INEZ—When John Kirk stepped into a courtroom to try his first case, he ended up with the largest money verdict given by a Martin County jury and changed the law in the process, getting his case into the Kentucky law books and establishing what became known to lawyers as the Grace Mullins Principle: that coal companies transporting coal over the land of another without a lease must account for the tonnage transported and pay wheelage for each ton. Before the Mullins principle was adopted by the courts, land owners could only assert damages to the land, regardless of the amount of coal transported across the property.
The Mullins case was just the beginning as John took on the railroads, banks and other corporations throughout eastern Kentucky and elsewhere, always on the side of the individual and always, it seemed, on the winning side.
Some of his trials, especially when he represented persons accused of crimes, drew large crowds into large courtrooms. John Kirk became known for his work habits—60 hour weeks—and for winning. Probably more importantly, he developed a reputation for honesty, to persons he dealt with on a non-lawyer basis and to people he represented.
Now, twenty years after the Mullins case, little has changed in some ways as the lawyer continues to put in 60-hour weeks, but things are very different in other ways. From the solo office in Inez, Kirk Law Firm, as the practice is now known, has offices in seven Kentucky counties and associate offices in Columbus, Ohio, Charleston, West Virginiaand Washington, DC.