The Giant Killer

Lawyer Willie Gary Wins Big Lawsuits

The lavish office of multimillionaire lawyer Willie Gary cannot speak, but Gary will gladly voice the message he says it sends his adversaries. "When defense lawyers walk into this office - you see the mahogany wood, you see the gold trimmings," he says. "I want you to know that you're going to have to pay my client on the case. You're going to have to pay." Gary is competing with Johnnie Cochran - and working with him on cases - for the title of most feared black lawyer. 60 Minutes Correspondent Morley Safer profiles Gary.

Huge corporations have lost major lawsuits to Gary, "the Giant Killer", and his clients. His first mega-win came in 1995 when he won a funeral home owner a $500 million judgment (later reduced to $200 million) against a funeral business conglomerate. Other giant corporations have made multimillion dollar out-of-court settlements with Gary, who can be vicious in court. He's been sanctioned for insulting or humiliating opponents in courtroom battles.

"It's war when we file those papers," Gary says. "No more nice guy - I'm in a fight and I can't stand to lose."

These are good times for Gary, the son of poor, black migrant workers who was the first in his family to attend college, a school named Shaw University that is now planning ways to spend the millions of dollars worth of Gary's gratitude it has received.

Today, Gary heads a firm of 30 lawyers and travels in his corporate jet to pursue lucrative medical malpractice, personal injury and large commercial cases like the recent one against Disney in which he was assisted by Cochran. The entertainment company was ordered to pay one of his clients $240 million after Gary and Cochran convinced a jury that it had stolen the client's idea for a sports theme park.

Gary says his fee from the Disney award will help him create a "war chest" to finance his discrimination suit against Microsoft, one of several discrimination suits Gary is currently working on. Gary says you need big money to fight big money.

"You've got to be able to match these people, because they will spend the money…run you into the ground," he says. But it's not always about just money, says Gary. "I was rich long before I started suing Microsoft - I had my jet. It's not just about where the money is - it's where my services are needed. How many lawyers do you have who can take on Microsoft?"

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