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

To compound indignities, after he returned to work Black found out that some of his colleagues had accessed his computerized medical records, violating the HIPAA Act for a cheap jolly. (We changed Black’s name for this story at his request.)

Through it all, Beasley’s performance is conspicuous mostly for his seeming absence. He remains seated the entire time. His co-counsel actually sits closer to the jury box, rendering Beasley a kind of disembodied voice in the courtroom. But when Black drops the bomb about his shrunken, non-working member, the moment is even more powerful, more intimate, because Beasley is sitting. It is as if the wounded internist is sharing a moment alone with the jury.

As the trial progresses, Beasley rarely stands, drawing a stark contrast between himself and his chief opponent in the case, Adrian King. In total, the defense includes three attorneys, one to represent UPenn and the other two to represent Malloy. But it’s King, in particular, who sucks all the air from the room. Ostensibly representing Penn, the 60–something, elfin-small former Marine defends Malloy, too — -arching his thick eyebrows in cartoonish fashion, gesturing violently at the plaintiff and saying his name, Doctor Black, as if uttering these syllables requires him to fish-hook his own testes and give the line a yank.

King’s theatrical, carpet-bombing performance is more reminiscent of Jim Beasley Sr. than is that of the Legend’s own son. But that should come as no surprise. A Philadelphia Lawyer approaches trial work like an actor, finding a character for the courtroom that fits his own personality. Father and son are different attorneys because they are different men. Beasley Sr. was known to prowl the courtroom like a big-game hunter (which he also was — the Legend’s legend knows no bounds). He wore cowboy boots into court, called the jurors “folks,” and in his later years sported a dignified shock of long gray locks, lending him the air of a country sheriff. He was salty in combat, once refusing a settlement offer from King with the admonition: “Tell your client to take the same amount of money you just offered me in dollar bills — and shove it up his ass.”

In contrast, though Jim Beasley Jr. looks lean and fit like his father, his persona is more nerd than stunt pilot. He wears computer-geek eyeglasses perched on his thin, pointed nose. His dark brown hair is cut conservatively short. And his voice is pitched at a higher register. In court, his combative questions are masked by his friendly, almost passive demeanor. And for that, juries tend to like him. But the differences between Junior’s style and his father’s aren’t solely about the chasm between their personalities. Ask anybody in the Philadelphia legal world, and you’ll hear that even Jim Beasley Sr. couldn’t be Jim Beasley Sr. today.