Sundays with Neil

Neil Galatz golfing
By Marty Kravitz

On January 3, 2013, the State of Nevada lost a true giant of our profession. For those of you who knew Neil Galatz, it would be redundant to talk about his incredible success, immense talents, numerous honors, and massive verdicts. Rather than reiterate those accomplishments, I would rather discuss a different side of Neil.

In the eulogies given by Senator Harry Reid and Judge Allan Earl, they repeatedly described Neil as a “perfectionist” in everything that he did. While that statement is mostly true, there was one drastic exception. Neil was a terrible golfer. He had a horrible grip, an unbalanced stance, and he slapped at a golf ball like he was swatting a fly. Due to his lack of skill, he bought cheap golf balls by the gross. Convinced he could “buy” a better game, Neil also bought new golf clubs almost every year.

But Neil always liked a challenge. Thus, in his late 50’s, he decided to take up golf. We both joined TPC Las Vegas, and his decision to tackle golf changed my life. For almost twenty years, if we were both in town, and the weather was good, Neil and I played golf every Sunday. I would like to tell you that it was about the challenge of the game, but I soon realized Sundays were not about golf. Instead, our Sundays were about camaraderie. Neil and I would talk for hours about our profession, families, politics, culture, wine, and how to be better trial lawyers. He bemoaned demeaning legal advertising; he was upset by certain doctors and lawyers colluding to run up unnecessary medical expenses; he despised lawyers who used shortcuts to extract settlements; and he was frustrated by the increasing lack of competence within the Bar. Neil was a consummate trial lawyer. Every word carefully mapped; every theory explored to the fullest; and he understood very clearly that the better prepared lawyer usually obtained the better result. He felt that the non-binding arbitration system had actually lowered the professionalism of the Bar because the system did not require young lawyers to learn their craft and fully utilize the rules of evidence.

Neil appreciated intellectual pursuits. At age 77, he started reading string theory and quantum physics. Most importantly, he would boast about the accomplishments of his family. Elaine, Neil’s wife, was the smartest person he knew, and he always talked about her in glowing terms. She was simply the best part of his life.

As time went on, Neil became part of my family. He took an active interest in their achievements; taught my wife how to appreciate wine; and my friends became Neil’s friends. We traveled the world together, looking for any excuse to play golf anywhere, anytime—Hawaii, Carmel, Bandon Dunes, Palm Springs, or the Caribbean. We always found a reason to do another quick retreat. On one trip to Hawaii, the golf marshal asked Neil if he was my father. I replied, no, he was my “grandfather.” Neil was mortified because he called me “kid” and treated me like his little brother.

Neil took an active interest in all of my cases. Whenever I prepared for trial, I could always call Neil and discuss tactics and debate theory. In the midst of one rather contentious trial, I called him at 10:00 at night to ask him how I should approach a particular problem. Neil gave me very straightforward directions, and finished with: “remember, stay calm, stay focused.” Neil was always calm and focused.
For those who knew him, I am certain they have similar stories. Neil always offered sage advice and helped anyone in need. He was simply a gentlemen and a scholar. I will miss my Sundays with Neil.

Marty Kravitz is the managing partner at Kravitz, Schnitzer, Sloane & Johnson specializing in insurance coverage and defense, commercial litigation, and hotel liability. He also serves as a Short Trial Judge, Arbitrator, and Mediator. He is a member of Federation of Defense & Corporate Counsel, DRI, CCBA, and American Bar Foundation.

This article was originally published in the printed magazine COMMUNIQUÉ, the official publication of the Clark County Bar Association.(February 2013, Vol. 34, No. 2). All rights reserved.