VOL. 127 | NO. 32 | Thursday, February 16, 2012
Memphis Law Talk
Mulroy’s 30-Year Law Practice Starts With Counseling Work
By Sarah Baker
Jim Mulroy’s fervor for law and politics dates to a trip to Washington with his grandparents at age 12, where he met President Lyndon Baines Johnson.
(Photo: Kyle Kurlick)
“My grandmother and grandfather were very active in civic affairs,” said Mulroy, managing partner of the Memphis office of Jackson Lewis LLP. “My grandmother was one of the first women editors of a newspaper in Indiana, and my grandfather was politically active in the state, being a county councilman. I got interested in law probably through them.”
That civic-minded upbringing preceded Mulroy in his 30 years practicing employment and labor law. But he’ll tell you he truly shines through the pro bono cases with which he’s been involved.
“My first two years out of law school, I worked as a counselor at a psychiatric hospital, Tennessee Psychiatric, which is now something else,” Mulroy said. “I had really planned on that being a career path; that seemed to be a calling for me. But I really felt like I could do more to help people as a lawyer – of course, that was the idealistic ’70s – than I could as a counselor. So I kind of changed that path as far as my main career but continued to do pro bono work for disabled people throughout my career.”
And it’s where his proudest moments stem from.
“Representing people before different administrative boards to get their children free and appropriate educations, a lot of times, with handicapped people – I think that’s been some of the most satisfying work I’ve ever done,” he said.
Mulroy attended Hillcrest High School in Whitehaven before studying history at Rhodes College. During his first year in law school at the University of Tennessee, he joined the U.S. Navy as a Judge Advocate General’s Corps officer, getting an early start on litigating cases and counseling clients.
“I got Navy orders to be the assistant staff judge advocate for a Navy command in Japan,” Mulroy said. “Spent three years there, came back to the United States, spent several years being a prosecutor up at Great Lakes Naval Base, and ultimately, the lawyer for the base. And then came back to Memphis to go to work for a firm called McKnight Hudson.”
From there, Mulroy spent six years at his own firm – Lewis Fisher Henderson Claxton & Mulroy LLP – before it merged with Ogletree Deakins in 2006. He then worked briefly at Kiesewetter Wise Kaplan Prather PLC before making the move to Jackson Lewis.
He’s only in court a handful of times a month, and it’s not near as often as he’d like to be.
“I think the more senior you get, the less you get to court,” Mulroy said. “When I first started, I was at a practice where I was in court every single day for motion call or a trial. That lasted for a long time. I enjoy going to court and doing trial work, depositions, that kind of thing, but currently, I’m mainly at a desk most of the time.”
The majority of his days are spent reading and writing the laws of employment and separation agreements, personnel policies and handbooks, compliance, restrictive covenants and reductions in force.
Labor employment law has become such a major concern these days, Mulroy said, that the National Labor Relations Board has come out with white papers about what employees can and cannot do.
“The question of course is, you’ve got a set of employees that are using social media to bash the company or to complain about working conditions or reveal proprietary – secret kinds of information, either intentionally or inadvertently, through social media,” Mulroy said. “What is it that an employer can do without running afoul of the law? Those are what the primary considerations are for employment lawyers right now.”
When he’s not practicing law, Mulroy is active on the tennis court. It’s a newly found hobby now that his three children are grown, and the days of coaching basketball teams and attending soccer games have passed.
His most recent accolade was being named as a “2011 Tennessee Top 100” lawyer by Mid-South Super Lawyers, a publication for which he has been included in the SuperLawyers selection since 2006.
To Mulroy, it’s his self-assurance that has gotten him to where he is today.
“I’ve gotten to the point where I feel pretty confident that I know what I’m doing practicing law, so that part of it is a pleasure and very easy,” he said. “You can’t live on the thought of how much money you’re making. You’ve got to think about what the ultimate goal here is and I think that that’s the way you build your client relationships is to have successful results for your clients.”