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Lawyer Limelight: Michael Gless

The reputation of Keesal Young & Logan is forged in the steadfast excellence of the veteran lawyers who have been with founder Skip Keesal from or near the beginning. Among them is business litigator Michael Gless, who did not make the same mistake twice after declining an early offer to help start the Long Beach-based firm. Gless, who did both his undergraduate and legal studies at the University of Southern California, is a fellow of both the International Academy of Trial Lawyers and the American College of Trial Lawyers and an advocate with American Board of Trial Advocates.

Lawdragon: Why did you become a lawyer? Did you have family members who were lawyers, admire Perry Mason, or some other inspiration?

Michael Gless: My grandfather, Neil S. McCarthy, was a lawyer I admired above others I knew. He was my inspiration for law school, and was generous enough to pay my tuition. His clients included Howard Hughes (for 30 years), Cecil B. DeMille, MGM,  Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy, and others. I should have such a group of clients for KYL.

LD: You attended USC for both undergrad and law school.  What do you think is most special about the school, and can you comment please on the importance of the USC network in the Southern California legal community?

MG: I had attended USC undergrad on a partial swimming scholarship. It seemed natural to hang around for a few more years, if I was lucky enough to get into the USC Law School. In the 1960s and 1970s it seemed every trial judge I met was a USC grad – no disrespect to my friends at UCLA.

LD: What is your “story” of joining Keesal Young?

MG: In 1970, Skip Keesal asked me to help start a law firm in Long Beach. At the time, I was a partner in a Los Angeles firm and told Skip “no” since the only knowledge I had about Long Beach was the Pike Amusement Park and a few tattoo joints. That was a big mistake on my part. I joined Skip six years later. We have been practicing law together now for 42 years.

LD: What advice would you give to students who want to specialize in litigation? As a member of the who’s who of trial lawyer organizations, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the common traits of great trial lawyers.

MG: I have found that a common trait of the great trial lawyers I have opposed is their total and complete trial preparation and, though they were aggressive on their client’s behalf, they never lost their sense of civility, especially in a time of incivility.

LD: Can you share a lawyer you have come up against in litigation that you admire, and why?

MG: It is hard to pick just one lawyer who fits that description, but I would nominate Joe Cotchett of Redwood City. I remember before we picked a jury Joe and I met with the trial judge who told me I should consider settling the case because Joe was one of the greatest trial attorneys in the U.S. I told the judge I was aware of that fact since Joe had just told me the same thing. During discovery in that case I was in Joe’s office and there was a picture of himself in full military battle dress with a parachute and rifle. Joe advised me that if he did not take me in court, he would take me in the alley. He is still a good friend.

LD: What do you enjoy outside of law practice?

MG: Great restaurants and USC football.

LD: What’s your favorite travel destination or perfect way to celebrate the conclusion of a great case?

MG: A few drinks with sympathetic friends.