our legal community recently lost two saints: Justice Adolpho A. Birch and Larry Wilks.

In many ways, these two men could not have been more different, but in every way that matters they were very much the same. Both were giants of our profession and deep thinkers.  Both showed uncommon courtesy and concern for their fellow man. Both served as mentors to countless younger attorneys. Both had the ability to command a room with their wisdom, voices and persuasive statements. Both listened more than they talked.  Both knew how to relate to kings and to the common man. People like Justice Birch and Larry Wilks just do not come along very often. Their passing leaves a void in our profession and in our hearts.

Nature abhors a void and will always seek to fill it. The question with the passing of men like Justice Birch and Larry Wilks is who and what will fill that void.  This month is Pro Bono month all across our country.  Justice Birch and Larry Wilks lived lives that exemplified service for the public good and service to our fellow man. Larry often said that he was a “Door Lawyer.”  A “Door Lawyer” is someone who becomes whatever type of lawyer is needed to meet the needs of those standing in his door. Larry took on countless cases knowing that he would never get paid for them.  He helped countless more knowing that their ability to pay was significantly limited.  Justice Birch championed the powerless. He helped justice reach the most remote corners of our state and fashioned a more humane and fair society.

There can be no better way to honor Justice Birch and to honor Larry Wilks than to follow their lead and imitate their examples. Doing so means filling the void created by their untimely passing by helping our fellow man through pro bono service in whatever way they need, and by mentoring the next generation of attorneys. Whenever you do any of these things, think of Justice Birch and think of Larry Wilks. They will be there supporting you and encouraging you in spirit.


Danny Van Horn TBA President DANNY VAN HORN is a partner with Butler, Snow, O'Mara, Stevens and Cannada PLLC in Memphis.