Gonzaga University School of Law has been dedicated to educating and preparing attorneys to not only practice law, but to lead in other areas of society. Larry Gill (’64) is one such LawZag whose career journey took him to many unique places, including The Supreme Court of the United States. Below is a small piece of Larry’s profile, with the full story, authored by Larry himself, attached below.
When asked about his fondness for Gonzaga Law, Gill, who currently resides in Seattle, Washington began with, “I owe my life to Gonzaga Law; it set my course and continued to support me in my professional life. My story of Gonzaga Law did not end with my graduation, it was the beginning of a wonderful and magical life’s journey.”
A Working Education
Gill went on to say, “Obtaining a Doctor of Laws Degree was in the beginning, hugely satisfying to me personally and to my family, particularly in view of my need to work full time six hours per day as a school bus driver. A seventh hour was consumed commuting to and from work.” In the 60’s, Gonzaga Law School was a night-only curriculum and Gill, like most other students, worked in the day and went to school at night. “I studied mid-day and then again after my night school classes.” Gill also remembered a popular, yet tough Professor, Willard Roe, who would later go onto become a Spokane Judge. Roe was tough, but many students also knew he had a compassionate side, which was affirmed by Gill. “I was married and my daughter Jill was born during my Evidence Exam (taught by Roe) in my fourth year. Judge Willard Roe allowed me to retake the exam the next week.”
Gill knew he left Gonzaga with the tools needed to succeed. “My Gonzaga Law degree most assuredly set my course and launched my professional life, ultimately taking me to the Supreme Court of Washington, the Court of Appeals Div. II of Washington, the Supreme Court of the United States and then to the Supreme Court of California, each time as an Executive Officer of the Court.” It was at each of these stops that Gill brought his immense talent and expertise to each of his jobs. Gill not only knew the law, but also how to better organize systems. Gill remembered his time learning intricate systems, “I was taught techniques for breaking complex originations down to component parts, evaluating them separately, and then putting them back again to create a higher level of organizational efficiency using computer technology. This training and experience would later be very important in enabling me to design and implement Court Improvement Systems.”
Working With The Supreme Court
Gill fondly remembers his time as an insider at the Supreme Court of the United States. He was the person responsible for implementing the computerized case management system, which, for its time, was cutting edge, and much needed. Gill was highly regarded by all the staff and justices of the court. One memory that Gill will never forget was when he was administered the Oath of Office by then Chief Justice Warren Burger. “Soon after I arrived at the Court, the Personnel Officer came to my office to ask me to await a call from the Chief Justice because he wanted to personally welcome me to the Court and to administer the Oath of Office to me. When the call came, about 7 PM, I was advised that I would be escorted by Mark Cannon, Administrative Assistant to the Chief Justice. When the three of us arrived, the Chief Justice’s secretary escorted us directly into his private Chambers. He immediately rose to his feet, came around his desk and while shaking my hand explained how interested he was in bringing technology to the Administration of Justice, both State and Federal, and how important this project was to the Court and to the Nation. He wanted me to know that I had the full support of himself, Mark Cannon and the Personnel Office. He poured us each a glass of wine and offered some pâté. We discussed the project for perhaps ten minutes. Then he announced that he wanted to administer the Oath of Office. He had stepped back around his desk and while reaching into the top left drawer, he pulled out a small bible advising that it had been used to swear in four presidents. I raised my right hand and put my left on the bible and he said ‘repeat after me’. I thanked everyone and said that I would do my best and we then took our leave. While driving home my knees were weak and I was so in awe of what had just taken place that I drove four exits past my turn heading home.”
Building on a Jesuit Legal Education
Gill has never forgotten the importance of his time at Gonzaga. “Of essential importance, my Jesuit legal education trained me to think like a lawyer, including analysis, logic, evaluation and assessment, not only of the law, but all things. I quickly learned to apply these skills to technology and organizational development. Perhaps even more important were the personal values first learned from my parents, Vera M. and L. Presley Gill, sharpened by Dean Smitty Myers, followed by a superb faculty and Jesuit Legal education about personal and professional ethics, forthrightness, and honesty. Throughout my life, I continued to incorporate these values in my dealings with colleagues, adversaries, my staff, and the staffs of other departments as I formed and led project teams in the implementation of a wide variety of court improvement projects. At the same time, I was managing the case load and administration of four of the highest and most respected courts of our land.”
In retirement, Gill spends time portraying living history, sailing his sailboat, “S/V Gone with the Wind” to places like Glacier Bay in Alaska, and cross-country skiing. He also enjoys driving his restored 1966 MG-B in club rallies on country roads.
Larry Gill’s Career:
1964: Graduate of Gonzaga University School of Law – J.D.
1964 – 1965: Chief Deputy Clerk, Washington State Supreme Court
1965-1966: Clerk for Washington Supreme Court Associate Justice Frank Hale
1966-1967: Systems Analyst for Peoples national bank of Washington
1967 – 1969: Trust Administrator for Peoples National bank of Washington
1969 – 1974: Chief Clerk for Division II, Washington Court of Appeals
1974 – 1980: Chief Deputy Clerk, Supreme Court of the United States
1980-1988: Chief Clerk of the Court for the Supreme Court of California
1990 – 1998: Planning Team, National Park Service, Denver Service Center and Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
For Gill’s complete life and career story, see his autobiographical profile. (PDF)