Dirk Williams wins Bousliman Professionalism Award
When Chief Disciplinary Counsel Pam Bucy asked Dirk Williams to assist in closing the practice of a recently deceased attorney as a Rule 33 Trustee, she had no idea what she was getting the longtime Missoula attorney into.
A Rule 33 Trustee appointment by rule only provides for the reimbursement of costs but is often a simple and straightforward task, Bucy explains. Unfortunately, that was not the case this time. Williams found a firm in complete disarray, with clients who had paid but whose legal work had not been completed. There was no money in the attorney’s IOLTA account. Both the attorney’s firm and his personal finances were insolvent as well.
In all, between tracking down clients, finding new representation for them, helping them recoup misappropriated funds through the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection, and myriad other tasks, Williams worked over 110 hours on the project.
“He did all this work with humility and a gracious sense of humor,” said Bucy, who nominated Williams for the 2023 George L. Bousliman Professionalism Award for his efforts. “His work made an incredible difference to the clients impacted by this tragic situation. Mr. Williams exemplifies the spirit of the Bousliman Award.”
Williams will receive the award during the Awards Banquet at the State Bar of Montana’s 2023 Annual Meeting in Billings Sept. 14.
Williams said he was shocked and humbled, but also thrilled, when he found out he had won the award. He admits that he was even more thrilled to learn that this year’s William J. Jameson Award would be going to Ed Eck, whom he had nominated for the award. (See related story on page 14.)
“I owe a lot to mentors who encouraged me, not only to get active in state bar work but to be a far more civil lawyer than I was freshly out of law school,” Williams said. He cited Eck and his first boss, Bob Phillips, among those mentors. “It is such an honor and such a privelege to be able to practice law and to be able to practice with people who care about making the world a better place, not just billable hours and winning.”
When asked what professionalism as a lawyer means to him, Williams took a long pause before saying patience, a spirit of community, hard work and trustworthiness. He also notes the importance of not taking shortcuts in your work.
“It’s a huge advantage in a lawyer for judges, opposing counsel and colleagues to trust what you write and say, even though they might disagree,” Williams said. “Montana is just a small town with really long streets. It is way more crucial that people think you’re trustworthy than that you are right.”
Williams adds that he has found he could be a far more effective lawyer by listening than shouting — but he jokes that some people might disagree with that assessment of him.
“There are so many people who deserve the award,” he said. “It’s an honor to be considered one of them.”