Gary W. Jackson
The People’s Advocate
Gary Jackson is a name many attorneys in North Carolina know. He has been president of the NC Advocates for Justice and has held leadership positions in several other national and state organizations.
Gary is frequently asked to speak throughout the country at educational programs for lawyers and he regularly authors articles addressing current legal trends and developments.
He has won many awards over his 35+ years as a trial lawyer – 22 of which have been spent fighting for plaintiffs in numerous multi-million dollar claims.
North Carolina Super Lawyers magazine has designated Gary a “North Carolina Super Lawyer1” every year since 2006 for Class Actions and Mass Torts. In 2013, 2014, and 2015 he was designated one of the “top 100 lawyers in North Carolina1” and in 2013 and 2015 among the “top 25 lawyers in Charlotte1”. Gary has been recognized by Business North Carolina as a “Legal Elite2” in 2003, 2004, 2008, and 2013. He is a charter fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America, and holds an AV pre-eminent rating (the highest peer-review rating) from Martindale-Hubbell3.
While this path may seem relatively straightforward on paper, Gary’s path to success has been anything but straightforward – much like his courtroom style.
“Gary throws you off the scent”
Attorney Hoyt Tessener who has known Gary for almost 30 years said, “Gary has become a successful trial lawyer for many reasons. One reason is he throws you off the scent and you’re left wondering where he is headed. He can handle a litigation, a trial, or debate better than most people I know of.”
Gary confided, “The one thing that lives with me to this day and influences the way I approach advocacy is my experience on the debate team during high school, and I would urge any young person to enroll in a debate class.”
Another thing Gary learned growing up is to fight for what you want – perhaps the result of living with a mother who fought off cancer, not one, but three times. This is also a feat which motivates Gary to this day.
“My mother beat cancer three times,” Gary said. “She was spunky and lived a long and exuberant life until 2015, just shy of her 88th birthday. She was her typical feisty self until the end. She is the one who inspired me to realize I could do anything if I believed and fought for it.”
Fighting for an Education
When Gary first applied to Duke Law School, he was rejected. For most people, that would be the end. Not Gary. He immediately went to the dean’s office and appealed his case. The dean asked Gary to come back later that afternoon. When he did, the dean handed him an acceptance letter.
Later during law school, Gary’s family met with financial difficulties and could no longer help Gary as much with tuition. Gary did whatever it took to finish his law degree – worked as a research assistant, resident advisor, applied for scholarship money. Even so, he excelled in law school, achieving a position on the Duke Law Journal and landing summer positions at prestigious law firms.
Entering the Workforce
How did Gary spell success right out of law school?
“I wanted to work for the most highly regarded firm in a major city,” he recalled.
New York Big City Law called and Gary answered.
“That was the first time I had ever been to New York City. The HR person came outside the building to meet me. As we were about to go inside, there were those revolving doors. I had never seen one let alone been in one. When she went in, I went in the same door with her,” Gary recalled.
(He didn’t get the job.)
Instead, he landed a better one in San Francisco with what was, at the time, the largest California law firm working on anti-trust cases. He subsequently clerked for a federal judge. Later Baker & McKenzie hired him and sent him to the prestigious Harvard Negotiation Program and then to their New York City offices.
A Shreveport, Louisiana native, Gary tired of New York winters and headed south where he went to work for a large defense firm, Womble Carlyle in Winston-Salem, litigating their RJR tobacco cases. It was here that Gary says he “first began to develop a conscience.”
“The RJR cases are what motivated me to become a plaintiff's lawyer. The defense in these cases was not strong. But you had to use the cards you were dealt. If I don't get a chance to look at the deck, and what I gather are four twos, that is what I would be negotiating with instead of assessing the merits of a claim to make a decision,” Gary said.
Switching Sides Despite Pay Cuts
As the disconnect between work and conscience became stronger, Gary began to consider the reality of leaving the corporate defense side and working on behalf of individual plaintiffs. He left the defense practice while he searched for a plaintiff’s firm who would hire a lawyer with no plaintiff experience. He knew he initially would have to take a significant pay cut.
Gary said, “I remember thinking, I'd rather be happy with what I do.”
Do what you love and the money will come.
Or will it?
“You won’t win these stucco cases”
Eventually Gary chose to join a Charlotte plaintiff’s firm and take the lead on cases involving defective synthetic stucco that was causing homes to rot.
Gary recalled, “I cannot tell you the number of lawyers who said to me, ‘These are not good cases; you're never going to see any money.’”
They were right. At first.
For about a year Gary’s firm did not make money on these cases, and the firm no longer wanted them. But Gary believed in these cases and wanted to fight for the homeowners, so he took the synthetic stucco cases to another law firm.
Still no money.
Yet his evidence against the manufacturers and builders was mounting. Gary took a leap of faith and cashed out of his 401(k) to keep the cases afloat.
These cases, which the North Carolina Attorney General at that time described as the largest consumer problems to face the state, numbered in the hundreds. They settled, in total, for $120 million*.
It is not about the money for Gary.
“If people knew how little the attorneys received after all expenses and fees have been accounted for, they would be shocked,” Gary said.
What motivates Gary is fighting for people when they have been wronged.
“The law gives people a way to redress that wrong and they need the best most passionate advocacy available. I'm a fighter. I don’t know any other way. My role is to fight for those who have been hurt by corporate negligence or misconduct,” Gary emphasized.
Success Fighting for Individuals
Gary has been with the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin since 2017. Throughout his law career he has tried cases in the areas of consumer protection, construction litigation, business litigation, class actions, mass torts, products liability, medical negligence, nursing home negligence, estate disputes, whistleblower claims, and trucking litigation. Gary has often been tapped by other law firms as co-counsel on tough cases.
In 2012, Gary was invited by noted trial lawyer Gerry Spence to his nationally acclaimed Trial Lawyers College on his 400,000-acre Wyoming ranch. This unique and one-of-its-kind institution is dedicated to helping lawyers and judges “obtain justice for individuals; the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression.4"
9/11 Trial Lawyers Care Task Force for Victims
In 2002, Gary volunteered pro bono as part of an effort to help families of 9/11 victims obtain recovery through the federal Victims’ Compensation Fund. This effort was the largest private, civil, pro bono program in the history of American law.
“I represented a father whose son was killed when, as a NYC firefighter, he was trying to rescue people from the Twin Towers. He had just graduated from firefighting school and was so proud,” Gary recalled.
A good bye letter was found in the young firefighter’s locker. He had written it for his family in case something were to happen in the line of duty.
“That letter was just overpowering. People look at law as business. It is a business, but at the core it's about people representing people, helping people, understanding people, and having empathy. And that's what is so gratifying to me.”
Nursing Home Negligence
Duke University School of Law
1977–1979 Duke Law Journal, Staff and Editorial Board Member
1976 A.B. in History, magna cum laude
1984–1985 Harvard School of Law, Visiting Researcher
2012 Gerry Spence Trial Lawyers College, Graduate
1980–1981 Law Clerk, U.S. District Judge Robert P. Aguilar (N.D. Cal.)
2002 Senior Lecturing Fellow, Duke University School of Law
- North Carolina State Bar, 1987
- New York State Bar, 1985
- California State Bar, 1979
- U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th and 4th Circuits
- U.S. District Courts (Western, Middle, and Eastern Districts of North Carolina; Eastern, Northern, Central, and Southern Districts of California; Southern and Eastern Districts of New York)
- International Trade Commission (1994)
- American Association for Justice
- Co-Chair, Construction Defects Litigation Group, 2002–present
- Member, Public Affairs Committee, 2006–2008
- Member, Publications Committee, 2007–2009
- Business Torts Section
- North Carolina Advocates for Justice
- President, 2011–2012
- Executive Committee, 2007–2013
- Vice President at-Large, 2010–2011
- Vice President – Education, 2007–2010
- Board of Governors , 2006 –2013
- Chair, Consumer Areas of Practice Litigation Group, 2003–2005
- Professional Negligence, Consumer Areas of Practice sections
- Southern Trial Lawyers Association
- Board of Governors, 2006–present
- North Carolina Bar Association
- Chair, Litigation Section, 2002–2003
- Chair, International Section, 1994–1995
- Tort Reform Task Force, Member, 2003–present, Co-Chair, 2005–2007
- American Bar Association
- Litigation Section
- Mecklenburg County Bar Association
- Master, William Bobbitt Inn of Court, Program Chair, 2003–2005
- North Carolina “Super Lawyers1” for Class Actions/Mass Torts, 2006–2017
- North Carolina Open Government Coalition, Sunshine Award for Advocacy, 2015
- North Carolina “Super Lawyers1” Top 100 Lawyers in North Carolina, 2013–2015
- North Carolina “Super Lawyers1” Top 25 in Charlotte, 2013 and 2015
- Business North Carolina’s “Legal Elite2,” 2003, 2004, 2008, 2013
- Fellow, American Bar Foundation – the top one-third of 1% of lawyers in the United States
- Litigation Counsel of America, Charter Fellow
- Martindale-Hubbell AV Pre-eminent Rating3
- Who’s Who in American Law
- North Carolina Advocates for Justice Kelly Crabtree Award, 2011
- North Carolina Advocates for Justice Ebbie Award, 2009
- “Courthouse Lockout: The Indomitable March of Compulsory Arbitration.” STLA Annual Meeting, February 2013, New Orleans (Speaker)
- “Adapt or Perish: Seizing New Opportunities in Challenging Times,” Alabama Association for Justice Mid-Winter Conference, January 2013, Birmingham (Speaker)
- “Expert Witnesses: Competing Views from the Plaintiff and Defense Lawyers’ Perspectives,” NCBA Annual Meeting, June 2010, Wilmington, NC (Speaker)
- Civil Masters Program, NCAJ Annual Convention, June 2010, Wilmington, NC (Chair)
- “Business Court: A Primer for Trial Lawyers,” South Carolina Association of Trial Lawyers, August 2008, Hilton Head, SC (Speaker)
- “Civility is not a One Way Street,” Ohio Association for Justice Annual Meeting, May 2008, Columbus, Ohio (Speaker)
- “Incivility: I know it When I See it – Double Standards that Plaintiff Lawyers Face,” AAJ Convention, January 2008, San Juan, Puerto Rico (Speaker)
- “A Steep Uphill Battle: Representing Homeowners, Consumers, and Policyholders in North Carolina,” NCATL Annual Convention, June 2007 (Speaker)
- “Litigation Incivility: I Think I Know It When I See It,” Litigation Counsel of America Annual Meeting, June 2007, New York, NY (Speaker)
- All-Star Panel, “Litigating Complex Cases in the NC Business Court,” NCBA Antitrust Annual Meeting, May 2007 (Panelist)
- “Litigating Construction Defect Cases,” PESI Absolute Business Torts, Litigation Conference, March 2007, Las Vegas, NV (Speaker)
- “Successful Prosecution of Construction Defect Cases in the Age of Tort Reform,” AAJ Annual Convention, 2007, Chicago, IL (Speaker)
- “Prosecuting Class Actions in Arbitration,” Litigation at Sunrise, ATLA Annual Convention, July 2006, Seattle, WA (Speaker)
- “North Carolina’s Predatory Lending Laws: An Introduction,” NCATL Annual Convention, June 2006 (Moderator)
- “If You Build It They Will Come: Litigating Construction and Mold Cases,” STLA Annual Conference, February 2006, New Orleans, LA (Speaker)
- “Construction Defects in a Nutshell,” Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers Workhorse Seminar, February 2006, Orlando, FL (Speaker)
- “How to Spot the Sick Building Case: A Primer in Contamination and Defect,” ATLA Mid-Year Convention, February 2004, Orlando, FL (Speaker)
- “Evaluating Toxic Mold Cases: A Primer,” NCATL Mountain Magic, October 2003, (Speaker)
- “Professionalism, Civility and the Practice of Law: Are They Related?,” ATLA Annual Convention, July 2003, San Francisco, CA (Speaker)
- “Bad Buildings and Mold — Tying It All Together,” ATLA’s Litigating Toxic Mold Cases, June 2003, Chicago, IL (Speaker)
- “Construction Defects in 2002,” Mealey’s Conference, October 2002, Atlanta, GA (Speaker)
- “Roundtable Discussion with Superior Court Judges,” NCBA Annual Meeting, June 2002 (Program Planner)
- “Analyzing and Proving Construction Damages in North Carolina,” Lorman Education Series, May 2002 (Speaker)
- “The Nuts and Bolts of Products Liability Litigation,” NCATL, May 2002 (Speaker)
- “Toxic Mold: A Legal Primer,” Community Associations Institute’s National Conference, May 2002, Dallas, TX (Speaker)
- “Toxic Mold and Construction Defects,” NCATL, March 2002 (Program Planner and Speaker)
- “Alternative Dispute Resolution,” NCATL, March 2002 (Speaker)
- “When Bad Houses Make Good Cases,” Litigation at Sunrise, ATLA Mid-year Convention, February 2002, Miami, FL (Speaker)
- “Synthetic Stucco Litigation,” Litigation at Sunrise ATLA Annual Convention, July 1999, San Francisco, CA (Speaker)
- “Advanced Synthetic Stucco: Trial and Beyond,” NCBA, May 1999 (Speaker)
- “Synthetic Stucco Litigation from the Plaintiff’s Perspective,” NCBA, April 1998 (Speaker)
- “Synthetic Stucco Class Action: Opt in or Opt Out,” NCATL, September 1997 (Speaker)
- “The Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments,” NCBA, February 1993 (Speaker)
- “Adapt or Perish,” Trial (October 2010)
- “Managing Co-Counsel Relationships,” Trial (October 2009)
- “Do Business Courts Really Mean Business?” Trial (June 2006)
- “The Economic Loss Principle in Construction Defect Litigation,” The Litigator (June 2005)
- “Home, bitter sweet home,” Trial (February 2005)
- “Mold Liablility – Mixed Signals,” Realtor Magazine (December, 2004)
- “Arbitration of Business Disputes: Friend or Foe?” Business North Carolina (June 2004)
- “Synthetic Stucco: Litigation Alert,” Realtor Magazine (January 2004)
- “Business Plaintiffs: Not an Oxymoron,” Business North Carolina (July 2003)
- “When Bad Houses Make Good Cases,” Trial (November 2002)
- “Immediate Appeal of Class Certification Orders–Should North Carolina Follow the Federal Lead?”, North Carolina State Bar Journal (Winter 2001)
- “Evaluating and Prosecuting the ‘Bad House’ Case,” Mealey’s Construction Defects Litigation Report (September 2001)
- “North Carolina’s New International Arbitration Act,” Campbell Law Observer (February 1992)
- Monthly Editorial Guest Columnist, The Charlotte Observer (1998)
- Pitts v. American Security Insurance 569 S.E.2d 647 (N.C., 2002)
- Gaynoe v. First Union Corporation 571 S.E.2d 24 (N.C. App., 2002)
- Lienhart v. Dryvit Systems, Inc., 255 F.3d 138 (4th Cir. 2001)
- Chair, YMCA Board of Directors (Winston-Salem) (1993–1995)
- Chair, Forsyth County Democratic Party (1991–1993)
- Member, East Winston-Community Development Corporation Board of Directors (1993–1995)
- Fellow, North Carolina Institute of Political Leadership (1990)
- Member, YMCA of Greater Charlotte Public Policy Committee (1996–1998)
*Each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.
1 For more information regarding the standards for inclusion for “Super Lawyers,” “top 100 lawyers in North Carolina,” and “top 25 lawyers in Charlotte,” visit www.superlawyers.com
2 For more information regarding the standards for inclusion for Business North Carolina’s Legal Elite, visit www.businessnc.com
3For information regarding the standards for peer review ratings, visit www.martindale.com