GPSolo Magazine - September 2004
Voices of Experience
What is your background, and what inspired you to become a lawyer?
I have a B.A. in psychology from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, and a J.D. from George Washington Law School in Washington, D.C. My mother inspired me to become a lawyer. She went to law school and became a lawyer as a second career, so I had an opportunity to observe her work habits and be around her study group partners.
What influenced your decision to pursue a general practice/solo/small firm career?
Both my parents are professionals who started solo/general practices.
What did you find hardest about setting up as a general practice/solo/small firm lawyer, and where did your biggest help come from?
The hardest thing is making a firm decision to start a practice and not looking back. My biggest help came from my wife, my family, and my local bar association in Louisville.
What are the biggest changes in law practice you have observed through the years?
The increasing number of lawyers going out on their own and deciding to specialize rather than run a general practice.
What early lawyer experiences have helped you in your career?
I had the benefit of working for and with some outstanding lawyers who taught me how to prepare and handle cases.
Whom do you most admire?
Martin Luther King Jr., Bill Clinton, and Benjamin Mays .
What was the best professional advice you ever received?
Be a good listener. Good listeners make the best lawyers.
What was the worst professional advice you ever received?
Do not give telephone consultations. It is a risk management issue, but I believe that when someone calls me reaching out for help, I have an obligation as a lawyer to provide him or her with some direction. I always try to do that.
Who or what got you started with ABA and/or GP Section involvement?
Judge Mason Trenaman, formerly of the Jefferson County, Kentucky, Family Court, got me involved with the ABA Young Lawyers Section in 1999, when I was a Minorities in the Profession Committee Scholarship recipient.
What can the ABA and or GP Section do to be a good home to young lawyers?
Keep inviting them to participate. I believe many young lawyers are not involved simply because they have never been asked, not because they do not want to participate.
What personality trait has served you best through the years?
I have a strong faith that has guided me through some tough and scary moments.
What is the one thing you cannot stand regarding the law/lawyers?
The disrespectful manner in which lawyers sometimes communicate with one another.
What advice would you give new lawyers?
• Conduct yourself within the boundaries of civility and professionalism no matter what others may do.
• Never personalize your cases.
• Stay in touch with your mentors (call them, take them to lunch, etc.)
• Believe in yourself (even when few others do).
• Make participation in bar activities a regular part of your practice.