VOL. 126 | NO. 141 | Thursday, July 21, 2011
Memphis Law Talk
Community Service Paramount for Collins
By Houston Cofield
Elizabeth Collins is a partner at Thomason, Hendrix, Harvey, Johnson and Mitchell PLLC, and her interest in community involvement combined with professional knowledge of the law has kept her with the firm for more than 20 years.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)
“It is that combination of being able to use my intellectual skills in the field of law in order to help people,” Collins said.
Collins developed an interest in law from her father and studying political science at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss. After receiving her undergraduate degree at Millsaps, Collins attended law school at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law and began working as a clerk for Thomason Hendrix while she was in school.
Collins said she has always been interested in doing work for the community, and she often considered studying social work at Millsaps. She said the emphasis on community involvement was something that attracted her to Thomason Hendrix after law school.
“The firm has always been extremely involved in the bar association and in the community and that is something that is part of the firm’s culture,” Collins said.
Collins’ main practices are in the areas of medical malpractice and business litigation, as well as working with the American Camp Association. She said many of the cases she deals with in business litigation are disputes over two businesses that have contract disagreements.
A trend Collins sees is that some law firms tend to grow too fast and forget their purpose.
“What I mean is that I think there is a danger when a firm grows in size because you begin to lose sight of law as a profession,” Collins said.
Collins said she appreciates the smaller size of Thomason Hendrix, which has 32 attorneys, something that helps prevent their lawyers from taking advantage of their clients by exploiting their clients’ resources.
Even though the majority of her practice deals with business litigation and medical malpractice she really enjoys getting to work with the American Camp Association, an organization of camp professionals that promotes camping.
Collins grew up going to one of ACA’s camps, Camp Desoto in Mentone, Ala., and became close friends with her counselor who now owns one of the camps. Collins now helps the camp complete some of its accreditation standards about once every three years and sometimes goes down to the camp for a week during the summer to help out.
“My theme in law work has always been to be a service to the community in whatever I do.”
Collins said her ideal job would be to do law work for camps at a national level if there was more of a need for it.
Collins said some of the things she enjoys most about her job as a lawyer are the relationships she makes not only with her co-workers but with her clients as well.
“Some people say there is less loyalty between the lawyer and the client than there used to be, but I don’t think that is true,” she said.
Building trust with her clients is something Collins has been taught throughout her career, and she takes it seriously. Along with helping her clients achieve success Collins enjoys using her intellectual knowledge of law to solve tough legal issues.
“My friends in law school might laugh at me, but I really enjoy the law side of things and figuring things out,” Collins said.
Collins also is involved with helping out lawyers in distress. She served as a commissioner on the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program for eight years helping other lawyers with anything from addictions to mental or emotional issues.
“What we try to do is get lawyers the help they need before it becomes a problem,” Collins said.
Some of the people who have mentored Collins include Thomason Hendrix partners John Thomason, Albert Harvey and Kim Johnson, and former law professor Robert Banks, who she said was one of her teachers and closest mentors during law school.
“(Banks) was really good at garnering an interest in the law among his students, and he really piqued my interest in the law,” Collins said.
Collins has been recognized with the Sam A. Myar award, which honors outstanding service to the legal profession and the community. She said the award is something she is honored to have because serving the community is something she takes seriously.
“My theme in law work has always been to be a service to the community in whatever I do,” Collins said. “That’s what I’ve been taught to do since I’ve been at the firm and that’s what these lawyers continue to practice.”