VOL. 118 | NO. 21 | Thursday, February 5, 2004
Not Always Celebrated, Champions Make Mark
The Daily News
When John Heflin took over as 2004 president of the Memphis
Bar Association, he was determined to make his mark on the organization. But it
was the impression left by former president Bill Haltom that ultimately
inspired his agenda.
During Haltoms term as president three years ago, he
spearheaded a series of seminars called the Heroes Series that featured
nationally known attorneys.
It had lawyers from across the country who are actively
involved in promoting justice in one aspect or another, Heflin said. I went
to nearly every one, and it was wonderful. But as I went, I kept thinking how
we have just as outstanding local lawyers and judges as I was hearing. That
doesnt mean those people werent outstanding I just think we have great
Spotlight on Memphians. So Heflin now is spearheading
the associations Champion Series. The six-session, yearlong seminar series
spotlights Memphians who have made a difference in the field of law.
The series began last week with Champions of Controversial
Causes. A March seminar will feature Champions of Marketing. Other sessions
include Champions of Professionalism, Champions of Political Activism,
Champions of Judicial Service and Champions of Innovative Legal Careers.
Heflin believes it is important that the series concentrate
on local practitioners.
Weve had outstanding lawyers taking positions in
controversial cases, he said. We have a lot of lawyers at the cutting edge of
many different issues and movements.
Professional development. Seminar attendees receive
continuing legal education credit.
These types of programs serve a couple of purposes, said
Anne Fritz, executive director of the Memphis Bar Association. The first is
its usually more interesting and fun than the typical continuing legal
But its also good because it puts lawyers in touch with
higher ideals that may have caused them to be a lawyer. Its nice to talk about
lawyers who are passionate.
Fritz said last weeks seminar on controversial causes was a
success, with 80 in attendance. She hopes to draw 100 attendees to each of the
We thought it was a great start for the program, she said.
People were really interested and responded well.
Not always in agreement. One key to the programs success
is getting people to realize they can disagree about what makes a champion
depending on their side of an issue. Heflin has a personal example.
My wife went to the University of Alabama and the year that
(the University of Tennessee) won the football national championship, they were
champions, but not in my house, he joked. My wife was distressed.
So you might disagree with a champion, but theyre out
there doing remarkable things and are working hard and are very devoted.
Each Champion Series seminar will feature four lawyers or
judges who are what Heflin called advocates or champions in a specific area.
Each panelist is given a few moments to speak before the audience gets a chance
to ask questions.
Controversial causes. Last weeks initial session
featured attorneys Bruce Kramer, Charlie Newman, Robert Hutton and Duncan
Ragsdale. The point of the session was not to sway those in attendance to agree
with the issues each lawyer spoke about, but to provide an understanding of why
each became involved with a particular issue.
We had four lawyers who had been at the center of very
controversial causes talking about why and what its like and how you get
involved in controversial causes, Heflin said.
The causes varied as widely as the participants. Kramer
spoke on his involvement with the American Civil Liberties Union, Ragsdale on
his attempt to block public funding for Memphis new NBA arena and Hutton on
his involvement with death row clients. Newman spoke about his successful fight
against Interstate 40s proposed route through Overton Park.
Charlie Newman said, Here was a cause that people came to
me about. It wasnt my cause. They said we want you to be our champion,
Heflin explained. I think it has both an educational and inspirational aspect
in that they talked about how you deal with things that are very
An important item to note, Heflin said, is that the series
has lawyers thinking and talking about local issues.
Coming up. At Marchs Champions of Marketing seminar,
lawyers will see different approaches to marketing which could help attorneys
determine the best tactics for their own practices.
I think it will be educational in the sense that each
person that talks has been very effective in their marketing, Heflin said. It
will be an inspiration in the sense that youll see not only what is effective,
but what is responsible marketing.
He said although attorneys marketing needs vary, all
attendees should learn something from the session.
There may be some people who think Corey Trotzs marketing
is terrible that lawyers advertising (on TV) is just awful, Heflin said of
one of the four speakers, known for his heavy hitter TV ads. But he seems to
have a target audience and goes after them with great effectiveness.
Other speakers for the March session are Julian Bolton, Greg
Siskind and Laura Hine.
New points of view. The marketing seminar, which will
feature attorneys from both small and large firms with different approaches and
techniques, exemplifies the overall goal of the series.
In each of the seminars, were trying to have widely
divergent views, Heflin said. Were trying to celebrate Memphis lawyers and
judges who have made a mark by being really devoted and energetic in the
pursuit of a particular cause or belief. The largest firm in the state is
represented, and we have small firms represented. Its a mixture of men and
women and different races in these programs.
And to accompany the seminars, Memphis Lawyer Magazine,
published six times a year by the MBA, will run special features pertaining to
the current months seminar. The four speakers will contribute to the stories.