Before settling in for a career in law, Jack Shelton, an associate with Harris Shelton Hanover Walsh PLLC, needed to quench his thirst for travel.
Having graduated from Colorado College with a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and a minor in French, Shelton had different plans altogether.
“I thought I might be a writer after that. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he said. “Turns out I wasn’t very creative, so I didn’t end up going that route.”
The route he did take led him to Tokyo to teach English and live the life of an expat for a year and a half. Shelton said the experience teaching what was essentially a foreign language was “amazing.”
“It definitely gives you a lot of respect for how difficult our language is and a lot of the nuances in our language that you don’t really think of and subtle differences in meaning that you don’t ever really appreciate until you’re trying to explain them to somebody else,” he said.
Shelton took a vacation to Thailand during that time, having stumbled across it in a traveler’s guidebook, and “fell in love with it.” He moved into a gym there to learn the martial art of Muay Thai, a form of kickboxing.
Though his father is Harris Shelton member Max Shelton, there was no pressure from his family to follow in those footsteps. But when he returned to the United States, he took his love for writing and the natural ability there to the University of Tennessee College of Law.
“I tend to be more on the analytical side of the spectrum than on the creative side, so it was really a better fit,” Shelton said.
Along with an interest in writing, he’d packed a wealth of travel experiences, an interest in sailing from childhood and a love of languages – he speaks French and Spanish – to focus on maritime law.
“I always wanted to do something international,” Shelton said of the unique practice he picked up in the mountains of Tennessee.
But it wasn’t only the school that piqued his interest. While there, through a professor, he met the chief legal officer for BBC Chartering & Logistic, a German shipping company with one of the largest fleets of special heavy lift cargo vessels in the world. Shelton moved to New Orleans to attend Tulane University Law School for his Master of Laws (LL.M.) in admiralty.
“That was my in to doing something international, was getting into maritime law … Working for a German shipping company seemed like the most ideal thing in the world,” he said.
During the summer between UT and Tulane, Shelton worked in Leer, Germany, for BBC Chartering as manager of claims and contracts.
After graduating from Tulane, he stayed on in New Orleans to work for Galloway, Johnson, Tompkins, Burr and Smith, the outside counsel in the U.S. for BBC Chartering. “So I got to continue working for this company, handling a lot of their contracts and doing lots of really exciting transactions for them,” Shelton said.
His return to Memphis was purely personal. After years of travel and moving, spending more than half his life away, he wanted to be with family.
“They’ve always been really supportive and wonderful to me, and it seems like I really needed to come back and be close to them,” said Shelton, who in September joined Harris Shelton.
The practice of his specialty in Memphis is more “brown water” maritime law with the rivers and inland waterways, and the tow companies and barge lines that use them. But it also transfers to the region’s logistics advantages as well, such as the busy intermodal rail facilities in the area.
And in addition to that international component, Shelton’s practice touches on those of the firm – health care and transactional work, regulatory compliance issues and malpractice cases.
With his wanderlust sated for the moment, Shelton is happy to be home and with his family.
“I’ve felt for the last several years that I do want to have a community,” he said. “When you’re an expat, you don’t have the same sense of community because everyone around you, even if you’re getting along great one day, they may be gone the next day. … Memphis, I feel like, is a great place to settle down. I’m excited about being here, and I’ve already made several great friends and I’m enjoying it.”