Lunch With Legends: Trailblazers, Trendsetters and Treasures of the Rhode Island Bar
David W Carroll was born in Providence, Rhode Island on December 29, 1938. He graduated from North Providence High School in 1956, and, in 1960, he graduated from Providence College where he majored in Political Science. He com mitted to the United States Army before graduating from Boston College Law School in 1963, and, in a unique folding of events, sat for the Rhode Island bar exam prior to graduation to accommodate his military commitment. After completing his service, he returned to Rhode Island to become the fifth member of Roberts & McMahon, a law firm started and headed by former Governor Dennis Roberts. Roberts & McMahon has evolved into Roberts Carroll Feldstein & Pierce, where Mr. Carroll still practices today. Mr. Carroll is one of the state's most prolific trial attorneys in the professional liability arena, having obtained over one hundred defense verdicts at trial. Excerpts from our conversation with this fifty-year Rhode Island Bar veteran follow.
What was your most memorable experience in the course of your legal career?
When I finished a case involving a doctor who had been sued, and his patient had delivered a baby, and the patient died shortly after the birth of the baby. We got a good result from the jury. They found the doctor had done nothing wrong. As we were walking out, I said to the doctor, you must feel pretty satisfied the jury exonerated you. He looked at me and said, 'David, I still lost my patient. My patient died? And that impacted me, feeling and knowing that trials are not about me, they are about my client.
Over the course of your legal career; who has been your most formidable opponent?
The minute you underestimate someone, you're not doing yourself or your client a service. It's really terrible to try to grade opponents. I'm afraid of the person who's going to be on the other side of the next case I try.
What's been your biggest challenge over the course of your legal profession?
The challenge is making absolutely certain that I'm totally prepared. Know your files backwards and forwards. Know it up and down. Know every period, every comma, and every semicolon. And, when you know that, then, Governor Roberts used to say, things can be extemporaneous.
What skills or qualities would you attribute some of your career successes?
I think I've got a good trial record because I concentrate on the fact that the trial is not about me, the trial is about my client. And my job is to make sure the client presents in a way that a jury can see him or her. If the jury believes the client, they'll vote for the client. I've said to a number of clients, if we leave the courtroom and the jury says I was the best person in the courtroom, they should think about discharging me, because my job is to make sure that the jury says the client was the best person in the courtroom.
What has been the single biggest change in the legal profession since you started practicing?
I really think it's terrific that there are more women not only in the legal profession but in the other professions generally. I think women have made the legal profession so much better through brilliance, the variety of ideas, and an aggressive thought process.
What challenges do you foresee for newer members of the bar?
I have to go back to something that former Presiding Justice Rodgers said at a presentation he made about seven or eight years ago. He said he was concerned that people who want to go into litigation are not trying the same number of cases as other people are trying. He was concerned about litigation lawyers not getting actual trial experience. I share his concern in that.
What's the best advice you ever received?
From the late Governor Roberts: "You can't get quoted on things you don't say."
Rhode Island Bar Journal November/December 2013
Roberts, Carroll, Feldstein & Peirce is a full service law firm founded in 1971. The firm’s continued success and growth are attributable to a philosophy of exceeding clients’ expectations and earning their long-term loyalty by offering practical legal solutions with proven business acumen for a reasonable fee.