Lawyer jokes may not fly when the Sacra brothers get together, but they have been known to partake in some "spirited debates."
Brothers Jeff, Ryan and Damon Sacra have all, for one reason or another, become attorneys practicing in Tulsa an unusual occurrence given their upbringing and divergent interests.
Recently all three brothers, who all work in different areas of law, carved time out of their schedules to meet at brother Ryan Sacra's law firm in a 40th-floor conference room of Conner & Winters, to discuss how it is the three of them became lawyers.
We'll start with 42-year-old Ryan, who is the middle brother, and the one who was always told he should be an attorney. His brothers describe him as a "big athlete" growing up, someone who played soccer, team handball and football for a couple of years.
"Our dad was a doctor, and I always did better at science than anything, but I hated to visit my dad in the hospital, and knew I didn't want to end up there, and was told as a young kid, by many different people that I thought and talked like a lawyer and ought to be one," he said.
Case in point: Ryan remembers as a child having a conversation with his mother about radar detectors and wondering why it was legal to sell them since they help people break the law. Today, he has parlayed that curiosity into a legal career, practicing in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, general corporate matters and securities regulation as a partner with Conner & Winters.
At 46, Jeff is the oldest and the "serious one" from childhood, recalled his brothers. Growing up, he always was much better at subjects that were consistent with law such as literature and writing and expressing oneself verbally, he said.
Today, Jeff works as vice president, general counsel for Saint Francis Health System, where he oversees the legal, licensing and compliance matters.
"I really liked abstract concepts. I took a few classes as an undergraduate that had a focus on constitutional law, and I really found that stimulating," Jeff Sacra said. "I knew I wanted to go on and do something after college, and I knew I wanted to have something that was intellectually stimulating."
Jeff said he enjoys the opportunity to challenge himself almost on a daily basis. Although he specializes in health care, it's a broad subject that "forces a lot of study and growth and evolution as a lawyer."
Damon, the youngest at 41 and the "free spirit," found his calling a little later. His older brothers remember a kid brother who was "always going from one pursuit to another and trying to find himself." He was a punk rocker, break dancer and music lover, who listened to and performed Kiss concerts.
"I too always found the most pleasure in reading and writing and public speaking, but I wasn't drawn to the law immediately. In fact, I felt a lot of pressure to go to law school because my two older brothers were practicing attorneys," Damon said.
Instead, after graduating from college, Damon headed for Vail, Colo., where he hung out and lived for one season before returning to Tulsa and working a few years as a server-bartender at various places. It was later, while pursuing graduate studies and initially starting a Ph.D program in education administration, that Damon took a class in educational law that sparked his interest.
He wrapped up his coursework getting a master's degree in education administration, instead, and went to law school. Today, Damon is in solo practice through Sacra Law, which focuses on civil litigation, personal injury and criminal defense.
"We could definitely start a power firm if we wanted .... I've plugged it, but these guys aren't interested," Damon said.
His brothers, indeed, quickly dismiss the idea.
"I'm pretty happy where I am," Jeff said.
"I think that would be a bad idea, truly," said Ryan to chuckles.
People typically are amazed to find out the three of them are attorneys, especially because their father was a doctor.
Physicians typically don't have much admiration for lawyers, and people wonder what he did wrong to have his three sons go into law school, Jeff said.
But, as he and his brothers noted, their father, Dr. John Sacra, the former medical director of the Medical Control Board, had an interest in law and probably would have been a good one. "He provided medical expert testimony, and I think at one point even wished he was a lawyer," Ryan said.
Currently, their father is a professor emeritus with Department of Emergency Medicine at the School of Community Medicine at the Schusterman Center and serves as a consultant to the Oklahoma Department of Health for trauma system development.
The family tree does include attorneys, however. The brothers refer to an uncle, Elton Johnson, on their mother's side, who is now retired but worked as a sole practitioner in Tahlequah. A late great uncle, Joe Shumate, on their father's side, was a judge in Pauls Valley.
The brothers also have much to be grateful for in their mother, Nancy Sacra, who is now retired from a teaching career, but for several years gave up her outside job to stay home and raise her boys. She returned to teaching in 1989 when Damon was a senior in high school, and taught fourth grade in the Union district at Darnaby and Jarman Elementary schools.
Said Damon, "... Our mother always taught us the value of education and hard work and ... she remains unequivocally supportive of our families and our endeavors. She is a great mother."
All three love what they do. Ask them to pick one word to describe themselves and they each choose words that could be interchanged with one another words like "happy," "content" and "blessed."
Tulsa is home the place where they were born, raised, have roots and plan to stay the rest of their lives.
Said Ryan, who practiced law for two years in New York City, "It gave me a greater appreciation of home. I love Tulsa."
And as much as these three bothers look forward to going to work every day, they also look forward to going home at the end of the day to their beautiful wives and the lives that await them there, each said.
- Jeff Sacra, 46, vice president, general counsel, joined Saint Francis Health System in 2002. He oversees the legal, licensing and compliance matters for the health system. He received a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Oklahoma and holds a juris doctorate from Vanderbilt University School of Law. He is a member of the American Health Lawyers Association, Oklahoma Bar Association and Tulsa County Bar Association.
- Ryan Sacra, 42, is a partner with Conner & Winters. He practices in the areas of mergers and acquisition, general corporate matters and securities regulation. He earned a bachelor of business administration in finance as well as his law degree from the University of Oklahoma. He is a member of the Bar of the State of New York as well as the Bar of the State of Oklahoma.
- Damon Sacra, 41, practices with Sacra Law PLLC, a solo firm that focuses on civil litigation, personal injury and criminal defense. Damon began his legal career as a prosecutor with the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office and spent several years in the field of insurance defense. He received his bachelor of arts degree in political science from Westminster College, Fulton, Mo. He also has a master of arts in English, a master of education in education administration, and his juris doctorate from OU.
Laurie Winslow 918-581-8466