A normally quiet law firm in the heart of downtown Norfolk was a little rowdier Feb. 21 as they said farewell to a loved and long-standing attorney, Lawrence “Larry” Cardon. After 42 years of service at The Decker Law Firm, Larry is stepping down and retiring. His fellow lawyers, judges, friends, family, and all manner of acquaintances celebrated Larry’s accomplishments while overlooking a sunset on the Elizabeth River at Waterside. Martin Thomas, a senior member of the firm remarked, “I think every general district court judge from Virginia Beach was there, as well as Norfolk Circuit Court judges and Juvenile Court judges from all around the area.”
And while there were many heartfelt goodbyes, few believe Larry is gone from the firm for good. He is expected to reappear from time to time like a warm seaside breeze in retirement, as he refers to both Norfolk and the firm itself as “home” often.
Larry has been representing clients since 1976 in various legal fields including personal injury, criminal defense, and traffic defense. His exploits outside of work span an equally impressive range, from meeting celebrities like Muhammad Ali, securing several weightlifting world records, world traveling, and even wrestling Pete Decker Jr., the firm’s founder.
In fact, it was shortly after being hired there that Larry challenged Pete to a friendly match. “We got into a discussion one day as to who was better at fighting,” Larry said, fondly recounting the 40-year-old story, “And I said ‘come on let’s wrestle.’ He weighed 60 pounds more than me and he was 6 feet 2 inches. Later, I was in a wrestling stance in the hallway of the firm and I had a real tight grip on his waist and I said, ‘What are you gonna do now?’ And Pete turned around to look at me and said, ‘You’re fired!’”
Larry remembers Pete as someone who “didn’t like to lose,” and the same can be said for himself. This appetite for winning and challenging others pushed Larry to secure several world records in weightlifting, including a maximum bench press of 374.8 pounds at the height of his health.
In the realm of law, though, Larry is well-known in the Virginia Beach General District Court, Virginia Beach Circuit Court, and Virginia Beach Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court for defending those who face charges such as speeding tickets, driving under the influence, drug offenses, homicide, and sexual offenses.
No matter the case, Larry always put his maximum effort and care toward the client, both in and out of the courtroom. “Larry helped a lot of young kids that came from bad situations. Then he took them under his wing,” Thomas, one of his peers at the firm, spoke of an especially emotionally-significant case to Larry.
“I would often take people out with my family during a case,” Larry remarked, “and I have heard from many of them years later.”
More than his impressive professional resume, Larry has basically become a fixture in the Virginia Beach court system. Thomas acknowledged the gap Larry will leave, saying, “We’ll miss him for sure.”
His familiarity around the courtrooms and his steadfast nature made Larry an incredible asset to the firm, and his generosity, friendly nature, and kindness also made him almost like a family member As Pete Decker, III of the firm said, “Larry was partners with my dad for so long that he is like family… The one thing about Larry that always sticks with me is his kindness, he was always kind to everyone he met from every walk of life. We’re definitely going to miss him, I truly believe he embodies the philosophy my father established at our law firm, the tradition of always helping people.”
When asked to declare a favorite memory from his 42 years at the firm, Larry took a long look around the room, smiled, raised his hands, gesturing to everything. “The whole time. It’s been wonderful, it’s not a job. It’s love … Everyone here loves the law, loves the people, and it shows in court. I went through 42 years here and never had an argument with anyone, and it was wonderful.”
And there may be good reason for that. George Neskis, a partner at the firm said “to so many of us who have worked with him over the years here at The Decker Law Firm, Larry has been a mentor, a big brother, a great colleague, and the greatest friend. I consider it one of the greatest honors of my career to have practiced with him.”
Martin Thomas offered a word of warning about the law veteran before he sails off into retirement. “Don’t ever enter into any kind of contest with Larry because you can’t win … You can’t beat him at anything.”