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Member Spotlight: Harry Truman Moore

Harry Truman Moore

Member Spotlight: Harry Truman Moore H. Lewis

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Tell us a little about your career

My entire career has been in private practice, first as an associate (1975), then partner (1978 - 2011), in one of the oldest law firms in the State of Arkansas. Since the death of my last partner, Ray Goodwin, in 2011, I’ve been a solo practitioner, the “last man standing” in a firm that was founded in June of 1889. My office is located in a small town a block away from where I first started. I’m now located in a historic bank building that housed the law firm from 1923 to 1964.

What has been the highlight of your career?

The diversity that a small town practice has afforded to me. I’ve represented clients ranging from farm hands who didn’t have two nickels to rub together, to serving as Arkansas counsel to the motion picture industry. I’ve “made law” through appellate decisions, and by drafting legislation effecting my two major practice areas: family law and agricultural drainage law. My clients include drainage boards for districts that were created by the founders of the firm, J.D. Block and William F. Kirsch, over 100 years ago. And I have to acknowledge my personal satisfaction from using my training as a lawyer to help me in multiple successful public interest endeavors.

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

Very little, except for recognizing that there were some clients that were going to be impossible to please and terminating those representations as soon as I realized that fact.

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

Ask yourself, “why do I want to be a lawyer?” If your answer doesn’t involve factors other than money, then don’t do it. I would also advise them to keep an open mind about what they plan to do if they graduate law school. I never planned to practice law. I was going to return to one of a couple of jobs I had waiting for me on Capitol Hill in D.C. I would tell them that if they want to practice in a small town, that they would have the chance to affect a lot of peoples’ lives either through their work as a lawyer, or through community service. I would also tell them that some of my lawyer friends who have had the most enjoyable careers used their legal training to move into business, banking, or education.

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

First, the pace of the practice. When I started, our “technology” consisted of telephones, individual electric typewriters, dictation equipment, and a photo copier. One of the partners still dictated his correspondence and legal documents to a “secretary” proficient in shorthand. Research meant pulling down books from the firm library, waiting for the “advance sheets” with the most recent decisions of the Arkansas Supreme Court or our local federal courts. There were no faxes, no cell phones, no internet, no “fed ex,” etc. While it is wonderful to go online and read appellate court decisions the day they come down (or are leaked), it is not wonderful that your clients know your email address, and often your cell phone number, and that you can be reached via email or text on one of your “devices” at any hour of any day. The one main thing I would do differently in my practice would be to establish better “boundaries” with my clients. Second, the complexity of the practice. When I started practicing, we considered ourselves qualified to handle almost any type of case except those involving patents or securities. Over the years I have found myself limiting my practice to fewer and fewer areas of the law. There is no way to maintain the level of proficiency necessary to continue to work in so many practice areas.

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

Within days of March 31, 1975, my first day of work in Paragould, Arkansas. The decision to join the ABA had been made for me. The four partners in the firm (I was the only associate) were all members of the ABA, and one of my “perks” was the firm paying for my membership in our local bar, the Arkansas bar, and the ABA. At that time, it was something that “good lawyers did.” The partners were all active in the bar. Our senior partner was a past-president of the Arkansas Bar. The thing that “set the hook” of my becoming more active in the ABA was my service as chair of the Arkansas YLD, which led to my attending my first ABA annual meeting in 1981. I made friends at the meeting that have lasted until this day.

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

Why not five highlights.

  • First, this year will mark my completion of 25 of years of service in the House of Delegates. We have faced some challenging times, but I believe that 99% the positions the HOD has taken on issues related to the profession, have been the right decisions.
  • Second, my service on the Board of Governors. But I have to also confess that I wish the BOG had taken a more aggressive approach to dealing with the association’s budget issues sooner than we did.
  • Third, working four years with the Bar Leadership Institute as a member of SCOBAS. I can look at some of the young state bar leaders with whom I worked who have gone on to positions of leadership in the ABA.
  • Fourth, being able to help secure the attendance of President Clinton to the Atlanta
    annual meeting when my dear friend and fellow Arkansan, Phil Anderson, was President of the ABA.
  • Fifth, the doors that my work with the ABA opened for me. I would have never thought that I would attend events that would put me in the same room, and even at the same table, with members of the United States Supreme Court. Or that I would be assigned to serve as the personal escort to the Attorney General of the United States. Or that I would be invited to a Garden Party to have tea with the Queen of England.

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

One of two things. Either working in a public relations/governmental relations position in either the public or private sector, or trying to find a small to medium sized newspaper that offered a possibility of ownership.