The Legacy

Jim Beasley Sr., a legendary, boot-stomping Philadelphia Lawyer, left his firm in the hands of his ne’er-do-well son. But now Beasley Jr.’s quiet approach is not only winning big cases, but signaling a new era in the city’s courtrooms

Before he passed, the Legend was working with one of his former clients, Ralph Cipriano, on writing a book about his best cases. But after the Legend died, Beasley Jr. opened up his father’s entire life to the reporter. The result, Courtroom Cowboy, scheduled to be released by Lawrence Teacher Books later this fall, is a raw, red and bleeding love letter from a son to his dad. The elder Beasley is revealed as an emotionally stunted product of the World War II generation. He cheated on his wife and lorded over his kids. The chapter on his divorce from Beasley Jr.’s mother — which took eight years in court to resolve — is a vivid painting of a man on fire. The Legend was consumed with his legal career; his family was an afterthought. But at the end, in his final few years of life, the senior Beasley rehabilitates himself. He grows to treasure his family. He remarries Jim Jr.’s mother, Helen. And then he’s gone. The sun around which the planets rotated, ­eradicated.

Beasley Jr. inherited his father’s empire — a law firm specializing in medical malpractice cases, and the well-appointed mansion at 11th and Walnut streets that houses the firm — and he now owns a handful of airplanes father and son enjoyed piloting together.

But what he would probably like most is the chance to hear his father say “I’m proud of you.” The Legend was sparing with praise, and the junior Beasley gave him little reason to be generous. His teenage years were a constant rebellion of unapproved keg parties at his dad’s place and righteous bong hits. He started to pull his act together in his senior year, and in college he met his wife, whose tender ministrations helped propel him all the way through a medical degree. He thought about being a research geneticist before deciding he needed a profession that was more … aggressive. He has that streak in him, just like the Legend. He has even surpassed his father as a stunt pilot, performing in an annual air show each summer in Atlantic City in the cockpit of a World War II plane. But practicing law is different, of course. Because mastering the law is what his father was famous for.

DAY ONE OF the trial, Beasley calls the first witness, Robert Black. Beasley is dressed in a tan suit and sits behind a table piled with paperwork. His witness is clearly anxious. Several times, Black begins answering questions Beasley has yet to ask.

“Be cool,” Beasley tells him.

Gradually, he calms. Then Beasley, still sitting at the plaintiff’s table, asks him the most sensitive question: “Could you describe your ability to be intimate with your wife now?”

Black’s response spares nothing. “If you were to look at me right now, I look like a seven-year-old boy, except I have pubic hair,” he says. “I have a penis about three inches long, and with stimulation, it does nothing.”