Top trial lawyer, UHLC alum Buzbee ’97 tells new students to work hard, dream big


Aug. 19, 2015 -- Tony Buzbee, UH Law Center ’97, one of the most successful trial lawyers in the nation, imparted words of advice to the incoming class of his alma mater during their first day of Orientation last week. Buzbee gave the keynote address at the University of Houston Law Center’s Krost Hall on Aug. 14.

Pointing to a law student in the second row of the auditorium, Buzbee said, “I sat right there” during his own orientation, in which the featured speaker was the late John M. O’Quinn, for whom the Law Center’s library is named.

“At the time, he was considered the most feared lawyer in the country. I sat right there, and I was listening intently,” Buzbee said, adding that he wanted to share some of O’Quinn’s wisdom with the new students.

He told them that O’Quinn conveyed there is only one true secret to success: “Work hard. That is the secret,” he said. “Is there talent involved? Yes. Is there a skill set you have to develop? Of course, but at the end of the day, it’s work hard.”

Buzbee certainly followed O’Quinn’s advice. He graduated summa cum laude from UHLC and served as managing editor of the Houston Law Review. A leading personal injury litigator, he recently won a $159 million verdict for the victims of a Valero refinery fire.  In addition to his most recent verdict, the Buzbee Law Firm has won several, high profile, multimillion dollar verdicts and settlements. He is also the lead defense attorney in the criminal indictment of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

“What is the practice of law, anyway? What do people really want when they hire a lawyer?” Buzbee asked rhetorically. “They really want to win. And so you need to make sure you know what you’re doing so you can represent your client to the best of your ability. I didn’t say win at all costs, or outside the ethical bounds. I said to win within the ethical bounds and the rules of the system,” he added.

Buzbee told the incoming class they will face challenges during law school and that even though they are entering a highly competitive field, it is important that they nonetheless develop a sense of loyalty to their colleagues. Above all, he encouraged law students to plan and pace themselves to achieve their goals.  

“Dream big. No dream is too big. Dream as big as possible,” he said.

When (UHLC Dean Leonard M. Baynes) tells you that you can change lives in the law practice, you can,” he said. “There may be bad things that happen to people. You can’t change what happened, but you can make it as best as it can be.

“You can get anything you want, and do anything you want if you have the courage to dream it. And maybe I’ll be hiring one of you one day. But you’re going to have to get to the top of the class, I’m just going to tell you that right now,” he said

Buzbee’s remarks capped nearly a full day of talks from representatives of the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Lawyers Assistance Program, the University of Houston and faculty and staff of the UH Law Center.

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