Litigator Perry Brandt ’77 (BA’74) touts civility

Perry Brandt

Early in Perry Brandt’s career as a trial lawyer, a senior partner sent Brandt to take a deposition. Brandt’s firm was representing the plaintiff, a food plant, in a case against an engineering company. The young associate surprised the engineer he was deposing with a barrage of polite, but blunt questions. “I have never been much of one for subtlety,” Brandt admitted. “I get to the point really fast. I went in and asked the questions I wanted to ask, and within 10 minutes, I got everything we needed to win the case.”

Today, Brandt, who earned both his undergraduate and law degrees at Vanderbilt, looks back on a 35-year career during which he has served as lead trial counsel in a host of complex business and commercial litigation in state and federal courts, including multi-district litigation. He has taken more than 50 cases to trial, and is admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 7th, 8th, 10th and 11th Circuits as well as the U.S. District Courts for Kansas and Eastern and Western Missouri. His expertise includes antitrust and competition, securities litigation and enforcement, class and derivative actions, commercial litigation, and arbitration and regulatory practice.

Brandt recalls being “very drawn to the litigation side” when he started practicing law in 1977. “A lot of people say they want to go into litigation because they like to debate or argue,” he said. “But the job is really one of persuasion—and the best talent you can have is being a storyteller.”

Taking a case, such as one involving a business valuation, that appears “boring and arcane” and building a compelling story requires a peculiar talent, and Brand relishes the challenge. “You have to be able to build your client’s story with different pieces of evidence and tell it effectively,” he said. “I have a real affinity for that.”

Brandt also touts civility as an important trait for a successful litigator. “Probably the most significant thing that has really helped me is that I’ve staked my career and reputation on professionalism and civility,” he said. “Even in cases where the parties are antagonistic, I always take positions that are reasonable and persuasive. The popular image is that litigators fight and claw and debate all day, but 99 percent of all commercial cases settle. It’s always counterproductive for your client if you get into a petty war with opposing counsel.”

Brandt was recently inaugurated as president of the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association for 2014, having previously held many leadership positions within KCMBA. For the past several years, he has returned to Vanderbilt to offer law students tips in how to shine in job interviews, as summer associates and in their first positions. He currently serves on the Vanderbilt University Alumni Association’s Board of Directors and is a past member of Vanderbilt’s Board of Advisors.

Vanderbilt Law Magazine Winter 2014