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

In a television show, the plaintiff’s attorney would further probe this discrepancy. But in real life, asking another question on the subject would risk the jury’s ire and give the witness the opportunity to clean up his mess. Beasley’s father almost certainly would have appeared combative. Once, in fact, the senior Beasley blasted Malloy on the stand, accusing him of “being willing to come into court and say anything” he had to — a claim Malloy vehemently denied.

But having won a point from Malloy, the junior Beasley merely nods and moves on to another topic. He has removed a pound of the doctor’s flesh without spilling any blood. Later, he’ll acknowledge his pleasure with the day’s events. But in the courtroom, his facial expression never changes. And he never pulls the exhibit out of the box. The entire exchange shows him working a case in his own way, subtlety winning over flamboyance, the Kid not giving in to the Legend, a mirror for how lawyering itself has evolved.

AFTER HAVING BEEN separated from -Beasley’s mother for 18 years, the elder Beasley turned up one day at age 73 on his ex-wife’s doorstep, wearing his trademark boots and a long leather coat. They remarried less than three years later. He also reconciled with his children, though for Beasley Jr. there is still some air of mystery surrounding the changes his father made. He doesn’t know if the old man had truly grown wiser, mellower, more -loving — or if the cancer eating his body had slowed him down.

Today, however, the Beasley firm’s website includes a video tribute to his dad. It’s an oddly intimate thing to have included there, but disquietingly beautiful. Images of the father flicker in a slow reveal as the mournful acoustic ballad “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You” plays. Toward the end, Beasley Jr. ascends the grand staircase of what was once his father’s firm and leans into the doorway of what used to be the Legend’s office. His flair for the theatrical is not so great, but his expectant expression and deferential posture indicate that he expects to see his father, somehow, still sitting there.

SOMETIMES A TRIAL’S most important turns occur at the unlikeliest times. In the case of Black v. Malloy, that’s exactly what happens.

The witness’s name is Victor Carpiniello, and he is called by the defense to bolster the claim that there is no evidence the hospital should have discovered Black’s bladder damage sooner. It will be the first time — just as the story of this trial is coming to a close — that Beasley himself will stand out. Carpiniello has created an opening of sorts by claiming he remembers his single visit with Black. And Black, he says, never complained to him of pain.

“How many patients do you typically see a week?” asks Beasley.

“Eighty to 100,” replies Carpiniello.

“So if it’s 80 or 100 a week,” replies Beasley, “how many weeks are there in a year?”