Oct. 23, 2018 - University of Houston Law Center alumnus Tony Buzbee '97 told law and undergraduate students that part of overcoming the odds means ignoring them during the Powerful Voices speaker series, hosted by The Honors College at the University of Houston in Cemo Hall.
Buzbee, a Marine veteran, is a leading personal injury litigator and one of the most successful trial lawyers in the nation. In the past decade, he and his firm, The Buzbee Law Firm, have won hundreds of millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements in dozens of cases involving pipeline and plant explosions, toxic torts, offshore litigation, commercial litigation, products liability and trade infringement.
Buzbee has represented former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, musician Jimmy Buffett among other high-profile clients. He also worked pro bono as lead counsel for the Law Center, with a team of UH in-house and local attorneys, to protect the school's name and brand in a federal trademark infringement law school in 2016.
After serving in the military, he said attending the Law Center altered the trajectory of his life.
"Something really great happened to me when I was accepted into the University of Houston Law Center," he said. "It dramatically changed my circumstance."
Buzbee used a number of anecdotes and statistics to emphasize how success can be difficult to attain, but that there is always a chance as well.
"Every time there's a big lottery drawing coming up, I always think about the odds," Buzbee said. "If your chances are one in 292,000,000 why even play? What possible reason could you play when you have those odds? What's the chances you're going to be bit by a shark? It's one in 11.5 million. You have a 60 percent chance of finishing college. If you want to go to law school you have a 26 percent chance of getting in.
"You have a one in 960,000 chance of getting struck by lightning in a particular year and a one in 9,000,000 chance of getting struck twice. Your marriage has a 50 percent chance of failing. Twenty-five percent of all small businesses in the U.S. fail the first year and 50 percent fail by year five. Why would you even put yourself through that grief? The odds are stacked against you."
Buzbee said in order to increase your odds, the most important attribute to have is a strong work ethic.
"What can you learn from my story? Don't even think about the odds," Buzbee said. "Work hard. Be honest and make yourself indispensable. Focus on your goals and write them down. I don't care how outrageous or silly you think it might be -- write it down. You have to outwork your competition and prepare. The people that are willing to delay their gratification by working hard will be the most successful in whatever endeavor they choose. I'm a living example of this."
When asked by a Law Center student if he had any advice for young attorneys who are considering starting their own firm, Buzbee referenced his experience clerking for a judge which gave him the practical legal knowledge he needed to start his career.
"The best thing that I did was doing a clerkship with a judge," he said. "You will learn so much in a clerkship with a federal or state judge, and I can say that really put me on my way. If you're an entrepreneurial person, I don't think there's any reason why you shouldn't dive in and be your own boss, as long as you have a good network of people and friends who are practicing that you can run ideas by and bounce ideas off of."