Most people his age don’t get up each morning, dress in a suit and tie and head to the office. But Kleber C. Miller isn’t a typical 91-year-old.
“I’m fortunate that I love what I do and that I’ve enjoyed it my entire life,” said Miller, senior counsel and founding partner at Shannon, Gracey, Ratliff & Miller law firm.
Miller has been practicing for 63 years and has earned a reputation in Texas as a champion of ethical standards for attorneys. His practice involves business litigation, personal injury litigation, malpractice cases and natural resources law.
Miller maintains that being a lawyer is a calling and continually stresses the importance of serving clients and the public good as well as maintaining a respectful bond with opposing parties and the presiding judges.
But he acknowledges that he didn’t immediately find that calling as a young man.
After completing high school in Austin, Miller served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was stationed in the South Pacific during his tour from 1943 to 1946 and served as a specialist in photography. He returned from the Navy with a goal of attending college.
“When I started, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” he said.
But recalling the advice of a high school debate coach who suggested he would make a good lawyer, he charted his path in that direction.
“As it turned out, it was the best decision I could have made,” he said.
He graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in 1951 and began practicing as an assistant district attorney in Travis County.
But when a friend told him of an opportunity for an attorney to take over the account of the Santa Fe Railroad (now BNSF), he jumped on it and moved to Fort Worth in 1952.
“I really love Fort Worth,” he said. “It was a great break to get to come here.”
When not working, Miller has donated countless hours to legal and nonprofit community organizations, serving as chairman of the board of the State Bar of Texas and on the boards of Texas Lawyers’ Insurance Exchange, Texas Association of Defense Counsel, Goodwill Industries, Rotary Club of Fort Worth, Arborlawn United Methodist Church, All Saints Health Foundation, Metropolitan YMCA and many others.
Miller is a Life Fellow with the American Bar Foundation, a Sustaining Life Fellow with the Texas Bar Foundation and a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.
Among his many honors, he received the State Bar of Texas Presidential Citation and Outstanding Fifty Year Lawyer Award, the Dallas Bar Association’s Insurance Section Trial Legend Award, the Tarrant County Bar Association’s Blackstone Award and the Texas Association of Defense Counsel’s Founders Award. He also has been a Texas Monthly magazine Texas Super Lawyer for multiple years.
After a long, distinguished career, Miller said, he is finally contemplating retiring and “taking it easy.”
That is a move he has resisted because, frankly, working is a better personal option, he said.
“I get to come to work every day, do what I enjoy and be the boss,” he said. “At home, I’d be a slave to a long list of honey-dos.”
Which legal case in American history do you see as the most influential? Why?
Marbury v. Madison because it established the ultimate power of review of the Supreme Court and established that the Supreme Court was the final decisionmaker concerning the interpretation of the law and its application.
What inspired you to become an attorney?
I don’t think I was inspired. My debate coach in high school suggested that he thought I might be suited to be a lawyer. I went to law school not sure that it was really what I wanted to do. As it turned out it was the best decision I could have made.
What is your most significant professional achievement?
As chairman of the board of directors of the State Bar of Texas, I was directly involved with keeping the Bar as an integrated bar with control of its own dues structure when it was under attack by the Texas State Senate under the first Sunset Review process. It was difficult but the Bar survived the process and maintained control of its own finances.
What motivates you?
The opportunity to be a problem solver and help my clients to get through difficult situations that ultimately lead to settlement or litigation.
What are the major challenges facing young attorneys?
I can speak only to the judicial process, but I feel that the court system, including jury trials, is under severe attack. It will be the challenge of future attorneys to try to find a way to make dispute resolution in court less expensive and faster. In my opinion the American jury trial is by far the best system ever devised for settling disputes, but we have allowed it to get too encumbered by too many rules, allowed it to become more and more expensive to the point of being unaffordable to many, and to take too long to get to a final resolution. Unless we find a way to relieve these stresses on the system, society will find another way to settle disputes.
– Marice Richter