Prominent Attorney Mike Davis Dies at 69

Innovative personal injury litigator also remembered for decades of youth sports volunteering

See original publication in Austin Business Journal

Apr 5, 2022, 2:24pm CDT


Mike Davis Mike Davis was diagnosed with lymphoma, cancer in the body’s lymph system, in 1995 — two years after co-founding the law firm that later became Slack Davis Sanger. But after treatment he continued to practice law and helped grow the firm to nearly a dozen attorneys. He died March 30.

Mike Davis, a founding partner at law firm Slack Davis Sanger LLP, died March 30. He was 69 and known as both an expert in vehicle crash litigation and a diehard baseball fan who spent a lot of his free time volunteering in youth sports.

A spokesperson for the firm said the cause of death was the lymphoma with which he was diagnosed more than 25 years ago.

Davis was regarded as a highly technical litigator who freely dispensed advice to other attorneys on how to prepare for crash cases and regularly spoke to the press about complex topics such as tort reform.

“He was a great lawyer. He could try a lawsuit as well as anyone. He was also a great legal writer. So, he was versatile,” said Mike Slack, managing partner at Slack Davis Sanger and Davis’ longtime business partner. “He was also a better person. So what the clients got out of Davis was an extremely compassionate and caring person that was damn good at his trade.”

Slack remembered his colleague as a competent but sometimes quiet lawyer who could surprise opposing counsel at trial, but said that never crossed into disrespect for those on the other side of the courtroom.

“Oh, I know there are some he wasn’t fond of, but he never vocalized that,” Slack said. “He was a gentleman and a professional.”

Davis was a member of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association, serving as president in 1996-97, and a past board member of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association. Slack credited him with being a pioneer for technology in the legal field — the two men introduced personal computers to replace typewriters when they worked together at a previous firm, then at Slack Davis Sanger replaced their law library with a computer server room in the early 1990s.

Slack recalled the firm taking off-the-shelf software and adopting it for legal purposes: “I told those people, Davis is your ultimate beta user. He will beta test this. If it’s got bugs, he’s going to find it. And sure enough, we would have situations where [we’d tell the vendor we’d buy the software] if it survives the Davis test.”

The two grew Slack Davis Sanger into a formidable firm handling a wide variety of personal injury and workplace safety cases. They navigated tumultuous times like when the Texas Legislature in 2003 overhauled medical malpractice laws to cap noneconomic damages — Slack estimated about 98% of the case types they were handling at the time were suddenly no longer viable.

Slack Davis Sanger now has five Austin attorneys and 15 total staff in the city. Counting additional offices in Dallas and Fort Worth, the firm has a total of 10 attorneys and 18 staff.

Davis, a lifelong Austinite, was born on Nov. 26, 1952, in the Texas capital. He attended Highland Park Elementary School, Lamar Junior High School and McCallum High School. He earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin before attending and graduating with honors from St. Mary’s School of Law in San Antonio.

After law school, Davis spent a brief stint on the staff of Franklin Scott Spears, a Texas Supreme Court justice. In 1993, Davis and Slack founded their firm and brought along Davis’ father, Tom Davis.

Davis was diagnosed with lymphoma, cancer in the body’s lymph system, in 1995, two years after co-founding the firm. But after treatment he continued to practice law and help lead Slack Davis.

Outside of work, Davis was known for decades of volunteering with Oak Hill Youth Sports Association baseball programs. The announcement of his death noted he was often referred to as “The Commissioner” by players and parents, and that he was competing in slow-pitch softball tournaments shortly before his death.

Davis is survived by his wife of 42 years, Susan; son, Ty Davis, and daughter-in-law, Ashleigh Davis. A visitation has been scheduled for April 16 at at Cook-Walden Funeral Home on North Lamar Boulevard. In lieu of flowers, the family asks well-wishers to donate to the Oak Hill Youth Sports Association.

Will Anderson

Managing Editor

Austin Business Journal