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VOL. 122 | NO. 237 | Thursday, December 13, 2007

Bar Gives Arnoult its Highest Honor

By Bill Dries

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HIGH PRAISE: Attorney G. Patrick Arnoult was honored at this month's annual meeting of the Memphis Bar Association with the Judge Jerome Turner Lawyer's Lawyer Award. It's the highest honor bestowed by the MBA. -- Photo By Bill Dries

Some members of the Memphis Bar Association were concerned that last week's annual meeting luncheon might be overshadowed by Monday's appearance at a bar foundation luncheon by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

But what those at the standing-room only luncheon got last week was a sense of the local legal community's unique flavor and heritage.

Pat Arnoult of The Bogatin Law Firm PLC was honored with the bar's highest award, the Judge Jerome Turner Lawyer's Lawyer Award. The award goes to a veteran attorney who exemplifies the qualities in the "Guidelines for Professional Courtesy and Conduct."

Law partner Art Quinn introduced Arnoult by saying, "He taught me that if you have to ask someone in Nashville if it's ethical, it's not."

Quinn also pledged to bring Arnoult to tears and then had a trio come to the stage and sing "Tura-Lura-Lural (That's An Irish Lullaby)."

The trio of U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Jennie Latta and attorneys Kathy Gomes and Dell Stiner did the job.


Finding career foundations

Arnoult is a Notre Dame graduate, which is where as an undergraduate student he first considered being a lawyer.

"I bought 'The Common Law' by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. I didn't know what that book was about," Arnoult recalled. "But it said common law, so I figured that had something to do with the law. I was most impressed by the often-quoted statement in that book that the life of the law is not in logic, but rather in experience. I thought about that a little bit and I said, 'Well, maybe I've got a chance.'"

He earned his law degree in 1966 at Vanderbilt University Law School after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Arnoult recalled an early case before the late Shelby County Chancery Court Judge Charles Rond in which Rond was trying to determine what would be a reasonable fee for Arnoult as a court-appointed counsel. Arnoult said he immediately told Rond he had put in four hours on the case.

He said he remembered Rond replying, "Mr. Arnoult, if you want to be paid by the hour, go be a plumber."

Decades later, it has become his own philosophy.

"It is not ... all about the money," he said. "If that notion ever takes hold, we'll fade away as a profession."

Arnoult also recalled the late U.S. District Judge Odell Horton making a ruling with an analogy from the rules of kickball.

"The art of the general practitioner today is fast becoming out of vogue with all of the specialization," he told a crowd of lawyers and judges. "I think specialization is great. I think every lawyer should have the same opportunity I had to work in a number of areas before you make that selection."


Communication

A former Memphis Bar Association president, Arnoult said he's not concerned about a loss of civility in the legal community.

"We still know how to do it right," he said.

But he said he does believe attorneys should continue to use informal and formal opportunities to learn from other attorneys.

"This is a mentoring process," he said. "Even though law school doesn't provide it, it's out there."

Arnoult also urged a deeper exploration of the often-used quote from Shakespeare's "Henry VI." The line "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers," is often used out of context, Arnoult complained - not taking in who said the line and why. It was part of a plan by conspirators mapping out an upheaval in society designed to install a tyrant.

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