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VOL. 122 | NO. 149 | Thursday, August 09, 2007

Harris Shelton's Lapides Takes Helm of Tenn. Municipal Attorneys Association

By Amy O. Williams

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Name: Barbara B. Lapides
Position: Member
Company: Harris Shelton Hanover Walsh PLLC
Basics: Lapides recently was elected president of the Tennessee Municipal Attorneys Association.
"It's a huge help for all of us to have the resource of other municipal attorneys with whom to share educational seminars and 'how did you handle it' discussions."
- Barbara B. Lapides

Barbara B. Lapides does not work in the legal department of one municipality. In her practice at Harris Shelton Hanover Walsh PLLC, her work includes representing Millington, Piperton and Rossville. And that's what keeps her close to the pulse of municipal legal work.

Lapides recently was elected president of the Tennessee Municipal Attorneys Association (TMAA). The TMAA is a support group for municipal attorneys, some of whom work full time for the respective communities, while others, like Lapides, list municipalities as just one of many clients in their private practices.

Lapides, a member at Harris Shelton, practices in the areas of real estate, municipal corporations and community organizations, estate planning and probate.

She received a law degree from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 1985. She attended Wellesley College, a women's liberal arts college in Wellesley, Mass., before later finishing her undergraduate work at the University of Memphis, earning a bachelor's degree in English in 1966.

Q: What do you intend to do as newly elected president of TMAA?

A: My job this year is to work with other TMAA officers, committee chairs and our excellent professional staff to make TMAA as good as it can be. Think about a city, even a little city, with the myriad of services its government has to provide for its citizens: water and sewer, police and fire protection, streets, libraries, orderly subdivision and commercial development, recreation facilities and more. It's a huge help for all of us to have the resource of other municipal attorneys with whom to share educational seminars and "how did you handle it" discussions.

During my tenure as TMAA president, I hope to encourage other municipal lawyers - including especially those whose full-time client is the city of Memphis - to become involved with TMAA. While there certainly are major differences in the magnitude and complexity of the issues that face larger and smaller cities, the legal issues are substantially the same, and sharing ideas is good for all of us and for our municipal clients. The annual meeting of TMAA next summer will be here in Memphis, along with the Tennessee Municipal League meeting, and I encourage all the attorneys who represent cities in Shelby and adjoining counties to participate.

Q: What made you want to study law and was it something you always wanted to do?

A: Law was a mid-life career for me. I graduated from the University of Memphis law school at age 41. My kids deserve an award for all the fish sticks they ate during the three years I was a law student, and my husband, George, deserves the "man of three years" award for his patience all the nights and weekends I had my head in a book. The low point of my law school years must have been the night he was trying to tell me something of obvious importance to him, and I snapped, "Don't talk to me, I'm reading the Internal Revenue Code."

Practicing law was not something I always wanted to do. In fact, I never considered it in my teens or 20s. Girls of my acquaintance were supposed to do something ladylike for a year or two after college, then quit work to take care of a family. In my 30s, practicing law was something I thought I could do that would be challenging, interesting and of use to other people.

Q: Where are you from?

A: Technically, Hattiesburg, Miss. My mother was there with her parents in 1944 while my father was in the Army. She brought me home to Memphis - where my father's family had lived for several generations - on the train when I was 6 weeks old. Except for college, I've been here ever since.

Q: What brought you to Harris Shelton?

A: I was a partner at Hanover, Walsh, Jalenak & Blair until we merged with Harris Shelton several years ago. Now I'm at Harris Shelton's East Memphis office, which on a bad traffic day is six minutes from my house.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge?

A: I don't know that I can cite a "biggest" challenge. There's a challenge every day, and that's one of the things I like best about being a lawyer. Lawyering is about legal rules, of course, but it's also about people - about getting a client's transaction closed when the parties have different ideas about how it should happen, or helping establish a new business venture, or resolving a problem without litigation, or helping a municipality address public needs and issues effectively.

Q: What is the best part about your job?

A: That's easy, but it's a two-answer question: My clients and my colleagues. I'm lucky on both counts.

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

A: Personally, I'm proud that I've been able to manage family and work reasonably well. It's been easier for me than for a lot of women, since I either didn't work or worked only part-time until I went to law school. My admiration for the women who work full-time when they have little kids, whatever kind of work they do, is boundless.

Professionally, I enjoy the legal work I do for my municipal clients. I learn a great deal from working with their elected and appointed officials and their professional staff, and I have a great deal of respect for the amount of time, thought and energy they give to their communities.

Q: What do you do when not working?

A: Spend time with family and friends, mostly. My husband and I travel some. We were in Amsterdam in June, and we're planning a trip to Argentina in the spring. We go to New York and Calgary, Alberta, Canada, as often as we can to see kids and grandchildren. We spend time with treasured friends, both here and elsewhere. I read when my eyes still work after a day drafting or reviewing documents, and I belong to a book group - which I don't get to very often - with a bunch of the smartest women I know. I exercise - treadmill, weights, yoga - when possible. For many years I was quite involved in community activities, but my focus now is mostly work and family.

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