Bradley attorney Dick Sayles was featured in Lawdragon's Lawyer Limelight series. The interview details his academic and professional background, including his early mentors, the factors that led him to Bradley, and the keystone to his success. Earlier this year, Mr. Sayles was named to the 2020 edition of the Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers in America, a list of the top attorneys in the United States.
“When I was probably 6- or 7-years old,” Sayles said, “my dad, who was a brilliant man, said, ‘Son, I think you ought to be a lawyer. If I had to do it all over again, I’d be a lawyer.’”
Sayles was still too young to know what being a lawyer actually meant, but when “my dad said that,” he recalled, “my mind was made up.”
Lawdragon: It’s amazing that you knew at such a young age what you wanted to do. Do you have any idea what your dad was thinking about when he suggested you become a lawyer?
Dick Sayles: I’m sure my dad was, on the IQ scale, way above genius. He was probably one of the smartest people I’ve ever encountered in my life and retained everything that he ever read or saw or heard. He was just remarkable.
He was one of the pioneers of Gatlinburg, one of the very first folks to come in there and to really turn it into a resort town. He was there when the park was dedicated and he was a part of the group that went on a tour throughout the Southeast advertising Gatlinburg before anybody knew about it, that actually helped put it on the map. When he told me that he wished he had become a lawyer, I just stuck with that.
LD: Since you played football in college, did you ever think about a pro football career?
DS: No. In high school, I might’ve thought about that, but when I went to Vanderbilt on a full scholarship and played for four years, it was clear-cut that that was the pinnacle of my football career. I was not going any farther. I knew it, and I was content with that.
I loved football all the way up until college, but in college it was more like a business. I stuck with it and did it, but it was no longer fun. I was very happy to set my sights on going to law school and moving on.
LD: What took you to Texas?
DS: When I went to Vanderbilt, I had actually never been west of the Mississippi River. That same wanderlust – and my personal life at the time – caused me to apply to law schools in Texas. Once I arrived in the Lone Star State, I knew that I would never leave. So I applied to law schools in Texas, and I got into the University of Houston. I was an OK student at Vanderbilt, but I was more interested in other things, social life, and football and that sort of thing.
When I got into law school, I had all of that life out of my system. I bore down in law school and made exceptional grades, graduated high in my class. I enjoyed being a student. A lot of folks got to law school and thought it was time to play pinball and party and have a keg on Friday. I was more serious about it.
LD: It helps to sow your wild oats before law school. And being able to focus during those three years must have helped set you up when you got your degree. How did you choose your path after law school?
DS: I interviewed with Houston and Dallas firms, and I got a clerkship with a federal district judge in Dallas, Robert Hill, now deceased. He was a very highly regarded, wonderful man, great judge. Later went on to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals after I clerked for him. I clerked for him for a year.
When you clerk for a federal judge, the firms in town are all pretty nice to you. I interviewed around town and had some really very flattering and attractive offers. One of the most prestigious firms in town was Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal. They offered me a job following the clerkship and I took it.
That’s how I ended up staying in Dallas: I thought that the benefit of the clerkship would be best there, where a lot of folks had been in Judge Hill’s court and knew I was his clerk. I’d become known around town a little. I figured if I went to another city, such as Houston, which I really liked, it just wouldn’t carry as much weight and wouldn’t be as beneficial.
The complete profile, "Lawyer Limelight: Richard A. Sayles," appeared in Lawdragon on November 8, 2020.