- When did you realize you wanted to become a lawyer, and who were your influencers?
I grew up in the small town of Union, Mississippi. We only had one lawyer in the entire town: Rex Gordon, Jr. Rex coached the Union High School Mock Trial Team, and I was on the team for three years. I loved facing other schools and jousting with them in the courtroom. I only graduated with 44 people, so that gives you an idea of how small our high school was. We fared very well competing against much larger schools. Rex was a great guy, and really good to our team, and me in particular. He would have our team over to his office at night and we would practice. He would be drinking bourbon during practice, and was really funny. Rex had a huge nice house, a cool old Bronco that he drove around town, and he always seemed to be happy. Everyone in town respected him, so naturally I thought if I was a lawyer my life would be similar. Little did I know what a big difference there was in the law practice of a solo practitioner in a town of 2,000 people and practicing law in a city with over 400 lawyers! Later in life I was able to attend the Municipal Court Judges Conference with Rex because he was the Municipal Court Judge in Union, and I served as the Judge in Sardis. That was neat to get to see someone I grew up admiring on a professional level. My grandmother, Courtney Tannehill, really pushed me to go to law school. I was not real sure about a three year school commitment after I had finished my undergraduate and graduate degree, but I wanted to please her.
2. Why did you decide to stay in Oxford to build your practice?
My mother worked for the University of Mississippi for eleven years while I was growing up, so I spent my youth driving to Oxford with her and staying here. I got to know many local Oxonians during that time, and fell in love with Oxford and Ole Miss at an early age. While I was in law school I clerked for a couple of local lawyers, Ed Roberts, and the Tollison Law Firm. Those were incredible experiences, and I learned so much working at both places about how to practice law. While clerking at the Tollison Law Firm they offered me a full-time job. At the time my wife, Robyn, was the Executive Director of the Oxford Tourism Council. It was a great opportunity, and it just made sense to stay in Oxford.
3. Your firm continues to grow. What do you look for most when you bring in new associates into your law firm?
A wise older lawyer told me one time that the biggest compliment a lawyer can get is that a person comes to you with a problem and trusts you to help. Usually that person’s legal issue is the biggest problem they have in their life. I have tried to carry this with me through my career, and pass it on to our staff. We want potential clients to know that we value their business and will do our best to assist them with their legal issue. Therefore, we want our lawyers and staff to handle our clients like this every day. Practicing law is a service industry, so anyone that works in our office has to be able to serve our clients. Therefore, we want lawyers and staff who are good communicators, that have integrity, are willing to work hard, and not looking to take the easy way out.
4. Having won Best of Oxford as best lawyer and best law firm for 2022 and many years in the past, what do you think continues to set you apart?
The “Best of Oxford” Awards we have received over the years are very special to me because there are so many good lawyers in Oxford. In fact, there are more lawyers per capita in Oxford than any other city in Mississippi. Over my 25 years of law practice I have determined that communication is the most important thing for our clients – they want good results, but they can accept results they do not like if they know what is going on in their case. We do the best we can to communicate with all of our clients, but we do not always get it right. Our firm is blessed to have a great staff, who genuinely cares about the well-being of our clients – not just their case. Most of the time the lawyers in our office get the credit, but there is no way we could do what we do without our wonderful staff. Our staff genuinely cares about the people we represent. I think we have good lawyers in our office, but the primary reason I believe people vote for us is because our staff takes good care of clients.
5. If you planned the ideal day in Oxford, what would your day look like?
That’s easy. Double Decker. My wife, Robyn, started the Double Decker Arts Festival when I was in law school, and she was the Executive Director of the Oxford Tourism Council. People cannot understand how hard she worked to start the first one. Robyn had the idea to have a festival to celebrate the arts, food and music, which are three things that Oxford does really well. She was a young lady at the time, and the City of Oxford’s Mayor and Board of Aldermen did not really think much of the festival idea. Robyn got the Tourism Council at the time (Pat Patterson, Bob Vasilyev, Cynthia Gerlach, Jason Plunk, Bill Russell, Angela Hinton, Amy Lowe Lewis, and others) on board they raised all of the money for the first two years by themselves. She got Ross Boatright to donate all of the portable restrooms, Zerk Wilson donated golf carts, and many musicians played for beans because they loved Bill Russell. The festival was staffed with 100% volunteers, which meant that I was called to action. The first two years of the festival Goodloe Lewis and I were in charge of ice and drinks for the concession stand, toilet paper in the porta potties, and trash detail. We picked up all of the trash on the street until the wee hours of the morning. qEvery year Robyn and I love going to Double Decker. We love the music, food, and arts, but most of all we are so excited to see how much it has grown. We love seeing how Double Decker has evolved into this event that people from all over the mid-south travel to Oxford to attend.