(This mini-profile was published today on the Austin Legal News blog.) Justin Townsend has amassed the perfect background, as far as preparing him for where he is today as an accomplished lawyer at the highly respected law firm of Slack Davis Sanger.
Before joining Slack Davis Sanger, Townsend practiced at Mithoff & Jacks, concentrating principally on commercial litigation, personal injury law and products liability. After leaving that firm, he opened his own law office and handled cases representing buyers and sellers in breach-of-contract disputes over purchases of aircraft; tortious interference with prospective aviation business relations; and a commercial case defending a company and its owner against a suit brought by a Fortune 500 corporation.
Both experiences were formative for Townsend, who in 2006 was elected to the Board of Directors of the Advocates section (for members with fewer than 10 years of practice) of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association. He is an active member of the Lawyers Pilots Bar Association, the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association, the American Association for Justice (formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America), the Texas Young Lawyers Association and the Austin Young Lawyers Association.
That track record and the respect he has earned from his peers made him a good candidate for this week’s Wednesday Interview.
1. Describe your legal practice.
My legal practice primarily involves complex commercial disputes with an emphasis on aviation litigation. Within the realm of business or corporate jet litigation, I represent both individual and corporate owners, flight departments, aircraft managers, and operators on both sides of the bar. I also conduct risk assessments and evaluations for owners, buyers, sellers, operators, and flight departments.
2. What are the biggest challenges of those you interact with on the legal front, and what is the key to helping them resolve those challenges?
One of the biggest challenges I face is taking complex factual scenarios that may involve hyper-technical aviation issues and relating those to a jury who may know very little about the aviation industry. Multimillion dollar cases can turn on the smallest of factual, technical, or legal issues and often it takes numerous experts to even speculate as to what factors are relevant. It is essential to find a way to translate these often esoteric concepts into a narrative that speaks to the jury. It is my job to humanize my clients and ensure that, even in a dispute between large corporations, I can tell a story that not only informs but also motivates the jury.
3. What are the advantages to practicing law in Austin?
The single best advantage to practicing in Austin is that I get to work in my hometown. I travel a good bit and handle cases all over the world. It is enjoyable to work in so many diverse areas but I love that I can retain a global practice while being based in Austin.
4. How would you improve the legal profession if you could?
I would challenge some people’s perception that practicing law is no longer a noble profession. It is incredibly disconcerting to see good lawyers attacked under the guise of tort reform exclusively for political gain. Attorneys provide a check and balance against those who would deny justice to all and close the courthouse doors. Each and every person is entitled to hold wrongdoers accountable, and lawyers ensure that the scales of justice remain balanced for everybody. Thomas Jefferson once said that he considered “trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” It is our job to personify those noble words in everything that we do.
5. Who or what was your biggest influence in becoming a lawyer and why?
My grandfather, Cedric Townsend, is the reason I became a lawyer. He was a judge in Paris, Texas, and instilled in me a great love and appreciation of the law. Cedric was a pillar in his community and fought his entire life to ensure that all Texans’ access to justice was protected.
Despite losing his arm in an accident as a young man, Cedric accomplished things both professionally and physically that amazed me. He was as adept with one arm as anyone with two, but it took a lot of hard work to get there. His work ethic and ability to adapt continue to motivate me to not only be a better lawyer, but also a better man.