I graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Law in 1991 and began working that year at Peters, Lipscomb & Jones, a partnership of four lawyers (there were two Jones) in Bristol Virginia-Tennessee. The senior partner, Herb Peters, was a graduate of Harvard Law School and had been on a couple of occasions, mayor of Bristol, Virginia. I was admitted to Tennessee by examination on October 23, 1991 and began handling the firm’s Tennessee cases. That firm was a general practice with a focus on real estate and business. I primarily engaged in litigation and ultimately practiced workers’ compensation, personal injury, divorce, criminal defense and business litigation. I was made a partner after about three years, and I was admitted to the Virginia Bar by examination on October 6, 1994. Highlights of my practice of law during this period included a large inverse condemnation case, a federal lawsuit brought by a local chapter against the International Ladies Garment Workers’ Union, a landlord’s policy insurance case being defended on allegations of arson, a church split case involving the Church of God of Prophecy and a large estate contest. Each of those cases went to trial. I was also actively litigating a variety of cases during this time, including personal injury, workers' compensation and domestic relations, and I was on the appointed list in Bristol, Virginia for indigent criminal defendants. I tried one medical malpractice case in Bristol, Tennessee and we got a plaintiff's verdict, something that is very rare in Tennessee.
In 1996 I accepted a position at Gene Cochran, P.C., which was a law firm with principal offices initially in Lebanon, Virginia and later in Abingdon, Virginia. Gene Cochran had been a Commonwealth’s Attorney (prosecutor) and then commenced a personal injury practice that was driven by high volume advertising. I was the firm’s litigator and I tried personal injury (mostly automobile accidents) and workers’ compensation cases all over Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee. Automobile cases were tried to a jury and workers' compensation cases were tried before a judge. This was before workers' compensation became purely administrative in most states. The thing about automobile liability cases is that you don't typically have to take the best cases to trial. Those settle. The cases you end up taking to trial generally have some problematic issue. Sometimes liability is contested and sometimes the insurance company doesn't think that the case is worth what you're asking for it. I can only recall losing one case. In that case, each party had sued the other and each party was claiming that the other party was at fault and there were no witnesses other than the two drivers. The jury entered a defense verdict for both drivers.
In 2000 my wife (an OB/GYN) was recruited to a hospital in Foley, Alabama (near Gulf Shores) and I sat for and passed the Alabama Bar Examination in 2001. I opened an office in Foley, Alabama and practiced primarily workers’ compensation, personal injury and divorce. Workers’ Compensation was an underserved area of the law in southern coastal Alabama and became my principal practice area. However, I also handled divorce and personal injury cases as well as general civil litigation cases. I had one medical malpractice case in Alabama that involved a retained sponge. The physician and surgery center settled that case after depositions.
In 2004 my wife and I decided that the beach was not a good place to raise the kids and we moved to Tullahoma, Tennessee. Previously admitted to Tennessee, I opened offices in Tullahoma immediately and began a full scope small town practice that included personal injury, workers’ compensation, social security disability, bankruptcy and domestic relations. Although I primarily practiced in my own offices, for a period of about four years I shared offices with Randall Morrison, who also served as the City Attorney. By case volume, bankruptcy cases comprised the most new clients and files. By income, workers’ compensation was at least fifty percent of my practice. I assisted Randall with his City Attorney responsibilities and assumed those responsibilities during a period that he suffered and ultimately recovered from throat cancer. My workers’ compensation practice (and that of many other attorneys) was greatly diminished and ultimately abandoned with the last few fatal (to workers) changes to the law. Between 2008 and 2010 (recession) Social Security Disability was a busy practice area and I handled about 60 cases to fully favorable decision. Notable cases during my time in Tullahoma included an 11 USC 1983 wrongful death case brought on behalf of the infant daughter of a county jail inmate who died secondary to alcohol and drug withdrawal; a wrongful death medical malpractice case which was partially settled but also tried as to the non-settling physician over eight days; participation in a lawsuit between the City and County regarding the division of liquor tax proceeds; and I handled the appeal of an adversary proceeding in bankruptcy to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. There were many personal injury cases and, typically, most of them involved automobile accidents.
In 2017 my wife and I were empty-nesters. Our daughter Katy had graduated from UCLA and was in a master’s degree program at the University of Michigan. Our son Alex was in the third year of undergraduate studies at the University of Tennessee. My wife was recruited to work as a laborist for a high risk OB group in St. George, Utah. I applied for reciprocity admission to Utah and was admitted on February 8, 2018. My wife did not like the 24 hour shifts incident to the laborist position and we moved to Vernal, Utah in July 2018. I opened an office in Vernal and began practicing bankruptcy, criminal defense, domestic relations and workers’ compensation. I was, for all intents and purposes, the only bankruptcy lawyer in Vernal. There was only one division of the Utah Bankruptcy Court and that was located in Salt Lake City. The only other court location was in St. George. Chapter 7 Section 341 meetings were in Provo and Chapter 13 meetings were in Salt Lake City. So, I believe that travel dissuaded others from practicing bankruptcy in Northeast Utah. I had a busy criminal practice of mostly DUI and drug offenses. I was appointed as conflict counsel for the City of Vernal. Although I handled a few domestic relations cases, I perceived the need to be primarily bankruptcy and criminal defense and that was the bulk of my practice. Utah's workers' compensation statute seemed somewhat reasonable to me and I also practiced workers' compensation and tried (administrative trial) one case to a judgement for the worker.
Our daughter received her master’s degree at University of Michigan and was accepted into a Ph.D. program in immunology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Our son was accepted to law school at the University of Memphis. At my wife’s urging, in November 2019 we moved back to Tennessee to Dyersburg – which is right between Nashville and Memphis. I opened offices and my practice included bankruptcy, criminal defense, personal injury and domestic relations. Shortly after opening my practice in Dyersburg, Tennessee the Covid-19 pandemic began. Nevertheless, my practice developed quickly. Utah had well developed electronic court filing and I missed that in Tennessee. Only bankruptcy and other federal cases had exclusive electronic court filing.
It was nice that the kids could drive home for holidays and weekends every now and then, but we realized that they would be moving on with their lives soon and that we should really decide where we wanted to be and what we wanted to do. Our long term plans had been to retire to the Pacific Northwest. My wife and I had our honeymoon in the San Juan Islands and we've spent several vacations in the Olympic National Forest and Pacific Coast. Long story short, she is constantly being recruited and one recruitment was just to provide call coverage for a group of OB/GYNs in Albany, Oregon on weekends. No clinic and she is off one weekend each quarter. We came out, everybody liked each other and here we are. And so, I can offer weekend appointments to people who need that.
I was admitted by reciprocity to the Oregon Bar on December 13, 2021. I was not able to find office space in Albany and I really like Salem. I like the city. There was a shortage of office space here too, but I found a small basement office that fits my needs on Liberty Street and I'm open for business. I'm going to work alone. The technology available to lawyers these days makes that very practical. Oregon has electronic filing in both Federal and State Courts and so that's nice. I'll be practicing Bankruptcy, Personal Injury, Criminal Defense, Workers' Compensation and General Civil Litigation. It's always been pretty easy for me to get a practice up and running, but already post-pandemic I've noticed some differences. Also, Salem is a medium to large size city with no shortage of lawyers. So, we'll see. Advertising has also changed quite a bit. The rule of thumb for as long as I can remember has been $1.00 of advertising for every $8.00 of revenue. Now, there are so many advertising venues they want to change that to $1.00 of advertising for every $4.00 of revenue.
Intuitively, you would think that the more companies competing for your advertising dollars the cheaper advertising would be. But, that's not how it is. Google, Facebook, Bing, Yelp, Apple, Youtube and other big players demand a premium for their advertising even though they dilute each other significantly. There are also a lot of third party advertisers in the business of selling attorney services. They are known as attorney directories like Justia, Lawyer.com, AVVO, Martindale-Hubbell and there are others. They try to attract clients and then sell those clients to lawyers. I am constantly bombarded with emails from a lot of attorney services sellers who want me to pay them to send me "leads." I don't think that's for me.
I think that my client is someone who wants to talk to a lawyer and wants to make a decision about the lawyer they hire. They don't want to have their call for legal services turned into a "lead" and have their information sold to the highest bidder. When they call, they want to talk to me; they don't want to talk to someone at a call center and before they ever talk to a lawyer, someone is emailing them a fee agreement for their electronic signature.
Maybe I'm wrong, but I've had some really great clients. Really nice people who appreciate being able to discuss their situation without feeling rushed or pressured to sign a fee agreement. They are not so much interested in the $20 million judgment someone says they got in another case; they are more interested in what can be done in their case.
So, if you can find me amongst all of the attorney and attorney service seller advertising on the internet, I'll be happy to talk about your case and answer all of your questions. If you call and I'm not here or I'm on another line, I will always return your call.