Two law partners of Merkel & Cocke are listed as “super lawyers” at the prestigious and selective Mid-South Super Lawyers 2006 magazine, from the publishers of Law & Politics.
Charles M. Merkel Jr. and John H. Cocke, of Merkel & Cocke, P.A. have been listed as “super lawyers” in the prestigious and selective Mid-South Super Lawyers 2006 magazine, from the publishers of Law & Politics. Charles Merkel was listed in the “Personal Injury Plaintiff Products” category, and Cocke in “Personal Injury Plaintiff: Medical Malpractice.”
“I had always wanted to become a baseball player,” said Charles M. Merkel Jr., who originally studied engineering at Ole Miss during the Vietnam War buildup. “When that dream didn’t become a reality, I looked for something to do other than engineering. Three more years of education seemed like a good idea at the time.”
Merkel found he had an aptitude and a love for the law.
“Litigation was much like sports,” he said. “Sort of a poor substitute for being a baseball player.”
“The ability to think on your feet and to respond to the unexpected effectively and quickly is a great asset,” Merkel said, when asked what qualities help make a super lawyer. “That, coupled with a short-term photographic memory that I was blessed with.”
Merkel, born Nov. 2, 1941, in Nashville, Tenn., graduated magna cum laude and second in his class from the University of Mississippi School of Law in June 1966.
After graduation, he accepted an appointment through the U.S. Department of Justice honors program and served four years in the Tax Division of the Department of Justice, in a refund trial section, trying tax-refund cases in U.S. district courts in a five-state area.
In October 1970, Merkel returned to his native Mississippi, accepting a position with the firm of Sullivan, Dunbar & Smith.
In 1973, he was involved in forming the firm of Holcomb, Dunbar, Connell & Merkel, where he was involved primarily in litigation until spring 1982, when he and Cocke formed Merkel & Cocke. The new firm’s purpose was handling complex plaintiff’s litigation with emphasis in medical malpractice, product liability, toxic torts, drug reactions, brain-damage cases, and generally all catastrophic personal-injury cases.
Merkel has received multiple jury awards ranging from $1 million to $20 million, as well as numerous million-dollar settlements.
He is active in trial lawyers’ activities and is a frequent lecturer on trial technique and advocacy, appearing at seminars sponsored by the Mississippi State Bar, Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association, American Board of Trial Advocates and others.
Merkel also received a master’s degree in law in 1969 from the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C.
“We’ve always had really good lawyers in this town – there used to be a federal court here,” said John H. Cocke.
“I thought I wanted to work in the (family) bank as a lawyer,” he said, “then I fell in love with the law.”
“Being able to spot the issues makes you a good lawyer,” said Cocke. “If you get sidetracked on the wrong issue, you blow it all.”
Born in 1947, Cocke graduated from the University of Virginia Law School in 1975 and moved to Clarksdale to begin practicing in a general-litigation firm.
Since he and Merkel established Merkel & Cocke, P.A., in 1982, the emphasis of Cocke’s practice has progressed more and more toward medical malpractice.
His practice now is exclusively devoted to handling medical-negligence cases for the plaintiff, either as a result of direct contact by the client or, more commonly, on referral from other attorneys unfamiliar with handling medical-negligence cases.
Although Cocke handles all types of medical-negligence cases, a uniform requirement is that serious injury or death have occurred as a result of the medical mistake.
Cocke has handled many brain-damaged baby cases, as well as deaths resulting from failure to treat in the emergency-room setting and the premature discharge of patients after surgery, as well as failure to promptly diagnose cancer.
Cocke has developed a particular interest in using modern technology in medical-negligence cases and has spoken at seminars on this subject.
This year’s super lawyers were selected from balloting sent by Law & Politics to more than 23,000 lawyers in the tri-state area of Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.
The attorneys who received the ballots in the tri-state area were asked to nominate the best attorneys they’ve personally observed in action.
Researchers of Law & Politics also searched for outstanding Mid-South lawyers, and examined the background and experience of each candidate nominated.
Another step in the selection process was peer evaluation of the candidates by practice area, before the final selections were made.
Only 5 percent of the total lawyers in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee are listed in Mid-South Super Lawyers 2006, according to the magazine.
“You can’t pay to be selected as a cover or editorial subject,” states the magazine. “Nor will advertising help you to get on, or stay on the Mid-South Super Lawyers list.”
The magazine is published by attorneys for attorneys and is distributed only to attorneys.