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VOL. 121 | NO. 249 | Thursday, December 28, 2006

Pera Works on Growing Practice, Pursues Dual Interest in Journalism and Law

By Amy O. Williams

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"Obviously, it's an honor, and gratifying that fine lawyers around the community and the state think I'm worthy of being included."
- Lucian Pera
Name: Lucian Pera
Position: Partner
Company: Adams and Reese LLP
Basics: Pera, who once considered a career in journalism, decided to study law and remain in his hometown of Memphis. He represents the publishing company for The Commercial Appeal, among other clients, and recently was featured in the 2007 edition of Best Lawyers in America."

Attorney Lucian Pera recently was included in the 2007 edition of "Best Lawyers in America."

Pera is a partner at the Memphis law firm of Adams and Reese LLP. He graduated from Princeton University in 1982, and obtained his law degree from Vanderbilt University School of Law in 1985. Pera also served as a law clerk to Judge Harry W. Wellford of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He has worked in media law for much of his legal career and has represented Memphis Publishing Co., which publishes The Commercial Appeal.

The most recent and notable case in which Pera represented the publishing company involved an investigation by the newspaper into funding irregularities at now-defunct state contractor Cherokee Children and Family Services.

In July 1999, two Memphis toddlers died of heat stroke after being forgotten in day care vans, touching off an investigation into Cherokee's practices as a day care services broker in Shelby County. By November 2002, Cherokee operators John and Willie Ann Madison were indicted in federal court on 29 counts of corruption after an earlier newspaper investigation found $500,000 had been siphoned by Cherokee executives.

In the meantime, Pera had filed a lawsuit on behalf of the paper to open Cherokee's records for Commercial Appeal investigative reporter Marc Perrusquia. The case went all the way to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

In 2002's Memphis Publishing Co. v. Cherokee Children and Family Services, the court found Cherokee was the "functional equivalent" of a government agency for certain purposes, despite its being a private nonprofit company. As a state contractor, Cherokee's records should be open to the public, the court decided, further interpreting and refining the Tennessee Public Records Act.

"It is still a very important case for Tennessee law," Pera said.

Q: What made you want to study law?

A: When I was in college, it seemed to me that, based on my interests and opportunities, I had two basic career options: one in some form of journalism and one in law. While in college, I decided firmly that I wanted to come home to Memphis, and realized that, unlike law, journalism was a career in which you had to be willing to relocate, maybe more than once, to avail yourself of opportunities that might present themselves. So I went to law school.

Q: Was it something you always wanted to do?

A: Nope.

Q: Where are you from?

A: Memphis. Specifically, Central Gardens in Midtown, way before it was cool, and way before the neighborhood association came along to tell us what a lovely neighborhood we had.

Q: What is your practice area?

A: I practice in a number of areas. I came up as a trial lawyer, handling a lot of different types of matters, mostly on the defense side, including a good bit of medical malpractice defense for hospitals. These days, my work falls mostly into three areas: commercial litigation, media law and legal ethics and lawyering.

I handle a range of different types of commercial litigation, including trademark cases, cases over real estate transactions and other matters. I also represent a number of media entities in everything from the defense of libel cases to access work - open meetings, public records and court access matters - to the ordinary sorts of disputes and issues that any business gets into. I also represent lawyers, law firms and sometimes clients, representing them in litigation and giving them advice about all sorts of matters involving how lawyers practice law. These range from defending lawyers in disciplinary cases where their law licenses are at risk, to malpractice cases, to motions to disqualify lawyers, to advice on what lawyers should or shouldn't do as to issues like conflicts of interest.

Q: What attracted you to that
practice area?

A: They're interesting, challenging and they pay reasonably well. At least as to the media law area and the work in legal ethics and lawyering, my initial exposure came almost by accident. As to media law, I went to work for the law firm Armstrong Allen PLLC that had represented Memphis Publishing Co., which publishes The Commercial Appeal, since the mid-1970s, and my exposure and practice went on from there.

As to the ethics and lawyering area, I did a good bit of work over the years in the Tennessee, American and other bar associations in the area of legal ethics, including in publishing resources for lawyers on the subject and on committees that drafted and revised the ethics rules. More and more people kept asking to hire me to help them with these issues.

Q: What is the best part about your job?

A: The intellectually and practically challenging nature of the work I am lucky enough to be asked to do; the fact that so much of my work actually makes a positive difference for my clients and, sometimes, to others, too; and the two wonderful law firms I have been privileged to be associated with in my practice.

Q: How do you feel about being included in the 2007 edition of "Best Lawyers in America"?

A: Obviously, it's an honor, and gratifying that fine lawyers around the community and the state think I'm worthy of being included.

Q: What are you most proud of, personally or professionally?

A: Being lucky enough to be called on by many lawyers and law firms to represent them when they are in trouble in one way or another. Being a part of the Tennessee Bar Association's successful effort to move us from the old ethics rules to our new ones in 2003, after 33 years with our old rules. Being a part of the ABA's committee that drafted the 2002 revisions to its ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, the primary model rules on which almost all American jurisdictions now base their ethics rules. Being a partner for almost 20 years at Armstrong Allen PLLC until it went out of business [in April], and now being a partner in Adams and Reese LLP.

Q: What are your goals for the future?

A: To help my clients in unique and productive ways, often including ways that other lawyers are not able to help them. To continue to grow and build my practice, including the national reach of my ethics and lawyering practice.

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