VOL. 122 | NO. 227 | Thursday, November 29, 2007
Memphis Law Talk
Counsel on Call's Branham Recognized for Pro Bono Work
Name: Andrew C. Branham
Position: Executive Director
Company: Counsel on Call
Basics: Branham has been
recognized for his work in planning the Tennessee Bar Association's first pro bono initiative.
Memphis attorney Andrew C. Branham has been honored by the Tennessee Bar Association for the role he played in planning its first pro bono initiative.
Announced this summer, the initiative encourages collaboration between in-house legal departments, law firms and local legal service providers, and pro bono coordinators across the state to pair lawyers with eligible clients and projects that fit their respective schedules.
Branham was honored by the board of governors of Legal Services Corp. recently at a ceremony in Nashville. Legal Services Corp. is an organization that funds 138 legal aid programs with more than 900 offices across the country to help poor Americans gain equal access to the judicial system.
Branham is the executive director of the Memphis office of Counsel on Call, a legal resources company for lawyers, law firms and in-house legal departments. He previously has worked as senior counsel at International Paper Co. and associate general counsel at Dunavant Enterprises.
Q: What does being honored by the board of governors of Legal Services Corp. for the pro bono initiative mean to you?
A: It is a huge honor. This is a group of public servants, appointed by the president, to manage what is surely the greatest legacy of the war on poverty. This is one area where money invested by the government in providing funding for nonprofit law firms that specialize in assisting those at the bottom meet their basic needs and support them in dealing with the legal system does more to stabilize society than can be measured. For that group to recognize my small contribution in the corporate pro bono area is most gratifying.
Q: What inspired you to become involved with the pro bono initiative?
A: It goes back to my time as an in-house lawyer in the 1980s and '90s when there were no programs by the various legal departments to encourage pro bono participation by the corporate lawyers. We all just sort of did it on an ad hoc basis and, in my case, it was mostly not-for-profit board and other service work not directly client related. When the Tennessee Supreme Court came up with the new Rules of Professional Conduct, I was coming on as the chair of the Tennessee Bar Association Access to Justice Committee. Rule 6.1 of these rules states that every lawyer shall provide pro bono publico legal services for the poor.
Given this clear mandate, I saw an opportunity to raise awareness where I felt it was most needed, and that was with the in-house corporate bar. So, in conjunction with Jim Barry, in-house litigation attorney at International Paper and president of the Tennessee Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel, we instituted an initiative modeled after the work done by Esther Lardent with the Pro Bono Institute of Georgetown and Susan Hackett with the Association of Corporate Counsel.
Q: Why did you choose law as a profession?
A: It was a default as I was a religion major and had gone into the newspaper business after graduation from college and the decision to go to grad school led me to the law as a profession that allows for service and fit well into my existing skill sets.
Q: What is your practice area and why did you choose it?
A: I have always enjoyed the general practice of civil law - both litigation and transactions, which was great preparation for an in-house career for 15 of my 26 years in the profession.
Q: What brought you to Counsel on Call?
A: After serving as a partner and general counsel for a spin-off of International Paper Co., we decided to close that business after 9/11 and its fallout, but I had been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and was interested in combining my legal and business background and saw an opportunity with this new company, Counsel On Call out of Nashville, which was looking to expand into the Memphis market. It was a well-designed professional group that was owned by lawyers and run by lawyers for the benefit of lawyers. I liked that a lot.
Q: What is the best part of your job?
A: This is another one of those businesses where I feel privileged to be of service to lawyers who want to do quality legal work, but for some reason are not on the partnership track or wish to be in house or with the government full time. It also allows me to continue to pursue things I feel strongly about in the profession, such as advancing the cause of pro bono and service work and working as a volunteer and peer monitor for the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program. I am also privileged to be able to serve as chair of the newly formed Tennessee Bar Association's Attorney Well Being Task Force.
Q: What do you enjoy most about practicing law?
A: I like to think that law is one of the great areas which, along with medicine, allows one to do well as they do good. It is the opportunity to be of service that sets us apart as a profession. If we are not here to help one another as we travel down the road, then what's the point?
Q: Where did you attend undergraduate and law school?
A: I did my undergrad work at Rhodes College, then Southwestern, and law school at the University of Memphis, then Memphis State. I never left the city limits.
Q: If you had not chosen law as a profession, what do you think you'd be doing now?
A: Preaching, teaching or writing for a newspaper.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge, whether personally or professionally?
A: Definitely work-life balance, keeping my values and spiritual life in the office as well as out. Not bringing the problems home and not taking myself too seriously.
Q: What do you do in your free time?
A: I am a movie buff and a reader. I walk and ride a bike for exercise and enjoy traveling. I also still write some and devote some time every day to personal reflection and connection with the infinite mystery.
Q: What are you most proud of, personally and professionally?
A: I am proud that I have learned from my mistakes and helped others in the process. I am also very grateful to have found a calling that allows me to bring quality people in touch with the needs of the legal profession in a way that serves my clients' needs and allows lawyers to practice law in a way that they could not have done 10 years ago.