In Amazon Prime Video’s legal drama film ‘The Burial,’ Hal Dockins is one of the lawyers of Jeremiah O’Keefe, who sues Raymond “Ray” Loewen’s Loewen Group over a contractual dispute. When Dockins realizes that his client’s case is going to be tried in a predominantly Black county, he takes O’Keefe to Willie E. Gary, a meeting that rewrites the fates of both the funeral home owner and the famed trial lawyer. Dockins also saves O’Keefe’s case by discovering the deal between the Loewen Group and the National Baptist Convention. In the biographical drama, Dockins is an emerging lawyer. But, where is he now? Let us provide the answer!
Hal Dockins is based on a real lawyer. After graduating from Drake University, Dockins attended Mississippi College School of Law, from where he received a juris doctor degree. His career as an attorney kickstarted in 1983. In the 1990s, he was an emerging lawyer who kept a photograph of Willie E. Gary at his desk as a source of inspiration. “When I got depressed, I’d say to myself, ‘This guy came from nothing. If he can do it, I can do it,’” He recollected to Jonathan Harr for his The New Yorker article, which serves as the source text of the film.
Along with Michael Cavanaugh, Dockins was heavily involved in Jeremiah O’Keefe’s case against the Loewen Group despite having little experience in contract law. At the inception stage of the case, Dockins and Cavanaugh negotiated with Loewen’s attorneys for a settlement, aiming for $6.5 million, only to get dismissed. At the time, O’Keefe’s lead attorney was Mike Allred. Dockins was unconvinced that Allred could sway a predominantly Black jury, especially since, as per Harr’s source text, the attorney was known to harbor “racist attitudes.”
In addition, Loewen’s team of lawyers had respected Black members, including two new additions. Dockins then guided O’Keefe to Willie. “Dockins had contended that they needed to counter Loewen’s moves with a first-class trial lawyer, and he had one in mind—one who, as fortune would have it, happened to be black,” Harr’s article reads.
O’Keefe vs Loewen
Through Dockins, O’Keefe met and talked to Willie and together, they fought the Loewen Group in the court. By being a part of O’Keefe’s team of attorneys, Dockins also managed to work along with his inspiration. He cross-examined John Wright, the former president of Wright & Ferguson and a member of Loewen’s board of directors, and established that the Loewen Group raised the prices of death care services after acquiring new funeral homes.
Although O’Keefe and Willie won the case with a remarkable $500 million in damages, only to later settle for $175 million, the conclusion of the same was bittersweet for Dockins. In 1999, he and Allred fought in court to settle a dispute concerning the proper allocation of fees between them for being a part of O’Keefe’s case.
Dockins: Current Whereabouts
Dockins continues to practice law as an attorney in Jackson, Mississippi. He is a senior partner at Dockins, Turnage & Banks, PLLC, a Jackson-based law firm that focuses on “representing the injured, their families, and also small and large businesses.” Although he has mostly chosen to keep his personal life private, he is notably active on social media platforms, through which he discusses several significant matters that range from race, politics, and Black culture in general.