Mark Werbner: Dallas Bar Association Trial Lawyer of the Year 2011
By Robert Mow
Mark Werbner is a quick, smart and compelling trial lawyer. He has a winning smile for the honest witness—and a drop-dead cross-examination for his adversaries. His winsome nature with juries is legendary. These skills have put Mark at the very top of the trial lawyers in this country. As Justice Joseph Morris of the Fifth District Court of Appeals-Dallas states it: “When you watch Mark before a jury, you know you are seeing a first-tier trial lawyer at work.”
The reasons are obvious. With some 150 trials under his belt, Mark is ready for anything and surprised by little. From these 150 trials and his exemplary trial skills in the courtroom, Mark has won many accolades. Among them are the following:
• Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers
• Advocate in the American Board of Trial Lawyers
• Fellow in the International Society of Barristers
• Master in the Patrick E. Higginbotham Inn of Court
• The Best Lawyers in America (Bet-the-Company Litigation, Commercial Litigation, White Collar Criminal Defense), 2001-2010
• Top 10 Attorneys in Texas in Texas Super Lawyers list in Texas Monthly Magazine
• Repeatedly honored among the “Best Lawyers in Dallas” by D Magazine
• Named a “Go To” lawyer for plaintiff’s civil litigation by Texas Lawyer
• “Top 100 Verdicts of the Year,” Verdict Search (2001, 2004, 2007)
• “Trial Lawyer of the Year,” Texas Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates (2002)
• Named a “Trial Legend” by Dallas Bar Association TIPS Section (2010)
• “Top Plaintiff Attorney,” Lawdragon (2007)
• Top Five Dallas Defense Attorneys,” Dallas Business Journal (2007)
• “A top Ten Litigator,” The National Law Journal
• “The Advocates,” Dallas’ Top Five Corporate Litigators, Dallas CEO (2008)
But Mark almost missed being a trial lawyer. He had no lawyers in his family urging him on. It was only when he was in the sixth grade and he had a teacher in who kept telling Mark that he argued so much and so well he should become a trial lawyer that he headed that way. After successful years at the University of Texas and Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, Mark took the Texas Bar Exam and became a trial lawyer.
Good trial lawyers learn from experiences. A key skill they acquire is the ability to prepare witnesses to testify. As Mark knew, great witnesses make the difference and bring across points in contention much better than lawyers.
For example, as a young trial lawyer, Mark was once in Midland in trial in the midst of a West Texas sand storm. Mark was about four years out of law school and his client, an oil field-savvy witness, was on the stand. The witness had been well prepared on the facts, but not the law. Late on Friday, the client was the last key witness and he was to show that the defendant oil company had breached a duty to the working interest owners by secretly moving the stake locating where the well was to be drilled. When Mark’s rough-cut witness testified that the oil company had breached a fiduciary duty, the oil company’s lawyer taunted Mark’s client by asserting, “You don’t even know what a fiduciary duty means, do you?” The client snapped back at the top of his voice, “I do, too.” “How do you know?” barked the defense lawyer. The answer: “My sixth grade teacher told me it was being honest and fair in all your dealings!” The courthouse grew quiet. There were no more questions. The jury came back for Mark. Lesson learned: There is undeniably persuasive power in a solid witness telling the truth!
It doesn’t pay to bet against Mark when there is a jury in the box. Last year, Mark and his partner Dick Sayles, won a $3+ million patent infringement verdict for Commil USA, LLC against Cisco Systems, Inc. When that verdict was set aside due to comments by defense counsel, and a new jury was impaneled, the new jury awarded $63+ million in damages—a net increase of $60 million to Mark’s client because Mark was ready to trust the jury again.
From his earliest days as a trial lawyer, Mark Werbner has established with countless juries his unerring feel for where the jury is and how much it will take for the jury to amply reward the injured plaintiff. United States District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn recalls that she, as co-counsel with Mark, tried the first case that Mark ever presented. Judge Lynn said Mark would absolutely not consider anything other than a victory. She said that spark was evident in everything that he did, and it was also evident that Mark was going to find a way to succeed with the jury. “It was wonderful to see such spark and desire in a trial lawyer—a spark and desire that has continued to this day through a long and distinguished career,” said Judge Lynn.
Mark is deeply impressed with the equalizing power of juries in righting wrongs of powerful wrongdoers. “I am living in a dream come true,” he says. “I always wanted to be a jury lawyer helping the underdog win—and now I get to do that on a frequent basis.”
There are two principal driving forces for Mark. First, he loves the process of educating the jury to the point of understanding and appreciating the complexities of the facts. Next, he clearly and convincingly establishes the wrong in the defendant’s conduct and how the little guy has been beaten down and not given a fair shake. Mark knows the jury has the power to even the odds and compensate the injured person in a fair manner.
Mark has established his mastery in the field of jury selection and persuasion in proving up his clients’ rights in various types of cases. The principal four areas of his jury successes are business litigation, personal injury wrongful death, product liability and white collar/criminal defense. He is certified in Texas in both Civil Trial Law and in Criminal Defense Law—a highly unique honor. Mark has regularly tried white collar and criminal defense cases and secured high-profile acquittals in both areas.
Mark gives credit for having had excellent mentors like Jim Coleman, Judge Barbara Lynn, Dick Sayles and other trial lawyers at Carrington Coleman. Each of those lawyers is a highly skilled and accomplished trial lawyer who was always ready and willing to go to trial. Mark credits his early years at Carrington Coleman for instilling that fearless and aggressive attitude—which has stood him well over the years. Justice Morris says of Werbner’s focus on the jury: “Mark loves juries and juries love him.”
Mark, a partner at Sayles Werbner, P.C., is an active member of the Dallas Bar Association, the American Bar Association and the State Bar of Texas. He is a frequent speaker at state and local bar events and serves as a Co-Chair at the Bench Bar functions. He is licensed to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and all U.S. District Courts seated in Texas.
Mark’s achievements and successes as a trial lawyer are truly of legendary quality. And, he has years and years to go in his practice.
Bob Mow is a partner at K&L Gates. He is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law and a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article originally appeared in the July 2011 edition of the Dallas Bar Association Headnotes.