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Oklahoma Legal Oral History

Interviews with Oklahoma Legal Professionals

Biography

J. William "Bill" Conger practiced in a variety of capacities before he and his friends, Larry Hartzog and Len Cason, founded the Oklahoma City firm of Hartzog, Conger & Cason.  He practiced primarily in the area of business litigation. In 2003, he became of counsel for the firm and began teaching at Oklahoma City University School of Law. Mr. Conger taught trial practice, introduction to legal practice, and civil procedure and complex litigation. In 2005, he received the professor of the year award, an honor voted on by the students, and in 2012 Bill received the Justice Marian P. Opala Award for Lifetime Achievement in Law from Oklahoma City University School of Law for excellence and overall contributions to the legal community. In addition to being the Distinguished Lecturer in Law at the law school, Mr. Conger was also the General Counsel Emeritus for the university, having served as the General Counsel for eight years.

Mr. Conger was a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, Master Emeritus and Past President of the William J. Holloway Jr. American Inn of Court, received the International Academy of Trial Lawyers Commendation Award in 2005, and he has been listed among the Best Lawyers in American and Oklahoma Super Lawyers. Mr. Conger served as Oklahoma Bar Association (OBA) President in 2008, and has received the John E. Shipp Award for Ethics and the OBA President’s Award for Outstanding Service to the Bar. Some of his other legal activities include serving as a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and a Trustee and Benefactor Fellow of the Oklahoma Bar Foundation. He also served as the Oklahoma County Bar Association (OCBA) President and spent two terms as a director of the OCBA. Mr. Conger passed away January 1, 2013.

If a researcher wishes to use the information gathered in this interview for uses other than educational or scholarly uses, they may do so without further permission from the estate of the interview subject. 

Audio

Below is a short selection of the interview with Bill Conger. You can listen to the full interview by visiting the Chickasaw Nation Law Library at Oklahoma City University School of Law.

Transcript

Below is an excerpt from Mr. Conger's interview and a link to download the full transcript.

KEK: No that’s fine. What, tell me about some of your most memorable cases while working for the law firm.


BC: Okay. The most memorable case was a case against the Iranian government here. I was representing an Iranian family, an extended family, two grown sons, both married. The mother was the, it was matriarchal and they had gotten out of Iran. What they had done was they were trying to get all of their money out. They were fairly wealthy people. They got this money out through the Iranian telephone company which paid monies…it’s a complicated scheme and I won’t bore you with that. It was questionable I think. My people were told this is how they do it. What I think was going on is that some of these mullahs these religious people of which were in all facets of the Iranian government and everything was state owned. So the telephone company was state owned. We think that they were using our family to skim off things for themselves. So they were making it legitimate by getting our, by turning ours into U.S. dollars in getting here. Then the Iranian government, apparently this was going on kind of worldwide and the Iranian government decided to start cracking down on this and they were going to go find these people even if they were in different jurisdictions. They started chasing them down in Paris, other people not my clients, and in Vienna and Switzerland. They get my people and tell them to give the money back and said “It’s not your money, it’s our money.” Then they would get people that were remote family members in Tehran on the telephone begging my clients to give the money back clearly. My clients taped it all and it’s all in Farsi so I had to have it transcribed. So it’s clearly…they are threatening. These are guys from the Iranian justice department. Long story short is they bring suit over here and a lawyer knew that I had been over to the World Court. So he called me up and said “Would you take this case? I don’t think I have the experience for it.” Which he did I mean since it’s just a case, it’s a trial hearing. But anyway I did. We had this trial and these guys from the Iranian justice department come over here and it’s in the downtown county courthouse, Judge Niles Jackson. We’ve got these translators there because everybody is speaking in Farsi. We were the defendant but I’d filed a counterclaim. They, it ended up the case was argued for about a week. Some of the people in the Iranian community here, including a guy named Hussein Sahvah who is a business professor. He was the second guy in charge of the Iranian finance when the Shah was in power. So he was one of my expert witnesses. And then another guy was Mahmud Shandiz who the Associate Dean at Meinders. Mahmud and Hussein were worried about me about my safety. I said “What about yours?” They said “Ah we don’t care about us, they’re always after us.” The jury returns a verdict in favor of my clients making, they had frozen all of my clients’ money and assets, making them entitled to it. It was about five million dollars plus they gave me on my counterclaim a million dollars. So I got them for about six million dollars. They were just so happy and so nice. I’ve kind of truncated the story because this was over a period of three years and lots of hardship on them. But they were so grateful and I was, I really enjoyed them. I just liked them. You know sometimes we lawyers have clients that we don’t like that much but these people I just really liked. I think the other cases that I had the most fun trying was I represented Coca Cola Bottlers and so I did all those mouse in a Coke can cases and people find a bee in their can. They, none of the experienced plaintiff’s lawyers take those cases because there’s no damage for one. If they have any damage it’s soft tissue. Frankly you know the ones that would bother me is if somebody would drink a pop out of a can and there would be little glass shards because it’s been in a warehouse and something happened. Or frankly a lot of times that happens in a store. But Coke gets through, but other than that this is the, the people I reported to were in Atlanta. They don’t settle those cases. So you have to try them. I’ve tried probably 25 and I’ve never lost one and it was because mostly the lawyers on the other side are very inexperienced and they misjudge their case. They want a whole lot of money for it. Oklahoma jurors are…they are pretty hard working people. They come from what was then the GM plant or Tinker Air Force Base or schools, cafeteria workers. When somebody says that they found a bee in their Coke can….. First of all I put on all kinds of evidence about how the processing is done. A bee can’t get in there. I mean it’s going through conveyor belts, upside down and getting stuff squirted in there and all of that. These guys will want and ask juries to give $500,000 and it makes them mad. Things, people think…plus we have great people out in the Coke bottling plant here that made great witnesses. They were just good old heart-warming people. But Valerie Couch and I tried a lot of those cases and she, before she went on the bench. She was kind of my second chair when she came to the law firm. Then she moved on to become really a great lawyer in her own right. But I had fun with those cases because that’s a tort case. It’s a two day trial, maybe a three day trial. They are not too hard to prepare and jurors kind of like them. Used to be when they would be at the courthouse they would hear that we were going to have one and there’d be a little high school tour there. They’d always bring them in because so many times if you go in and watch a trial it’s just boring. And this is going, clipping along pretty fast. So those cases I liked and then I did a whole lot of cases representing the major accounting firms like KPMG and Coopers and Lehman.

800 N. Harvey Oklahoma City, OK 73102 405.208.5271