For our first Attorney Spotlight of 2021, we welcome Kevin Gray, Tyson & Mendes’ newest San Francisco partner. He leads a multi-attorney team focusing on personal injury defense, defense of trucking companies, defense of governmental entities, premises defense, and Special Investigation Unit work. Having tried cases in both California State and Federal Courts, the Nassau County, New York District Attorney’s Oﬃce, and Australia, Kevin brings unique and successful trial experiences to the firm. Read on to learn more!
T&M: How did you get into the insurance defense industry?
KG: When I moved to Australia, I was offered a job by the managing partner of a firm of barristers and solicitors. I enjoyed the practice, so I looked for a similar practice when I moved back to the States.
That same managing partner also asked me to coach the men’s lacrosse team of which he was president, which was a bonus!
T&M: Why did you decide to join Tyson & Mendes?
KG: I heard about the team mentality that permeates the firm – that was extremely appealing.
T&M: What has been the biggest challenge of your career?
KG: Coming from the Nassau, New York District Attorney’s office, and being from the east coast, I had a certain mentality and “style” as a litigator. In Australia, trials were far more formal and less histrionic. After my first trial, which was a very small one, the judge called me back into chambers after the trial ended and told me that while he thought I tried a good case, I was “a tad aggressive.” For those who remember Popeye, my response was: “Your Honor, I yam what I yam, but I greatly appreciate the advice and will temper myself going forward.”
T&M: Similarly, tell us about your biggest professional accomplishment?
KG: Maintaining a professional relationship since 1989 with my first two clients provides great satisfaction.
T&M: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
KG: Personally: “The glass is always half full.” Professionally: “Whatever case you are working on at the moment is the most important case in the world.”
T&M: What did you want to be when you grew up?
KG: I wanted to succeed Sandy Koufax as a great Dodger pitcher.
T&M: Why did you decide to pursue a career in law instead?
KG: Initially, the criminal justice system drew me to law. My junior paper in college was on lowering recidivism. I left prosecution work after three and a half years when I realized how political ramifications influenced the handling of individual cases. Litigation always appealed to me because of the investigative aspects and the extreme high of prevailing after trial.
T&M: What professional or community organizations are you most actively involved with?
KG: I have been involved with the Trucking Industry Defense Association since 1991. In the community, I am involved in coaching high school lacrosse and mentoring young lacrosse goalies.
T&M: If you could be any fictional lawyer (TV/movies/books) for a day, who would it be and why?
KG: I want to say Joe Pesci’s character in My Cousin Vinny because that movie makes me laugh out loud every time I see it. I also use his cross-examination of the elderly, nearly blind witness in an annual seminar I teach to illustrate how to cross-examine vulnerable witnesses.
That said, I will go with Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men for a few reasons: 1) he was truly fighting a just battle against “the machine”; 2) I love the re-direct examination of his witness who was unable to identify where “Code Red” was spelled out in writing, about similarly being unable to identify in the Guantanamo Marine Manual the location of the latrine; 3) how he pushed the buttons of Jack Nicholson on cross examination leading to Nicholson’s famous rant, “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!” If you have not seen either of these movies, I recommend them both.
T&M: What are you most looking forward to once the pandemic is over?
KG: Traveling abroad. My wife, two kids and I had an 8-day bike trip planned to Holland and Belgium that was postponed/canceled. I look forward to the time when our planet is safe enough to be out and about again.
T&M: Any shows or podcasts you are watching/listening to that you would recommend?
KG: I just finished “Tehran,” about a fictional Mossad-based mission in Tehran. I have always been intrigued by international espionage, going back to reading books by John Le Carre. While “Tehran” is good, two nonfictional Mossad-based series are even better: “Red Sea Dive” is a great story and a pretty good series, and “The Spy” is a great story and a compelling series starring Sacha Baron Cohen as a chameleon. Cohen, in all his iterations, is a favorite of mine.
T&M: What is a fun fact about you that most people do not know?
KG: I was held at gunpoint overseas! I knowingly, yet innocently, trespassed in a military zone in the north of Israel, in a town called Metula on the Lebanese border. I had my picture taken at the border with Hezbollah flags flying 50 yards behind me. As I got back in the car with a friend and my family, an Israeli Defense Force armored Jeep came into sight and drove at us. Three soldiers armed with semi-automatic weapons drawn asked me to get out of my car. Out I came in my Hawaiian bathing suit with my hands up. Thankfully, my friend was an Israeli who had served in the reserves and was able to talk me out of trouble. I thought this was a great adventure, though my wife and kids did not share my sentiments. After 20 minutes of calling my passport information into his headquarters, the lieutenant told me to be on my way, and they even let me take a picture with them.