The Dazzling Larry Farese
Business attorney by day; rock legend by night
Published in 2009 Florida Super Lawyers magazine
on June 15, 2009
Updated on June 18, 2009
The King is alive and well and belting out tunes—along with Frank Sinatra and Frankie Valli—in Southwest Florida. On any given night, Naples attorney Larry Farese and his band, the Dazzling Del Rays, may take the stage somewhere around town and morph into singing legends of days gone by.
“When we do the Frankie Valli shows, we do gold lamé jackets and I have a big pompadour wig I wear,” says Farese, who by day is a dignified business and probate litigation partner at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi. “Because I’m bald, it’s funny.”
Farese has been immersed in music his whole life. His father played guitar and sang. “There was always music in the house,” he says. “I listened to the big bands of the ’30s, and Sinatra and Tony Bennett, so I got an appreciation for music that was far beyond what was being played for my particular generation, and I never lost that.”
Farese made his first professional appearance on the drums at age 11, when he and the Jaguars—which included brother Jim and two neighborhood boys on guitars—played before a school audience. “I remember that well, because the feeling you get when you entertain people was a rush,” says Farese.
As a trial lawyer, Farese brings his gift for presentation to the courtroom. “When I tell an opening or a closing statement, I act it out a little bit. I don’t just sit there and read from a document,” he says. Playing to the jury is his favorite part of the trial. “I bring the case to life. … If there is a moment of levity that is appropriate, I’ll use it—but I won’t overdo it.”
Such is his love of music that, before law school, Farese thought he’d be a full-time musician. As an undergrad, his ’50s cover band, Sunny Ray and The Dazzling Del Rays, found success playing in nightclubs. But his wife had other hopes for her new husband’s career path. “She said, ‘Anything else you could do?'” Farese recalls with a laugh. “And I said, ‘Well, I’m thinking about going to law school.'”
When he graduated from University of Miami with his J.D. in 1977, Farese’s job prospects took another turn. Loving the thrill of trying cases, he hoped to become a U.S. prosecutor. But at that time, President Jimmy Carter had just been elected. “All the U.S. attorneys were lame ducks, so I couldn’t get a job,” he says.
Instead, Farese took a position in Connecticut at Cummings & Lockwood, where he settled into a “garden variety” of business and probate litigation. For more than a decade, he defended major asbestos manufacturer W.R. Grace, at one point helping to secure a jury verdict for the defense in a property damage claim in which the plaintiff had asked for $18 million.
On the plaintiff side, Farese often reaps $5 million-plus judgments and verdicts in his business cases, and settlements much larger than that. But his favorite is probate litigation.
“It involves situations with families,” he says. “In will contests, for example, you have to learn about the entire family and go back to, really, the beginnings of the people involved, learn about their lives and figure out why the will ended up the way it was.”
When Cummings & Lockwood opened an office in Naples in 1978, Farese happily returned to the warmer weather, moving on to Robins, Kaplan in 2005.
Since his brother and his old bass player, James Meade, both recently moved to town, Farese’s music schedule is busier. In July, they’ll perform before the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. For major performances, Farese sticks to singing; his brother, his bass player and two brothers-in-law play backup. For smaller gigs, Farese plays drums and sings with two of the others.
For now, music and the law share a sweet harmony in Farese’s life. “I like to perform in front of an audience,” he says. “It’s the showmanship.” Same thing in the courtroom, with one major difference: “It’s putting on a presentation,” he says, “in the serious world.”