John Teakell / Louis Goodman – Transcript

Louis Goodman / John Teakell – Transcript

Louis Goodman 00:03
Welcome to Love Thy Lawyer, where we talk with attorneys about their lives and careers. Today, we welcome John Teakell to the podcast. Mr. Teakell has successfully defended hundreds of individuals charged with both felonies and misdemeanors. He’s a designated Super Lawyer, has been highlighted in Forbes, Time, and other publications.

Before devoting his practice to criminal defense, he served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Northern District of Texas and in Puerto Rico. He also served as a Deputy District Attorney in Texas. John Teakell, welcome to Love by Lawyer.

John Teakell 00:44
Thank you, Louis. It’s great to be here. I’m glad you have me on.

Louis Goodman 00:48
Well, thank you for being here. Where are you speaking to us from right now?

John Teakell 00:51
I’m just speaking from my office. My office is in Dallas, Texas.

Louis Goodman 00:56
I’ve been to Dallas, one of the few places in Texas that I’ve actually been to.

John Teakell 01:00
There are more and more people coming here from different places. It’s interesting, to say the least, to see the growth, not only in the Dallas Fort Worth area, but pretty much everywhere.

Louis Goodman 01:12
Well, one of the reasons I was interested in speaking to you is because so many people from California seem to be going to Texas. It seems all the time I hear California and Texas compared to each other, sometimes positively, sometimes negatively, sometimes just kind of a compare and contrast sort of thing.

John Teakell 01:32
I’ve been to California a few times over the years. It has some different types of diversity, so to speak, in the terrain and the types of towns. So it’s interesting to visit.

Louis Goodman 01:43
Well, I think California and Texas are both very, very large geographic places with very large populations. So I think it’s hard to generalize about either place without taking into account an enormous differentiation in just about everything.

John Teakell 02:00
I won’t argue with that.

Louis Goodman 02:04
What type of practice do you have and how long have you had that practice?

John Teakell 02:10
Well, I focus, the short answer is I focus on criminal defense. I do a lot of federal criminal defense, as you mentioned. I was in the US Attorney’s Office, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office for over a dozen years. And after that I left and went into private practice and just pretty much switched sides, so to speak.

As a young attorney, I was in the State Prosecutor’s Office for a little while before I got on in the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Gosh, I’ve been doing this for 20 years now. Do a lot of federal, do state as well. Right after I left the U.S. Attorney’s office, I spent a couple of years as a trial attorney with the Securities and Exchange Commission, so I still pick up those cases once in a while. Some Securities and Exchange Commission, civil enforcement actions against people. So I get that as well in the mix.

Louis Goodman 03:06
Where are you from originally?

John Teakell 03:08
Well, my people are from Texas. I did my younger growing and growing up in Southern Oklahoma. Got back to Texas as a young adult and I’ve been here ever since.

Louis Goodman 03:20
Did you go to high school in Texas?

John Teakell 03:22
No, I went to high school near Wichita Falls, Texas, but on the Oklahoma side.

Louis Goodman 03:27
After you graduated from high school, where’d you go to college?

John Teakell 03:29
Uh, I was looking at Texas A&M and ended up going to Oklahoma State.

Louis Goodman 03:35
You ultimately went to law school. Did you take time off between college and law school or did you go straight through from college to law school?

John Teakell 03:42
No, I was actually out a couple of years before I started law school. I, for a couple of reasons, one, I just was trying to get through undergraduate and trying to figure out what I was going to do after undergraduate. I did get a job at a sizable commercial bank. From there, I started working on my master’s at night, taking, you know, a couple of classes at night and I did what I really kind of always wanted to do is I applied for law school.

Louis Goodman 04:13
Where did you go to law school?

John Teakell 04:14
Applied to places that had night programs. I ended up going to Oklahoma City University. They had a night program. And that’s where I’d gotten this job at a large bank downtown. So it worked out well as far as having the job and then going to night school.

Louis Goodman 04:31
When was it that you first really knew that you wanted to be a lawyer and what was it that prompted that thinking?

John Teakell 04:38
Well, I think for a long time as a young person, I had that in the back of my mind, but more specifically say as a kid and then in high school and even in college. I was interested in some sort of law enforcement. In fact, when I was coming out of law school, I had applied for a job with an agent with the federal bureau of investigation, and I’d gone through the whole process. You know, you take a couple of different tests and then you have a personal interview. And then you have a comprehensive medical exam and they do the background investigation and three and a half years later, out of the blue, they called and said, Hey, can you be in Quantico? for the next class here in, you know, like three weeks.

So by that time, I’d already been in the local District Attorney’s Office and in the District Attorney’s Office I was aspiring to go on to the U S Attorney’s Office. So I declined and that’s what I ended up doing.

Louis Goodman 05:36
Was your first job out of law school, the Prosecutor’s Office?

John Teakell 05:40
Yes, sir.

Louis Goodman 05:42
And where was that?

John Teakell 05:43
That was in Oklahoma City.

Louis Goodman 05:45
What was the process of getting to the U.S. Attorney’s Office?

John Teakell 05:49
Well, basically, of course, applying and then, you know, having the background where you could compete to get in and to be chosen to do so. I think at the time, not only did my state prosecution experience, I mean, that clearly helped because of the trial experience and then just being involved in prosecution and knowing basically what it took to put together a case that plus my work in the bank where I had been in the lending, the credit training program, the lending, and also in the loan review, which is sort of like an internal policing function within the bank, that actually helped me, I think, get on in the US Attorney’s Office. Because at that time in the late eighties, there was a push that was in place and coming more for bank fraud prosecutions. So it worked out well for me timing wise, I believe.

Louis Goodman 06:43
What was your experience in the U.S. Attorney’s Office like, in, when you were in Texas? Because I know you later went to Puerto Rico, and we’ll get to that in a minute.

John Teakell 06:52
Yes, sir. It was good. Just, you know, of course, as you know, too, the two main categories, two basic categories that the U. S. Attorney’s offices across the country prosecute are large white collar and large drug trafficking cases. Of course, under white collar, you have a whole plethora, you have a whole group of different kinds of things.

You have, you know, insurance type fraud, securities fraud, boiler room fraud, just investors and oil and gas fraud, all kinds of things. And then of course the large drug trafficking and the money laundering that sometimes comes with it.

Louis Goodman 07:28
How long were you in the northern Texas district before you went to Puerto Rico?

John Teakell 07:35
I think I was in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for about 10 years. And then I got recruited with a handful of Assistant U.S. Attorneys from around the country to go to Puerto Rico because they had lobbied DOJ to get people to come there to help them because it’s a rockin’ place. It was then. I understand it basically still is.

They always have a real full docket. They needed at that time, especially a, some other bodies coming in and helping with the backlog of cases, not only for trial, but just to move the cases one way or the other, it’s a, since it’s a US territory. Of course, it’s got the, the not only U.S. military, but it’s got the federal law enforcement presence and the U.S. Attorney’s office. And since it’s, I’ve called it this and other people have called it this, it’s, it’s a dumping ground for powder cocaine coming out of South America and Central America. And along with that, of course you have murders of rivals. You have murders of government witnesses. You have huge money laundering cases because you’re talking hundreds of kilos usually per load as opposed to like here you might find two to five or 10 or 15 or 20 that’s a large cash here, large find but there it’s that would be a small amount.

Louis Goodman 09:02
How big an office Did they have in Puerto Rico when you were there and how many federal judges?

John Teakell 09:09
The number of Assistant US Attorneys was probably only about 25 to 30 maybe 35 something like that. There were probably about six to seven federal judges. Dockets were always, busy dockets were always full.

Louis Goodman 09:26
What did you think about just living in Puerto Rico?

John Teakell J
Yeah, first I was supposed to be there for six months helping out with this backlog of cases, but six months ended up turning into three years. And when I first heard it and, you know, talked to my wife, we were going to go, I thought this, this’ll be fun.

Kind of wintering in the Caribbean for a while, but extremely busy. Work was very stimulating. As far as living there, the positives were very positive and the negatives were quite negative, just getting used to the place. I mean, you had Mexican Americans, Cuban Americans who would go over and would have trouble making the, getting used to the place, just like, you know, Americanos like me.

So it wasn’t an Hispanic thing. It was just their own little culture and the way they do things. And just the fact that you’re on an Island, it’s not a small Island, like the Virgin Islands. It’s, you know, a hundred miles long and like 40, 30, 40 miles wide. So, but nonetheless, it’s its own culture and it was, some things were good and some things were, took awhile to get used to.

Louis Goodman 10:37
Now, at some point you left Puerto Rico, you left the US Attorney’s Office, and you opened your own practice doing criminal defense. Can you talk a little bit about that process and what prompted you to leave the government, to leave prosecution and become a criminal defense attorney?

John Teakell 10:56
I also got to the point in my life where I felt like it was time to kind of make the move. You know, when I was new to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and then even for quite a few years after that, I thought I was going to be a career prosecutor, but I had read about some quotes from two that I remember, two other assistant U.S. Attorneys from some, I think, internal publications within DOJ, interviewing them. These were people probably 15 or 20 years older than me, 15 or so. And they each had independently said this, that they just felt like it was time to move on. And when I got in my like early 40s to mid 40s I actually got that that feeling as well.

It’s like I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to do that. Kids are getting older if I don’t make a jump now, I may never do it. So I did and been spending the last 20 years working on that.

Louis Goodman 11:54
Did you open your own practice? Did you go in with someone else? How did you work the transition?

John Teakell 11:59
I’ve always been a sole practitioner.

When I first came out, I was officing with another former assistant U.S. Attorney who was older than me. Same track. I had met him through dealing with him. He had left, I think, before I came to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. I’d worked with him some, got to know him, spent a little time with him. He and I were invited to go in, do an office sharing with another group.

Although we, everyone kept their own office, whether it was just a SOAP law office of or limited liability office. Each person had its own office, their own practice, and it was an office sharing arrangement. I was there for several years. And for several years, I’ve just been strictly in my own location.

So I’ve always been a sole practitioner, and I’ve just maintained that throughout, even though I’m not sharing office space with another attorney now.

Louis Goodman 12:54
Can you talk a little bit about the difference between the State and the federal practice, where you are?

John Teakell 13:02
in the state system, you have, you have things that law enforcement often is reactionary to: robbery, assault, theft, things of those nature.

And then you have on the federal side, you have cases, investigations that take longer, generally speaking, and for the most part, the underlying facts are, are a lot. It’s a more complex factual situation more fact intense, for example, an insurance fraud investigation, bank fraud, securities fraud, computer intrusion, things of those nature would take longer to investigate.

Louis Goodman 13:43
Do you have a preference in terms of working in one system versus the other since you do work in both?

John Teakell 13:49
I’ve gotten used to the federal system. And if I had to say one or the other, I would probably say the federal system. It’s more complex. It’s a more formal system. The practicalities of those are that it is in, for the most part, a harsher system because of the sentencing guidelines.

It’s a point system that doesn’t exist in the state system. So it’s more involved in the federal system. And it’s a process and one of the things that I recommend and always try to do is try to get in early as you can to try to see what you can negotiate and head off as far as what’s coming against the client.

Louis Goodman 14:29
You’ve had a lot of experience, certainly in criminal practice on both the state and federal level, both as a prosecutor and a defense attorney. What is it that you really like about practicing law? What is it that keeps you as a lawyer?

John Teakell 14:44
It’s a challenge sometimes but it is rewarding when you can help someone either, either stop or kill, as I call it, kill an investigation with no action against your client.

Or if you get a situation where it’s, even if it’s an agreement case, not a trial case, even in spite of the sentencing guidelines, if you can convince the court to come all the way down to probation. which has happened sometimes, then that’s a great win just in itself. So I think that’s, that’s probably the reward, rewarding part.

Louis Goodman 15:20
If a young person were just coming out of college and thinking about a career choice, would you recommend the law?

John Teakell 15:25
I would, I’d say yes, if they truly had a heart for it. You know, you hear stories about people who want to be an attorney or a doctor or an astronaut or whatever, because they’re going, Oh, look how much money I can make.

There’s money to be made in all those professions. But I would say if you’re, if your heart is really in it. And continues to be then you look at it. So yes, if your heart’s in it.

Louis Goodman 15:52
You are now in a private practice, your own practice. How has the business of practicing law gone for you? What can you say about the business of practicing law?

John Teakell 16:04
If you’re talking about the economic side, then yeah, it’s a challenge in itself. It was kind of, it was, scary coming out, leaving just, you know, your salary job and then going, well, okay, now I’ve got to start the office. I got to look and see how much money I can spend to try to ramp up and make it known that I’m out here.

And at that time when I came out, the, actually being online was pretty new. So I hit it probably at the right time and getting in and getting a website out there and going forward and trying to get ahead of the crowd that way, as things change and people catch up, there’s always that continual trying to keep out there, keep up, keeping your name out there, deciding how much money you’re going to spend on the advertising, the media, you know, getting articles published, so on and so forth to help your SEO related things to keep your keep you up kind of high so people can find you when they’re looking for you on the, on the internet. Yeah, it’s a challenge. It continues to be, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t.

I’ve been blessed with some good business and, and, and good results for clients. But it doesn’t mean that all the practicalities of, of the practice stop. They don’t. It’s still there and you have to still spend money and you have to decide where and how much.

Louis Goodman 17:35
Yeah. I mean, one of the things that I think about is the fact that law schools do very little if any preparation for an attorney being in business. When I left the District Attorney’s Office, I fortunately had some business mentors who helped me but I’ve found that running the business was a huge challenge that practicing law is one thing and representing clients and going to court. I mean, I had basic understanding of how to do that. The day-to-day operation of a business and bookkeeping and keeping records for taxes and keeping employee expenses. And as you say, you know, figuring out marketing strategies. I’ve found that over the years to be a huge challenge.

John Teakell 18:25
You’re exactly right, Louis.

It is. And I just, I don’t want to just sound like I’m being negative, but I mean that that’s reality and you, and you’ve hit it on the head. It’s law schools don’t prepare you for that. Just like they don’t prepare you for some of the realities of practicing law, whether you’re a prosecutor or government employee in some other capacity or in private practice. Some things you just have to learn out there and certainly they really did not I don’t recall, as I’m sitting here thinking as to what you said. I don’t recall anything in law school about… Okay. Now here’s the realities if you go into private practice What you’re going to do if you’re not just working for a firm?

Louis Goodman 19:08
I’ve had a couple of very good friends both from law school, from the DA’s Office who kind of gave practicing law a try.

And they just said, Hey, you know, this really is not for me. And they went on to do different things. And I’m thinking of two people in particular, one who ended up going to chiropractor school and the other who became a teacher and a coach at a high school, both very, very happy with their career change.

Neither one is practicing law, but I think that in all of the people who I’ve talked to for this podcast, the one thing that kind of sort of runs as a thread through it is that I think lawyers in general are born, not made and that people who are lawyers kind of know at a fairly early stage in life that that this is their calling and I think that it is kind of a calling and I think as you say, if you think that you’re going to go into law because it’s a very lucrative profession, you’re going to be sadly, disappointed with that aspect of it. I think you have to really see it as a calling and seeing is something that you really want to do.

John Teakell 20:12
Yeah. I think you’re right about that. It’s true. You know, there’s a lot of people that are, some people end up doing quite well money-wise.

I’ve been blessed and have made a good living, but you know, it’s just like we were talking a little while ago. I mean, you have the realities of the expenses and what you have to pay, and some months are better than others, some are a lot better than others, some are a lot less than others. It’s just like I had heard before I went into private practice, it’s like, you know, kind of comes in waves.

Sometimes it does. And yeah, I do. The bottom line is I think you have to, you have to have the heart for it and want to continue to do it because otherwise I think it can become a drudgery.

When I was coming out, I was talking to attorneys who are in private practice, defense attorneys, and I would ask them questions about the reality and there was one man who was a well-established criminal defense attorney. He was probably 25 years older than me. I never was a prosecutor with him. And I asked him a couple of questions and he said, John, this is, this is a tough, tough way of making a living. You know, being a criminal defense attorney. At the time I thought he was just saying that to discourage me from coming out so there would be one less criminal defense attorney out there. But I realized, not just now, but I realized fairly soon thereafter that he was just being truthful with, from my perspective and a lot of people’s perspective, I think that’s true. So yeah, I think it goes back to what you said.

It’s, you know, if you really have a desire for it, and have the heart for it, you know, I wouldn’t discourage anybody. I would just say look at the different areas that you think that you really are interested in.

Louis Goodman 21:58
I have kind of a two-part question, and you could answer it either way or both, but what do you think is the best advice you’ve ever received? And what advice would you give to a young attorney just starting out?

John Teakell 22:12
Well, I’ll answer the second one and think about the first one while I’m answering the second. The best advice I could give to an attorney coming out, I think generally would be try to find the area that you truly are interested in, kind of like what we’re saying, follow your heart.

If you’re talking about trying to get into criminal defense, I would tell any young person to try to get some prosecution experience because I think that gives you a basis to compare that with defense. And so I think having that makes you a better defense attorney. Best advice, I think the thing that comes to my mind that I’ve always remembered, and maybe this is it, there was, is one of those guys that I would kind of keep up with and ask who were older than me, and his response was, get used to being told no a lot.

And I knew immediately what he was talking about. No by judges, no by prosecutors. No from witnesses, no from probation officers, you know, on and on. So that is, I think probably one of the better pieces of advice I could give. And what I’ve tried to remember, because it’s true. And just, you know, you have to kind of shine it on and keep your perspective and keep rolling.

Louis Goodman 23:30
Let me shift gears here a little bit. I wonder if you could tell me what your family life has been like and how that has fit into your career and how your career has fit into your family life.

John Teakell 23:39
It’s one of those situations where it has, I’ll say interrupted a number of times when we had family situations, family outings, taking calls, even on vacation, you know, doing things like that.

So it’s affected and my daughters, you know, will tell you that. In fact, my, the flip side to that is my. older daughter who had recently gotten married has said more than once, Oh, well, that actually prepared me for when I’m having to do that at work, or especially when my husband is doing that at work and I’m having to wait on him.

So yeah, it affected it in that way. And I, over the years kind of felt bad about that, but it was something that my good wife had endured, and my children learned to, I think they learned a couple of things from it that one, you know, everything in life doesn’t always go your way. And secondly, sometimes you have to try to do something to go the extra, to try to help someone.

Louis Goodman 24:46
Let’s say you came with some real money, say 3or 4 billion dollars. What, if anything, would you do differently in your life?

John Teakell 24:54
Probably be a little more selective on what I do at work. I’m not saying that I would immediately quit. It kind of goes back to what we said a while ago about having the heart for it.

I would certainly, like anyone, I think reevaluate.

Louis Goodman 25:09
John, is there a way that someone can contact you if another attorney wanted to refer a case to you or had some questions about what was going on in the legal world in Texas, or someone who listens to this podcast wanted to Contact you about representation.

What’s the best way to contact you?

John Teakell 25:29
I’d say through my website. It’s Www T-E-A-K-E-L-L-L-A And my last name, then the word T-E-A-K-E-L-L-A

Louis Goodman 25:48
And I assume that if someone Googles John Teakell Dallas Attorney, they’ll be able to find you as well. Is that correct?

John Teakell 25:58
I think that site will come up pretty quickly or toward the top. Yes, sir.

Louis Goodman 26:03
John, is there anything that you wanted to talk about we haven’t discussed? Anything at all that you wanted to bring up?

John Teakell 26:09
Now, I think that, I think some of the important things that I would say, I think you covered in Louis as far as the difference between federal versus state, some of the trends we’re seeing and how the system works.

I would add this: as we alluded to earlier in, in the federal system investigations usually take longer, it’s usually a more complex set of facts. I try to get in early when I’m retained to keep abreast of what’s going on. So you can try to either push back before the person is indicted, meaning before he’s formally charged, by the prosecutor’s office. Or, if it looks like it’s going to be a good case for the government, at least find out what’s coming at him. And if you can mitigate that as you go along, either through evidence you can show the U.S. Attorney or through negotiations on some pre indictment agreement. Then that is one of the beauties of the federal system.

You have that time and usually there’s a window that you can get in and do that. The other thing is people who are under investigation need to understand that it is a process, especially in the federal system.

Louis Goodman 27:25
John Teakell, thank you so much for joining me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you.

John Teakell 27:31
Same thing, Louis. I appreciate you much. Thank you for having me.

Louis Goodman 27:35
That’s it for today’s episode of Love Thy Lawyer. If you enjoyed listening, please share it with a friend and follow the podcast. If you have comments or suggestions, send me an email. Take a look at our website at, where you can find all of our episodes, transcripts, photographs and information.

Thanks to my guests, and to Joel Katz for music, Bryan Matheson for technical support, Paul Robert for social media and Tracy Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.

John Teakell 28:15
Gosh, I’m drawing a blank right now. Oh wow. Oh, give me about 30 minutes or a couple hours and I’ll come back and give you a good answer. That’s kind of caught me off guard, but let me think here.

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