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VOL. 118 | NO. 21 | Thursday, February 5, 2004

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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 people here.

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 education seminar.

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 remaining seminars.

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 controversial.

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.


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