There are people who work because they have to—because it’s how they put food on the table, pay the bills, or make payments on the house. Most people fall into that category. Rarely, people who do something because they love it or because work is a vital part of their very lives.
Within this group of people are an even smaller, rarer subset: individuals who work because that is what they were born to do.
These people take Cat Stevens’ words in “Oh Very Young” to heart:
“You’re only dancing on this Earth for a short while.”
To them, jobs are for other people. What they do every day—their work—is a calling.
In sports, we see those once-in-a-generation legends play, knowing they are destined for the Hall of Fame. Tom Brady, LeBron James, Tiger Woods. We know their greatness came from a drive to be the best.
For those dedicated to protecting the rights and futures of people every day, that Lawdragon Hall of Fame attorney is Gary Fox.
From a young age, Gary decided that the best way he could make the most of his time was to advocate for people who needed help. “I arrived at the conclusion that something good should come of the time I spent on Earth,” he says. “Being a plaintiffs trial lawyer is a great opportunity to do just that.” The lyrics of “Oh Very Young” were one of the inspirations behind his enrollment at the University of Florida School of Law.
Equal Parts Scholar & Fighter
While in law school, Gary quickly distinguished himself as an editor of the law review and as a member of the National Moot Court Board. His involvement represented both sides of his passion: scholarship and court advocacy. His editorial work also began his career as a legal scholar, a crucial part of his work that continues today.
After Gary graduated from law school in 1976, he began work for the firm Frates Floyd Pearson Stewart Richman & Greer, a firm recognized at the time as one of the country’s leading trial law firms. Within a few years, Gary became a partner at the firm, but Gary’s calling—his drive to make the most of his time—eventually led to him leaving that firm in 1984. Instead of working for a prestigious established law firm, Gary joined forces with Larry Stewart, Jim Tilghman, and David Bianchi to form Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain, a firm wholly dedicated to trying the toughest, most complex plaintiff cases.
“There is nothing more professionally gratifying for me than knowing I have had an important impact on my clients’ well-being and knowing that I have made a positive difference in their lives,” Gary says.
To ensure he and his colleagues could have the strongest possible impact on their clients’ lives, they committed to taking only a select few cases a year. They would maintain a low caseload by picking only the cases with the highest possible stakes. As a result, Gary could focus on clients and their cases, not on business management.
The firm’s approach was (and still is) exceedingly rare in an industry built on high case volume.
“Representing plaintiffs in meritorious cases is usually great fun, exciting, challenging, and, most importantly, rewarding,” he says. “I think it is a wonderful calling to represent deserving clients in their quest for justice.”
The Highest Possible Standard for Himself & His Colleagues
Today, Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain is larger than it used to be, but not by much. Baked into the firm’s philosophy of handling fewer cases to provide better representation is an extremely high bar for prospective new lawyers. Since 1984, the firm has added only three top tier lawyers: Stephen Cain, Dax Bello, and Michael Levine. Like the firm’s founders, these three attorneys were chosen for their exceptional commitment to justice.
If you ask Gary, the sort of work STFBC demands requires more than good grades in law school. “We are looking for people who are book and street smart and, equally important, people who have common sense and good judgment,” Gary says. As a rare combination of academic excellence and practical, hands-on skill, he holds his colleagues to a high standard. It’s not a standard many attorneys could reach for, much less exceed regularly. With a twinkle in his eye, Gary adds “It helps if they recognize good wine and good bourbon.”
A Once-in-a-Lifetime Invitation
After decades of making headlines, Gary received a career highlight that, for once, didn’t take place inside a courtroom: he was invited to join the Inner Circle of Advocates. The Inner Circle, as it’s called, is an invitation-only organization limited to only 100 trial attorneys nationwide. The organization was founded to raise the level of practice within plaintiff representation through the sharing of wisdom, resources, and experience.
“Being selected for membership in the Inner Circle was a huge deal for me,” Gary says. “It is the organization every plaintiffs lawyer wants to belong to. I am a member of several wonderful trial lawyer organizations, but none more enlightening, educational, and motivating than the Inner Circle.”
Inner Circle membership is only extended to attorneys with exceptional trial results. There is nothing else factored into the invitation. If you don’t get incredible results, you don’t make the cut. His membership is a monument to Gary’s lifelong belief that academic knowledge alone doesn’t make a good attorney. In the end, a lawyer has to win, because that’s what separates the armchair legal thinkers from the real deal.
Larry Stewart is also a member of the Inner Circle, which testifies to the high level of practice at Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain. The firm is the only one in Florida to have two partners in the Inner Circle.
One of Greatest Lawyers of His (& Any) Generation
Larry Stewart and James Tilghman have gone on to a much-deserved retirement, while Gary and David are still as active as ever. They are the only two left from the firm’s early days. Gary could have stopped practicing years ago and would have gone down in history as one of the most accomplished attorneys of his generation.
“I have practiced law with Gary in for over 40 years,” David Bianchi says, speaking of his long-time colleague and friend. “During that time I can recall numerous cases that were turned down by other firms that he had the courage to take on, and he ultimately produced stunning results for his clients. He is tenacious and a hundred percent committed to his clients and his results back that up.”
Just a few examples of some of those results include:
- His landmark case against Carnival Cruise Lines forced the cruise ship giant to disclose how many sexual assaults take place aboard its vessels. While it’s still difficult for cruise ship sexual assault victims to get justice, Gary is the reason people know it’s a problem at all.
- His victories on behalf of professional athletes like Floyd Mayweather and Samari Rolle were notable not only for their plaintiffs but for the unlikelihood of their success: Gary won Mr. Rolle’s case in a city that hadn’t returned a verdict in a medical malpractice case in favor of a plaintiff in over 12 years.
- Gary’s medical malpractice practice, long known for being the most difficult and professionally risky practice in the legal field, has made it easier for malpractice victims to seek justice against negligence providers. His work on behalf of Terri and Michael Schiavo enabled them to recover a substantial amount for their doctor’s negligence. Though their case is now remembered for the infamous rift between family members, it was Gary who won justice for the family in the first place.
As a legal scholar, Gary has published articles and papers in Trial Magazine, The Florida Bar Journal, and even contributed to a medical textbook titled Operative Obstetrics.
While some of the greatest people in ther profession choose not to give back, Gary is committed to helping others learn and improve. He’s given over 200 lectures and seminars for attorneys continuing their legal education.
Over four decades of law practice and Gary hasn’t slowed down. He recently led a legal seminar by teleconference, and he continues to represent clients in some of the toughest cases nationwide. His status as a living legend is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that he is the only honoree on the 2020 Lawdragon 500 Leading Plaintiff Consumer Lawyers who is also inducted into the Lawdragon Hall of Fame.
Still, just as in 1974, Cat Stevens’ words ring true for him.
Today, he simply has more to look back on, and more memories of the impact that he has had on people’s lives. This has let him reflect on how he’d like to be remembered.
“I would like people to say ‘Gary Fox was a great lawyer and law partner who treated people fairly,’” he says. “He was somebody who cared deeply about achieving justice for the clients he represented, and he had a positive and meaningful impact in making the lives of his clients a little better.”
If you know Gary personally, you’d know that he is one of the guys that make this world a better place.