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VOL. 118 | NO. 112 | Thursday, June 24, 2004

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Young Law Firm Strives to be Different


The Daily News

Its not about the money. Well, the money is nice but its also about helping people in court who really need it.

Theres the man beaten up by a security guard after being mistaken for a homeless man. Theres also the wheel man, a Downtown fixture whos often seen spinning a wheel on his head.

Of course, there are also higher-profile clients, as the bills do have to be paid.

Community service. But for Horne, Gilluly & Wells PLLC, a boutique litigation firm with five attorneys specializing in criminal and civil disputes, work is centered on serving the community.

Everybody has a story, and were listening, said partner Arthur Horne about the firms amount of pro bono work. It doesnt always help the bottom line and were in the business of making money but a lot of times, people say, You guys helped me out.

Located in the Businessmens Club building at Monroe Avenue and Main Street, the firm does work ranging from civil defense covering small business owners to civil rights litigation and personal injury work. The firm also handles class-action lawsuits.

We think theres really good litigation on the human side, and its not necessarily based on personal injury but on the treatment of people, said partner Murray Wells. Those lawsuits are the important lawsuits to us.

Interesting start. The firm has always endeavored to be different, whether through its laid-back office atmosphere or the wide range of cases it handles.

The founding of the firm was unique in and of itself. In September 2002, Horne and partner Greg Gilluly rented an office from another attorney in the M&M Bail Bond building. Wells quickly joined the duo, but there wasnt room for all three.

We would get ready for court and I would be standing out on the sidewalk waiting, Wells said.

That changed following a chance encounter with Downtown developer Henry Turley, who led Horne and Gilluly to a space in the Cotton Exchange Building. It was a Hollywood start of sorts, as the office space had been used for a scene in The Firm.

But that was the only glamorous part of the space, especially for Wells.

It was two-and-a-half offices with a small lobby area that was probably the size of this desk, Horne joked. Greg and I had the two big offices, and we put Murray in the storage closet. He did have a window, but there was a boiler in there, so he couldnt use the speaker phone because you could hear the boiler in the background. But we thought it was the greatest thing. To us, we had made it.

The trio left the boiler behind after a little more than a year, moving the firm to its present location in November.

Built on relationships. Horne and Gilluly met while working in the Shelby County District Attorneys Office and became friends. Horne met Wells while attending law school in Arkansas.

Horne, who went to Atlanta for a year before moving back to Memphis, had decided to start his own firm when Gilluly contacted him with the same idea. After his stint at the District Attorneys Office, Gilluly had joined The Cochran Firm. But he wasnt happy with his new job.

I was bored out of my mind because I never went to court, and I was used to going to court, he said. After four months, I decided I couldnt handle it, so thats when I decided to leave and start my own firm. And if I was going to start my own firm, I wanted Arthur.

Strength through diversity. All three partners agree that diversity is what drives the firm.

A lot of firms say theyre diverse, and theyll have a token female or a token black just to say theyre diverse, or theyll have a minority staff but no minority lawyers, said Horne, an African-American. We wanted to have a real firm that is really diverse. We wanted a law firm that wasnt based on anything but just people that look like Memphis.

Their drive to be different sometimes presents challenges for the firm.

We have to overcome every day the perception that were young, that we dont know what were doing, the perception this is a white firm or a black firm, that we get too involved with our clients, Horne said. I think those are all misconceptions about us.

Future plans. The formula seems to be working for the firm, which has grown from just Horne, Gilluly and Wells to one additional associate and one of counsel, as well as five full-time staff members.

It could see more growth in the future.

We anticipate bringing on a few more part-time people, Horne said. But it will be smart growth. When you have overgrowth, you can put yourself in a hole. Were very particular about the types of lawyers we have.

One characteristic will continue for the firm, and that is its effort to help people, both clients and non-clients.

We spend a couple of hours a day, every day, on the phone with people we wont ever make money from, and we know were not going to, Wells said. Were blessed in other ways. Nothing bad can come of that.


Horne, Gilluly & Wells PLLC

Founded: 2002

Basics: The boutique litigation firm handles cases ranging from victims rights litigation to business development and government relations.


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