Reid Robison, a retired partner with McAfee & Taft and a highly accomplished trial lawyer known for his consummate professionalism and commanding presence in the courtroom handling high-stakes litigation, passed away on Wednesday, August 4, 2021, at the age of 76.
Reid graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1966 and went on to earn his law degree from the University of Oklahoma College of Law two years later. He fell in love with the practice of law and the challenge and excitement of the courtroom while serving as a captain in the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps for 3½ years. Immediately after completing his military service, he joined McAfee & Taft, where he would spend the next 48 years building a reputation as a preeminent trial lawyer.
Within a week of joining McAfee & Taft as a young associate, he tried his very first case, defending a client against environmental contamination charges brought by a sympathetic plaintiff with the hometown advantage and three lawyers to represent him. At the outset of the trial, even the judge thought Reid was outmatched. He wasn’t. He won.
Over the course of his career with the firm, his cases got bigger — much, much bigger — and his reputation grew. Henry Hoss remembers him as the firm’s “litigation racehorse,” a bet-the-company lawyer who attracted more and more cases with each successive win in courtrooms nationwide.
“Reid was the consummate professional who, from the time I first met him to now, had the respect of all who knew him,” said John Kenney. “This extended across both the bench and bar. A testament to his skill was his receiving referrals from lawyers across the country that he had opposed in other concluded litigation.”
Prior to his retirement in February 2020, Reid was the firm’s senior-most trial lawyer, and those who worked with Reid couldn’t help but learn from him. He was methodical, meticulous, quick-witted, and always — always — thoroughly prepared.
"I am saddened beyond words over the loss of my great friend, mentor, and encourager-in-chief Reid Robison,” said Mark Burget. “Professionally, you could not find a better litigator than Reid. I tried two cases with him during my first two years with the firm and learned more than I could possibly imagine. Everything about Reid oozed ‘professional.’ His gaze, his voice, his demeanor, even his posture. He was always more prepared, and knew the law better, than the other side. He was an absolute joy to work with and learn from."
Having the opportunity to work with Reid was one of the greatest gifts Bob Dace says he received as a young lawyer. “Reid was brilliant and had a great memory. He had an extraordinary ability to communicate complex thoughts, both orally and in writing, in a clear, logical, and concise manner. His preparation and attention to detail in all phases of litigation were second to none.”
Rick Mullins also considers himself fortunate to have had Reid as a mentor and teacher. “I can’t measure how much I learned from Reid on how to be a good lawyer. As one client told me, Reid was right out of central casting, from his demeanor, voice and presence to his incredible preparation, thoroughness, and ability to communicate. And he was the best writer I ever worked with. His writing was clear, succinct, and informative, but as brief as possible.”
While Reid was well-known for his meticulous and thoughtful writing, he was also known for his witty sayings. According to Michael McClintock, Reid was a “quote master, turning memorable, pithy phrases that will be forever part of McAfee & Taft lore.” For example, on drafting legal briefs: “A brief is never finished; it is only filed” and on plaintiffs receiving nothing from the jury in a case Reid was defending: “They got what the owl left on the end of the limb.”
As the consummate professional, Reid used every skill to his advantage, including his voice. And it made an impact on those he mentored.
“What I miss most about Reid is his hearing his voice,” said Michael Lauderdale. “Reid was a larger-than-life presence with a voice that resonated of class, control, and a command of the courtroom. Reid was kind enough to take me under his wing for my first jury trial. He allowed me to participate in every phase of the case from the beginning to the end. I continue to utilize the training and mentoring Reid provided to this day. Reid will be sorely missed.”
His commanding voice and presence also impacted others in the courtroom.
“I was trying a very high stakes case with Reid in 2006,” recalled Ron Shinn. “It was a white collar criminal case, and we represented one of three defendants. Our co-counsel, who represented one of the other two defendants, made a comment during a short break during our trial. ‘Reid,’ she said, ‘has the voice of God, and he speaks with the authority of God, too.’ She was right. Reid had the perfect voice for a trial lawyer, but there was far more to Reid than just his voice.”
Many of Reid’s colleagues, like Mike Joseph, remember him as an incredibly rare talent.
“Reid was endowed with a brilliant mind that could work like lightning,” said Joseph. “He also had the personal drive, willpower, and perseverance to do the necessary preparation for a case while working with others. He was able to give direction, develop legal strategies, and establish techniques that were required for the particular cases. His legal abilities were innate. He had a personality that appealed universally to clients, judges, and jurors alike. Along with that he had a high degree of personal magnetism to carry his strategies through a complicated trial. He used his legal knowledge, creativeness, and imagination for the benefit of clients and for their success. It is rare in a generation that all of these things come together in one lawyer.”
Reid’s skills as a litigator earned him perennial inclusion in numerous prestigious industry publications, including the Chambers USA Guide to America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, Benchmark Litigation, The Best Lawyers in America, and Oklahoma Super Lawyers. In addition to being selected as a fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America, he was a fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers and previously served as its Oklahoma state chairman. In 2013 he was honored with the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Neil E. Bogan Professionalism Award. Two years later, the Oklahoma County Bar Association honored Reid with its Bobby G. Knapp Leadership Award.
“Reid’s professional accomplishments are well documented and the accolades he earned were, if anything, understated to a significant extent,” said Dee Replogle. “But it was in his role as a father, a husband, and a friend that I believe he truly excelled. He led by example, and he led effectively. Those of us who knew Reid best will miss him in many ways, but particularly as a friend; and in the end, that is perhaps the truest confirmation of a life well-lived.”
Reid is survived by his wife of 54 years, Jean Ann, son Brian and wife Madeline, daughter Amy and husband Nate, six grandchildren, and countless family members, friends and colleagues. He was preceded in death by his granddaughter, Amelia Robison.
“Reid was as devoted a family man as I have met,” said Rick Mullins. “Of all the great wins that Reid had in his career, that’s the biggest one and the one he would be most proud of.”