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Fred Bartlit, Jr.

KNOXVILLE — Lawyer Fred Bartlit Jr. had to slip away from his daughter’s wedding reception in 2000 when he was called to represent presidential candidate George W. Bush in the Florida election dispute against opponent Al Gore.

And the rest is history.

It was just one of the many high-profile battles the 77-year-old lawyer has taken on during his 45-plus years as a trial lawyer. Bartlit will speak at noon on April 5 at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Law Room 132. His lecture is free and open to the public.

Bartlit’s speech is part of the Wyc and Lyn Orr Distinguished Lecture Series, which is made possible through the support of the Orrs of Gainesville, Ga. Wyc Orr, a 1970 UT law alumnus, is a founding partner of Orr Brown Johnson LLP and has been a trial lawyer for almost four decades. He has tried a wide variety of cases, having represented both plaintiffs and defendants before juries in 28 counties across Georgia as well as in federal court and courts-martial in West Germany during his days as a U.S. Army JAGC lawyer.

Bartlit, who was named by the American Bar Association (ABA) Journal as one of the “Seven Over 70 Lions of the Trial Bar,” is a founding partner of Bartlit, Beck, Herman, Palenchar & Scott, with offices in Chicago and Denver. He has been involved in more than 50 major trials since 1970 and has handled a wide variety of cases, dealing with fraud, antitrust, products liability and intellectual property. Among those:

  • 1976 — Successfully defended General Motors in a $2 billion price-fixing antitrust case in Connecticut.
  • 1981 — Successfully defended, in a trial on appeal, Monsanto in a suit alleging price fixing on artificial turf products.
  • 1996 — Successfully defended United Technologies in a suit alleging the company monopolized the sale of jet engine parts.
  • 2002 — Successfully defended, in two trials and two appeals, Bayer’s patent on the antibiotic drug Cipro.
  • 2004 — Successfully defended investment fund Forstmass Little & Co. from $1 billion in claims by the state of Connecticut.

Bartlit told the ABA Journal that he decided to become a trial lawyer in 1963 when, feeling overshadowed by super-achieving colleagues in his first job, he got some sage advice from his father. His dad told him to try to set himself apart from others by finding something that he could do that no one else wanted to do.

“Sure, all lawyers say they wanted to try cases,” he told the journal. “But I realized that, when push came to shove, not one of them really wanted to actually go to court and try cases to a jury.”

Having used his father’s advice to get him started, Bartlit now tenders some wisdom of his own to up-and-coming lawyers.

“I tell our young lawyers the one thing we know jurors do is evaluate everyone in court, and they don’t trust phonies,” he told the journal. “So always be yourself. If you can’t figure out how you should act, I always say you should act like John Wayne. John Wayne wouldn’t whine to the judge with objections. He wouldn’t be arrogant. John Wayne was strong but quiet. He was a leader who focused on getting the job done.”

Bartlit’s trial techniques have been described in several books about the nation’s top litigators, including “The Trial Lawyers,” published in 1988 by St. Martin’s Press, and “America’s Top Trial Lawyers — Who They Are & Why They Win,” published in 1994 by Prentice Hall. In 1997, The National Law Journal listed him in “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers,” and described him as “one of the most successful corporate defense litigators ever, with a long history of big wins.” The National Law Journal included Bartlit in its “Winning Hall of Fame” in 2009 for his significant bench or jury trial verdicts and his records of success over many years.

Bartlit was born in Harvey, Ill. He earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and went to law school at the University of Illinois, where he graduated first in his class.

C O N T A C T :

Kristi Hintz (865-974-3993,