October 28, 2020 Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight: Tom Bolt

By Tom Bolt

Tell us a little bit about your career.

I started working in my father’s law firm when I was in high school and continued to do so through college and law school. As I looked towards graduation, I happened to read the book, What Color is Your Parachute? by Dick Bolles, a unique self-inventory that helps you design your career—and your life—around your key passions, transferable skills, traits, and more. I had family that lived in the U.S. Virgin Islands and I was quite involved in politics having served as Vice Chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party during law school. So I thought, why not be a lawyer involved in politics in the U.S. Virgin Islands?  At the time I was working for our Governor and requested that he write a letter of introduction to the Governor of the Territory. I thought I might be offered a job as Assistant Counsel to the Governor, but the Legislature had recently gone through a mid-term reorganization, led by the Democrats, and the powers that be said, “We need someone to serve as Counsel to the Legislature.”  I responded, “Where do I sign up?” I continued in this position for almost ten years, when I decided I had to go back to the life of private practice that I had known in my father’s firm. Working with what was then the ABA Law Practice Management Section, I followed their instruction exactly, and to my surprise, I grew one of the largest most successful law firms in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Is it what you had planned when you started law school?

When I started law school, I thought that I would marry my college sweetheart and we would return to my hometown where I would work in my father’s firm. Little did I know that fate would have another plan for me.

What has been the highlight of your career?

One of the greatest highlights of my career has been to serve as a Commissioner of the Uniform Law Commission and a member of the ABA House of Delegates, both for over 30 years.

If you could go back to the beginning of your legal career, would you have done anything differently?

My father told me that if I was going to practice in South Carolina, I should go to the University of South Carolina School of Law. Well, as I have noted, my career did not proceed as I originally contemplated.  With my interest in politics, I may have attended a law school in Washington, DC, and worked with the U.S. Congress.

What advice would you give to someone considering law school today? 

The questions that I ask aspiring law students today are: “Do you have a fire in your belly to become a lawyer?” I believe that you must have a commitment to the law to succeed. Also, I advise if you are going to law school to make lots of money, don’t! Yes, you can make a good living in the legal profession, but do not count on making your life’s fortune in the field of law.

What were the biggest changes you saw in the legal profession over the course of your career?

Little has changed in the legal profession over the years. Yes, we have had to adapt to Gen X’ers and Gen Y’s and their work style, but it is still the same practice that it was 100 years ago. More needs to change such as Multi-Disciplinary Practices. We have to provide the client what they need. It is incumbent upon us all to grow the practice of law and adapt to a changing world.

When did you first become a member of the ABA and why did you decide to join?

I first became a member of the ABA through the Law Student Division when I attended the University of South Carolina School of Law. After graduation, I moved to the U.S. Virgin Islands, became involved with the VI Bar Association and assisted in establishing the Virgin Islands affiliate to ABA Young Lawyers Division. In 1989, the U.S. Virgin Islands were not represented in the ABA House of Delegates. Working with George Bushnell, Chair of the ABA House of Delegates, and Mike McWilliams, an ABA stalwart and a future ABA President, I successfully petitioned the House of Delegates to amend the ABA Constitution to add the U.S. Virgin Islands as a constituent entity. Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa soon followed.

I decided to join the ABA for the ability to network and learn.

What has been the highlight of your work with the ABA?

Although I recently completed a three year term on the ABA Board of Governors, have served 31 years in the ABA House of Delegates, and am currently serving as Chair of the ABA Standing Committee on the Law Library of Congress, the highlight of my work with the ABA would have to be my term as Chair of the Law Practice Division. The Law Practice Division assists all lawyers regardless of practice setting.

If you had not become a lawyer, what do you think you would have done?

If I had not become a lawyer, I think I would have worked in a non-profit assisting others in need. Currently, I serve on The Salvation Army National Advisory Board and have often thought of serving as a Salvation Army officer in a “second season of service.”

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Author

Tom Bolt is Managing Attorney of BoltNagi PC, a full service business law on St. Thomas, U.S Virgin Islands.  He concentrates his practice in government relations, real estate, affordable housing, banking and estate planning.