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” Doctor Law”

Image TLA 2017 Chris Kelly

2017 TLA Distinguished Service Award Presented to Christopher “Doogie” Kelly Presentation by Dirk H. Beckwith

It is my distinct pleasure to announce this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Service Award. This recipient joined the TLA in 2001. Prior to joining the Association, the recipient went to undergraduate school at a University in the Midwest known for its football prowess. While the recipient attended undergrad, the football team had a record of 40-8-1. Apparently, the recipient grew tired of football, because he attended an ACC school for law school. This school’s basketball team had a record of 97 wins and 31 losses.

Now, in preparing this presentation, I asked an associate of the recipient to give me some dirt on him. While the associate was either unwilling or unable to provide me with any dirt, the following is what she shared with me:

What can I say about the recipient? I will admit that when I first attempted to concoct a few phrases, small allegories, or even adjectives to describe him, it was by far the most difficult task I had encountered in recent memory. And, let me tell you, that says a lot if you know what it’s like to work for this individual. Then I realized that there is no way to sum it up. The man is a machine. When it comes to the practice of law, he has a never-ending supply of passion, motivation, endurance and is a relentless hunter to learn, to teach and to do more. Always. Doing. More. Somehow he fits it all in. And, of course, while both impressive and incredibly irritating; he always has everything done ahead of time. For this individual, there is no such thing as biting off more than he can chew; in fact, he doesn’t chew at all: he devours.

Yet still, no matter how much he has going on at any given moment, he still finds room to be a perfectionist every step of the way and seems to always think of everything. It is truly exhausting just thinking about what he is thinking about. I mean, he takes being a “Doctor of Law” to a whole other level, approaching every case and task with a surgical precision, no matter how big or how small the challenge. It is no surprise that his clients have given him the well-deserved and oh-so-accurate nickname for which he has become infamous around the office (whether he is aware of that last part or not). In fact, they have gotten about as close to capturing the essence of the recipient in one word as anybody ever could. To them, he is “Doogie.” In other words, the essence of our recipient is the fictional character of Doogie Howser, played by a 14 year old Neal Patrick Harris, from the early 90s TV series. If you don’t know Doogie Howser, the introduction of each episode started the same… “He is no ordinary teenager, he is a doctor. As smart as they come, he has been a doctor since the age of 14…”

Our recipient is certainly no ordinary lawyer and, yes, he is as smart as they come. But, he was never destined to be ordinary. If you knew the recipient growing up in a town west of the Mississippi, you would know that he set the stage for his “Doogie” nickname from a young age—believe it or not, as early as 14. Similar to the surprised look that would overcome his patients’ faces when doctor Doogie appeared with the face of a young boy, our recipient had his own way of surprising people and exceeding their expectations, though it wasn’t always for his work ethic and skill. Growing up in this small town, you could get your permit and drive by yourself as early as 14 years old. In his typical doing everything earlier than everyone else, he did just that and got behind the wheel cruising through town. Unfortunately, he didn’t get very far. When he saw the blue lights flashing in his rearview and her a booming void over the vehicle’s loud speaker ordering him to pull over, although he knew he had done nothing wrong, he pulled to the side of the road and waited eagerly to begin his cross examination of the officer who would approach. But, instead of seeing the officer emerge from the car, he heard the crackle of a two way radio over the loudspeaker, which had mistakenly been left on and heard the same void, “Dispatch, 11-95, I’ve got an 11-54” (code for a routine traffic stop with a suspicious vehicle), “Driver is a child, looks like he’s ten years old.” As that officer discovered that day, there’s always more than meets the eye with him and, no matter what, he exceeds your expectations every time.

The recipient has taken on his role in TLA with the same vigor. He has written at least seven articles for TTL since joining TLA. He was my program chair for the 2013 TLI in Los Angeles. He is also one of the two Program Chairs for this year’s annual meeting. It is my distinct pleasure to give the Distinguished Service Award to my good friend, Chris Kelly.