Marshall Searcy is a Fort Worth lawyer with a don’t-mess-with-him reputation.
If you face him in the courtroom you will find yourself face to face with a bear.
Truth is he’s a pussycat.
Stocky, square-jawed and handsome – he has self-confidence and swagger. Some might call him cocky.
It doesn’t matter how tall he is. He plays like he’s a six-foot five, if you get my drift. He’s a legal linebacker.
But beneath this veneer he’s a man of sensitive emotions, possesses an easy and contagious laugh, an expansive mind and a gilded heart.
Marshall Searcy, 67 years old, is the kind of man who, after raising three of his own children and marrying a woman, Annette, with three of her own, would then adopt a child.
“Well, the idea was actually Annette’s,” he says deflecting praise and attention.
In their late 50s, Marshall and Annette decided that the best thing they had ever done was to raise children. So, it seemed only natural to them to take another crack at it even though they were at a point in their lives when they could be totally self-indulgent and could enjoy the freedom that comes with age and the fruits of a successful career.
His career is covered in a story by Marice Richter in this week’s paper. In June he will become the first attorney in Fort Worth to have ever been awarded The Ronald D. Seacrest Outstanding Trial Lawyer Award. It is presented by the Texas Bar Foundation and recognizes, among other attributes, Searcy’s high level of professional conduct and ethics.
His ethics as a human being tell the real story about Marshall Searcy.
He and Annette adopted Tim who is now 14 years old from Russia. He had spent two weeks with them at their Fort Worth home that summer as part of an Edna Gladney Home program that brought Russian orphans for a visit to Texas to stay with local families.
Russia has since prohibited all adoptions, but the Gladney home still runs similar programs for orphans from other countries.
He was known as “Timofee,” his Russian name, back then and despite what Searcy describes as unfathomable hardship and deprivation as an abandoned Russian child, the boy’s infectious spirit and charm brought immediate joy to their home.
His timing was also perfect.
A year earlier, in 2003, the Searcy’s were on a vacation trip to Nova Scotia, driving through the night when a light came on.
It was in Annette’s head.
“She said we needed to adopt a child,” recalls Searcy. “I immediately agreed. We knew we had to do it and that it was the right thing for us to do.”
Because of their age they needed to find a program – such as the one run by Gladney – that would allow older parents to adopt. The summer program for Russian children was a natural. They had the chance to have Tim stay with them for two weeks so they could ease into the idea.
There was no “easing” into their decision once they met Tim. After two weeks with him they knew their home had to become his, too.
They practically followed him back to Russia and adopted Tim in December 2004.
As Tim moved to Fort Worth and became immersed in American life, the Searcy’s learned Russian and Tim learned English. Today, he’s fully acclimated.
“He hardly ever even acknowledges he speaks Russian,” laughs Searcy.
The teaching worked both ways in the household. They taught Tim. He taught them.
“He is the most patient person I have ever known,” says Searcy. “Bringing him into our lives is the best thing and the most important thing we have ever done.”
The guess would be that Annette, a dark-haired beauty, with caring eyes and a deep and settling voice, might be the model for patience. Of course, I guess feisty lawyers can mellow too.
Do the older children react poorly to that description of the “Tim decision.”
“Oh. No,” says Searcy. “They all love Tim like we do.”
“He’s sort of the Uncle Buck of the family,” says Searcy offering a glimpse of his knack for a descriptive phrase that probably has won the hearts and minds of more than one Texas juror.
Searcy says that he and Annette had lived through the parental pressure and fears of being young and hoping they were always doing the best job possible to raise their children to avail themselves of all of the best possibilities in life.
“When you’re young and working hard at home and at your job you are always fearful that you might not be doing the best with your children,” he says.
Raising Tim as an only child in the household has not brought with it that same pressure because Searcy says he and Annette are obviously more experienced and more confident and relaxed.
“You only get a few chances to get this right,” he says.
Tim, who attends the Key School, gave them that one more chance and to hear Searcy describe their life it sounds as if Tim has given every bit as much love and joy as he has received.
“He’s just a great kid,” he says simply. “And he has kept us young.”
Searcy has the rich perspective of helping raise seven children and of achieving the rewards of a spectacular law career, first in Dallas and now in Fort Worth where he moved in 1993. He is a partner at Kelly Hart & Hallman.
He acknowledges that his has been a life of surprises. For instance he never imagined he would have a Tim in his life and he also thought practicing law would be an easy, soft job.
Working for his uncle on a cotton farm in Rosebud one hot, hot summer he took to heart some avuncular advice.
“We were working really hard farming cotton and my uncle told me to become a lawyer which would be easy. He said lawyers worked in air-cooled offices, wore ties daily like we wore on Sunday and sat in nice offices, and left work early,” recalls Searcy.
His reaction to the advice was immediate.
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll do it.”
The description of life as a lawyer, particularly leaving the office early each day, proved wrong, he says.
He graduated from law school at the top of his University of Texas class. He was hired by a firm and began working early in the morning and staying late.
In June he will be recognized for his diligence and his character. Practicing law well and being recognized for it, he says, pales to the decision he and Annette made to adopt Tim.
“That’s the best thing I have ever done,” he says.
Contact Connor at email@example.com