H. LADDIE MONTAGUE JR. ’63: MAKING A LASTING DIFFERENCE
Ask H. Laddie Montague Jr. ’63 what the most memorable case of his enviable career has been, and he doesn’t hesitate to respond.
“Oh, without a doubt, going to Alaska. I spent six months on the Exxon Valdez case,” says the Dickinson Law graduate, referring to the famed 1989 oil spill in Prince William Sound that sparked a class action lawsuit by local fishermen whose livelihoods were affected by the spill.
Montague served as a trial counsel for the plaintiffs, who won a record settlement worth hundreds of millions. He recalls exploring the Alaskan wilderness during the trial, often with his clients as guides, hiking up the mountain now known as Denali, and discovering towns around Alaska.
“When you drive around Alaska, half the time your mouth is wide open,” Montague says. “Right before the trial, we had our clients take us on their fishing boat and traced the path of the Exxon Valdez, up till the time it grounded. Sailing in Prince William Sound was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.”
That wasn’t the first or last time Montague worked on a case that made headlines. From representing Connecticut in litigation against the tobacco industry to winning settlements of more than half a billion dollars in numerous class action cases, Montague is known as one of the country’s premier antitrust lawyers.
In 1995, he and several colleagues earned trial lawyer of the year from Trial Lawyers for Public Justice for their work on the Exxon Valdez case, and he regularly makes Philadelphia magazine’s annual list of 100 top lawyers in Pennsylvania.
Montague is also one of Dickinson Law’s most ardent advocates and generous donors. The H. Laddie Montague Jr. Law Library is named for him, he has held many leadership positions at the Law School, and he played an instrumental role in discussions to ensure the long-term success of the Law School with separate accreditation.
He says attending Dickinson Law was one of the defining decisions of his life, opening doors in his career and giving him a lifelong passion for ensuring others receive access to similar opportunities.
Montague’s life could have followed a very different path. After he graduated from college, he wasn’t even sure he wanted to go to law school.
“I wanted to give it a try — I knew I wasn’t a businessman, but I wasn’t sure about law school,” he says.
It took just half a semester for Montague to decide: He definitely made the right choice.
“I just enjoyed it immensely,” he says of law school. “It was a whole different way of thinking, it was very challenging intellectually — much more than college.”
Other than his three years in Carlisle, Montague has resided in Philadelphia his entire life. He nearly attended law school there, too, but he was swayed by a lawyer who sang the praises of Dickinson Law and said it would be foolish to go elsewhere.
“I wouldn’t have the career I had without the Law School,” says Montague.
Indeed, a faculty member at Dickinson Law introduced Montague to another Philly attorney, David Berger, with whom Montague eventually formed the law practice Berger Montague. From the 1970s on, the pair helped pioneer the use of class actions in antitrust cases. Berger passed away in 2007, but Montague remains active at the firm, chairing the Antitrust Department while serving as chairman emeritus and managing shareholder.
“I got my first job through the Law School, and it helped set up my entire future,” says Montague, who currently chairs the Dickinson Law Association and the Dickinson Law Board of Overseers. “I really owe a great deal to it, and I tried to pay it back through the years.”
In addition to his $4 million commitment during the 2007 Dickinson Law fundraising campaign, Montague recently made a gift to the Graduate Scholarship Matching Program to endow the Dean Gary S. Gildin Scholarship at Dickinson Law, in honor of the extraordinary service of the current dean, who will step down next year.
“Dean Gildin has done such a fantastic job, and I have such admiration for him. The faculty and staff, too. Without their dedication and foresight, I don’t know what the law school would be now without them. I felt he was deserving of at minimum a scholarship,” Montague says.
Decades after graduation, Montague’s experiences at Dickinson Law continue to guide him. At the school, he notes, he learned the three things he believes you need to be successful in law — common sense, patience, and the ability to prepare. But he also got way more out of it than an education.
“The most important thing I’ve gained from Dickinson is the friendships. I just hope I’ve made a difference. I’m very happy,” Montague says.