Mr. Nice Guy
Wyoming injury defense lawyer Jason Neville believes in the power of pleasant—to a point
Jason Neville prides himself on being professionally pleasant. It’s something he learned from his father, defense lawyer Frank Neville, and Patrick Swayze.
“You know that scene in Road House where Swayze is teaching the young guys how to be a bouncer?” Neville asks. “He says, ‘Be nice until it’s time not to be nice.’ That’s like my father. I learned from him that you can get so much more out of somebody, so much more out of a witness or an adversary, by being nice. Then, when it’s time not to be nice, you’re taken more seriously because you’ve been a gentleman all along.”
Neville, a personal injury defense lawyer with Williams, Porter, Day & Neville, uses his genial nature to defuse conflict between his clients (like doctors facing professional negligence charges) and plaintiffs. He’s skilled at getting parties to be reasonable and avoid the rancor of the courtroom. Practicing in Casper, Wyo., helps.
“It’s not a large legal community and you always have to see the same people, so if you’re an ass everyone knows it,” the lifelong state resident says with a laugh. “There’s no class system here. Everybody from a millionaire to a guy digging a hole gets treated the same.”
But even in Wyoming there are disagreeable types, and when that happens, Neville isn’t afraid to suit up.
“When you’re cross-examining someone who’s spent 30 years in the profession, a neurosurgeon or what have you, it can be satisfying when at the end you can say, ‘I got him,’ when he’s being paid to get me, and he’s the one that’s been studying this forever,” he says. “That seems kind of silly but there’s a selfish adrenaline rush to it.”
Neville’s practice requires a significant amount of cross-country travel for depositions and court proceedings, as well as learning about medicine. He’s now an expert on shoulder injuries, for example. “A lot of that stuff has nothing to do with a shoulder injury but with the musculature of the neck and the upper back trapezius, which can mimic rotator cuff syndrome,” he says.
Married and raising two children, Neville also serves as board chairman for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Wyoming. He also manages to find time to run crazy-long distances.
“I’ve done three 50-mile ultramarathons and am training for a 100-miler later in the year,” he says.
While finishing those races is extremely satisfying for Neville, nothing matches the high of winning a case with his father, which happens often as they work on at least one case together per year.
“I had a trial that had to do with a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease,” he says. “My father deposed this pathologist down in Oklahoma City and I cross-examined him. I was able to take the questioning that my father set up in the deposition and work in our themes on cross. We won and it was very satisfying, especially because it was my dad who teed it up. I’ll always remember that case.”
By Adam Wahlberg