NEW ORLEANS – As the oldest living former president of the Louisiana State Bar Association (LSBA), Bob Wright is pleasantly surprised at how time has changed the legal profession.
Wright was president of the LSBA from 1978-1979, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. His older brothers inspired him to become a lawyer.
“I was one of 10 children being raised by my mother after my father’s death,” Wright said in an interview with the Louisiana Bar Journal. “This was during the Depression years, and, while I had two older brothers who had become lawyers, I did not know if I would be able to further my education without financial assistance. Fortunately, I was able to obtain an athletic scholarship and I attended Centenary College in Shreveport.”
In an interview with the LSBA, Wright said he graduated from Centenary College in 1954 and received a full scholarship to Tulane University Law School. After graduating from there in 1957, he met his mentor, James Domengeaux, who offered him a job that set the course for his future as an attorney.
“A great change came about in the future of Louisiana when the United States Supreme Court made the Jones Act applicable to injured offshore workers,” Wright said in the interview. “Theretofore, those individuals received only workers’ compensation benefits if injured or killed. Accordingly, the maritime practice exploded in southwest Louisiana. Because Mr. Domengeaux had been a member of Congress and was very well-known in the Lafayette area, this opened the door for my engaging in this new field of litigation.”
Shortly after graduating from law school in 1957, the LSBA Journal article explained how Wright joined the LSBA, then was elected president of the Louisiana Trial Lawyers Association and president of the LSBA in 1978. At the time, the biggest issue facing his profession was lawyer advertising.
“(Advertising) was approved by the United States Supreme Court and became an issue as to how to handle such advertising in the state of Louisiana,” Wright told the the Louisiana Bar Journal. “During this time, I was a frequent speaker at legal seminars and panels throughout the United States on the subject of civil litigation, maritime law and professional ethics.”
Now that advertising on television has been addressed, a new technology has challenged the profession. Much like other professionals who have been in the business a long time, Wright said in the interview that one of the biggest changes he has witnessed involves technology.
“I believe the most dramatic change I’ve seen in the practice of law in Louisiana, or anywhere for that matter, has been the evolvement of electronics and computerization of virtually the entire practice,” Wright said in the interview. “Technology has dramatically changed the practice of law, particularly regarding discovery, trial preparation and trial presentation. We have evolved into paperless offices. It has become necessary for lawyers to become literate in the use of technology in solving the court requisites of the profession.”
One of the most rewarding aspects of Wright's career has been interacting with people and assisting those who need an advocate in the legal process, he told the Louisiana Bar Journal.
“It is my belief that young lawyers should be willing to devote the necessary time and energy to those who have problems which require the legal process, and not to over-emphasize the need for making money, but rather serve the public with their legal needs,” Wright said.