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David Humphreys spent years picking up what he
calls “scraps”— small-claims car crashes and other
cases no one else wanted—in an effort to keep his
Then, intent on making a difference in the world,
he decided to launch a practice helping consumers
fight bad business practices.
“Life’s too short to be chasing cases, chasing dol-
lars,” he says.
What changed his practice trajectory? In 1994, an
advertisement for a brand-new trial law program
caught his eye. It seemed perfect: 50 lawyers from
around the country picked to learn from the likes of Joe
Jamail and Richard “Racehorse” Haynes. That summer, Humphreys was fortunate enough to take part in
the inaugural Trial Lawyer’s College, the now-famous
nonprofit law program founded by Gerry Spence.
“It changed my life,” Humphreys says. “It made me
look at myself as a human being first, and then look
outward and see how I related to other people.” That’s
been part of his ethos for more than 20 years now.
The academic nature of law school can take the
personal touch out of practicing law, Humphreys says.
School taught him the science of the law, and Spence
taught him the art: relating to people—witnesses, jurors, experts—while examining yourself in the process.
Perhaps the most important lesson he learned there
was to put the humanity back into his practice.
In addition to Jamail, Humphreys learned from
lawyers like Nancy Hollander and Bill Sellers Sr. And
of course, Spence himself.
“He is the century’s finest trial lawyer,” Humphreys
says. “He has remarkable gifts and charisma, and
skills that just don’t come along in one person often.”
Much of the consumer work Humphreys and his
team at The Humphreys Law Firm took on—car
dealer fraud, payday-loan fraud, mortgage fraud—
had been shrugged off by other lawyers. But these
cases that affect everyday people are the ones jurors
Taking part in Gerry Spence’s first Trial Lawyer’s College brought the
human side back to David Humphreys’ practice BY PAUL DEBENEDETTO
can relate to, he says. It’s sometimes difficult to get
that across in a legal culture in which an estimated
98 percent of cases are resolved without trial, but it’s
something Humphreys is passionate about.
“Some cases need to be tried,” he says. “Some-
times a case comes along that stands for something
bigger than the parties.”
His first big consumer case came in the form of a
22,000-plaintiff lawsuit, House of Sight & Sound, Inc. v.
Faulkner in 1996. A now-defunct electronics store was
accused of engaging in bait-and-switch practices.
The case went to trial in 1998, and Humphreys’
clients received no damages. While it caused a lot of
soul-searching, it also led him to ask, “How can we
do this better?”
In 1998, he founded Humphreys Wallace Hum-
phreys, along with his wife, Tanya Humphreys, and
their former law clerk, Luke Wallace. A big win came
two years later. In Greggs v. Celtic Life Insurance Co.,
Humphreys’ client was injured in a motorcycle ac-
cident and sued his insurance company for mishan-
dling claim payments. He got a $3 million verdict,
which turned into $4.8 million by the time the man
collected, Humphreys says.
“It’s hard to connect with 22,000 people,” Hum-
phreys says. “It’s a lot easier to understand the plight
of a single person. The $3 million was emotional-dis-
tress damage, and that’s kind of what we’ve focused
our practice on since.”
The firm now handles mainly mortgage loan-
servicing fraud cases. Humphreys says Wallace is an
indispensable partner. “The day he walked into the
door as a law clerk, he never did anything besides
focus on solving people’s problems, so becoming a
partner was just natural.” In 2010, when Humphreys
was diagnosed with a brain tumor, Wallace covered
the practice for about six months while his partner
recovered from radiation and chemotherapy and
Tanya Humphreys provided invaluable emotional
support. Humphreys says he is now stable.
Humphreys has come full circle, inspiring others by
teaching at the Trial Lawyer’s College that inspired
him more than 20 years ago.
“People act like it’s a science, but it’s as much art
as it is science,” Humphreys says of being a litigator.
“It’s the two together. You know, you can’t win a case
by feeling alone, but you have to understand how you
feel and how others feel before you can become a
Sometimes a case comes along
that stands for something bigger
than the parties.”