VOL. 122 | NO. 100 | Thursday, May 31, 2007
Memphis Law Talk
Decision Not to Attend Medical School Led McLaren to Legal Profession He Loves
By Amy O. Williams
Name: James B. McLaren Jr.
Company: Adams and Reese LLP
Basics: McLaren recently was named leader of the Economic Development Practice Team in the Transactions and Corporate Advisory Services Practice Group.
James B. McLaren Jr. made a decision at the age of 20 that forever changed his life. Just weeks before he was set to begin the process of attending medical school at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, McLaren decided not to go.
After graduating with a bachelor's degree in biology in 1977 from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, he instead chose to study law. He graduated with a juris doctorate in 1982 from Washington and Lee University Law School in Lexington, Va.
McLaren recently was named leader of the Economic Development Practice Team in the Transactions and Corporate Advisory Services Practice Group at Adams and Reese LLP, where he is a partner. McLaren, who had been managing partner at Armstrong Allen PC, came to Adams and Reese a year ago when the firm formed its Memphis office. A group of 15 attorneys from Armstrong Allen opened the Memphis office of Adams and Reese.
McLaren's practice is focused primarily in the area of economic development. He has represented the City Center Commission in connection with the redevelopment of Downtown, including the development and financing of AutoZone Park.
Q: What made you want to study law?
A. Law is an intellectual profession. My father was a college professor and I think that training has had an impact on my wanting to practice law.
Q: Was it something you always wanted to do?
A. I am one of a lot of people my age who originally wanted to be a doctor and ended up doing something else, and I am lucky that I chose a profession that I love. That's why I have an undergraduate degree in biology. I decided not to go to medical school two weeks before I was to have my interview at UT medical school. It was just one of those things in life where you change course, and for me it was the right change.
Q: What led you to your practice area?
A. I think lawyers are just by the nature of how they process information suited to either be litigators or to be a business lawyer, and I am well-suited to being a business lawyer. I started working in the area of economic development (and) like so many of us do as our practices develop, it's the work that you are able to obtain. I started representing the Center City Commission and its related entities in 1990 and really have enjoyed that type of work, which is really a part of our economic development practice, community development. It is one of the few areas of law, I believe, where you get to be as creative and have the kind of impact that you can have on a community.
Q: What brought you to Adams and Reese?
A. I've been with Adams and Reese for a little over a year. A group of 15 of us opened the Memphis office May 1, 2006. Before I joined Adams and Reese, I had been with Armstrong Allen for 24 years.
Q: Where are you from?
A. I spent part of my childhood in Grand Junction (Tenn.), which is a very small town. Grand Junction is 50 miles (east of) Memphis, and so Memphis has always in part felt like home, and when I graduated from law school, I interviewed across the South, and the best job offer I got was from Armstrong Allen.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge so far?
A. Professionally from the practice of law, the biggest challenge was the creation and development of AutoZone Park and finding a creative way to finance the baseball stadium so that it would have the least economic impact on the city and the county.
Today, the real challenge, particularly in development in Downtown Memphis, is finding new and creative ways to continue to fund future development.
Q: What is the best part about your job?
A. One of the great things about being with Adams and Reese has been the platform that they offer me and the rest of the lawyers here in Memphis. Today I am doing projects in Birmingham (Ala.), Jackson, Miss., and working on things in New Orleans, as well as in Memphis. At Armstrong Allen, I didn't have that opportunity.
For example, one of the clients I work with is doing a mixed-use project adjacent to the convention center in Birmingham, where I am able to get the lawyers on the economic development team in Birmingham to work with me on that project. As we have other projects come up across our region, to see how we are able to match lawyers who have the right expertise or government relations needs in finding the right lawyer for that piece of an economic development project has been a real advantage.
Q: What are you most proud of, personally and professionally?
A. I was managing partner of Armstrong Allen for the last year and a half of its existence. During that time we went from having 150 lawyers and staff to none. The most important thing about that whole process was that I don't believe there was a single staff member to miss a paycheck.
Personally, I am most proud of my children, Ryan, 16, Trip, 15, and Paige, 14.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
A. I want to continue to grow my economic practice across the Adams and Reese region. It is becoming more and more important to be able to help businesses grow across a larger footprint, and that is one of the things I found most attractive in Adams and Reese. We have the ability to bring expertise to the table across a wide geographic region and really provide value for our clients.
Q: What do you do when you are not working?
A. With three teenagers, when I am not working I am doing something with the three teenagers. There is very little time for anything else.