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VOL. 121 | NO. 148 | Thursday, July 27, 2006

Rice Makes Personal Donation For Katrina Relief in Mississippi

LESLEY J. GUDEHUS | Special to The Daily News

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"The Mississippi Gulf Coast folks basically got devastated by Hurricane Katrina and they've been pulling themselves up by their boot straps ever since. I want to be one of those people to help them pull up those boot straps."
- Larry Rice
Name: Larry Rice
Position: Senior Partner
Company Rice, Amundsen & Rogers PLLC
Basics: Rice is donating $3,000 to the Mississippi Bar Association's Katrina Relief Fund.

Larry Rice of Rice, Amundsen & Rogers PLLC has made a career of helping people through his work in divorce and family law.

In that vein, the senior partner is donating a portion of the proceeds from his recent lecture series to the Mississippi Bar Association's Katrina Relief Fund, a personal contribution of more than $3,000.

A certified family law specialist, Rice found his niche by accident early in his career when he wrote "Divorce Practice in Tennessee" nearly 20 years ago. The book was so successful, three editions have been published to date.

Rice also founded the Web site www.aboutdivorce.com. He has written numerous publications and given lectures throughout the United States and Canada on topics ranging from law office management to the ethics of trial practice. The American Bar Association has invited him to speak at six of its conventions. But, first and foremost, he is a practicing lawyer.

Rice was the founding chair of the Divorce and Family Law Section of the Memphis Bar Association and co-founder of the Family Law Section of the Tennessee Bar Association.

He graduated with honors from Rhodes College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication arts and history. He was a British Studies student at University College, Oxford, England, and completed the Association of Trial Lawyers of America National College of Advocacy. He received his law degree from the University of Memphis in 1976.

Q: What motivated you to donate to the Mississippi Bar Association's Katrina Relief Fund?

A: The Mississippi Gulf Coast folks basically got devastated by Hurricane Katrina and they've been pulling themselves up by their boot straps ever since. I want to be one of those people to help them pull up those boot straps. I wrote the book, "The Complete Guide to Divorce Practice: Forms and Procedures for Lawyers" [the original title was "Divorce Practice in Tennessee" and later "Rice's Divorce Practice Manual" before its current title], and it will be 20 years old next year. After Hurricane Katrina, a woman [from the Mississippi library system] asked to buy my book. I wouldn't sell it to her; I gave it to her and we pledged 20 percent of the proceeds from my seminar to Katrina relief.

Q: Has your donation inspired other lawyers to do the same?

A: The Mississippi lawyers were already involved. They had been getting donations from lawyers from different parts of the country. I saw a lawyer raising funds at a booth at the American Bar Association Family Law Section convention in San Diego.

Q: How often do you lecture?

A: I do about 10 lectures a year, so giving the proceeds from that was significant to me. I'm a certified family law specialist. There are only two of us in Tennessee. The other is my partner Amy [Amundsen]. The practice of law is important to me. I want to be a lawyer who also lectures sometimes. Practicing law is my passion.

Q: What sparked your interest in a law career?

A: I'm a product of Memphis public schools. I went to Southwestern [now Rhodes College]. I was a communication arts major and almost went into that. I even did a film project with a friend, Bob Tigret, who now lives in Nashville and still does that. Then there was a sit-in at a dorm. It was about equal rights for men and women. I got involved, and when I stood up and tried my first case, that was it. It was like going to a shoe store and trying on a pair of shoes that felt as if you'd worn them for years. It [was a perfect] fit. I also studied history. I'm basically a well-educated redneck. I was talking to my wife about writing my autobiography, and that's the working title of it right now.

Q: Have you always lived in
Memphis?

A: I was born in Jackson, Tenn., but my mother and father were both from Memphis, and I grew up here. They met at Cumberland University [in Lebanon, Tenn.]. My father was in law school and my mother was going to be a missionary [but they fell in love and got married instead]. Cumberland became a junior college, and after many years, they were trying to become a university again. Joy Gaia and Larry Rice were presidents of their student councils and went up there as representatives of their [high] schools and met each other. Five years later, Joy and I were married. We've been married ever since. I'm a cowardly divorce lawyer. I see what my clients go through and I'm not willing to do it!

We have a son and a daughter. Amy works at RSVP [magazine in advertising sales]. Our son is four years older - George Lawrence Rice IV. I'm George Lawrence Rice III, named after my father. He goes by George, so I was Larry. After we had our son for a week, we thought, what should we call him? And we named him Nick for "nickname." He practices with me. We are closer now than we've been since he was 8 years old. I know I'm his father, but he is the best natural advocate, and he stands up in court as if he has all three generations in him. I worked with my father. Nick and I have tried about half a dozen cases as a team and we've done really well so far.

Q: Why did you decide to concentrate your practice in the areas of family law and divorce?

A: My dad did a general civil practice, from insurance defense to family law to personal injury - the whole gamut. When I was in law school, Roberta Ramo [president of the ABA from 1995 to 1996, the first woman to head the organization] had a book called "How to Create a System for the Law Office." I did a paper on that in law school [and developed my own system].

After I graduated from law school, I went to my father's firm. I worked on my system for divorce and DUI. I'd been practicing for almost 10 years when I asked [Professional Education Systems] to publish my system. They said, "We'll publish it if you will do three lectures - in Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis." The most recent system I'd done was on divorce, so I used that. I was good at lecturing, and the book ["Divorce Practice in Tennessee," Professional Education Systems, 1987] was good. It sold out after a year. After three years of lecturing in Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis, I thought if I took Tennessee out of the title [the book became "Rice's Divorce Practice Manual"], I could expand.

It worked. I went to Mississippi and Arkansas, and then I began to be invited to speak in other states. Now I've been to Boston and San Francisco and most places in between. Recently I went to Vermont and I will go to Hawaii next. And that's how I became a divorce lawyer.

Q: Many lawyers would keep their systems to themselves. Why do you share yours with others?

A: I'm glad to share my system with other lawyers. Ninety percent of the lawyers in Shelby County probably use the system. Based on sales, we've sold more than one book for each lawyer who is in general practice or family law here. So I share because I know more about the practice of family law than they do. [Also] lawyers who sit in CLE programs love to point out errors or other ways of doing things, so my system has been tested.

Q: How do you define success?

A: Pretty much as life as I have come to know it. I have two bright, healthy children; a wife who loves me; work that fascinates me; [colleagues whom] I respect and who respect me; I continue to be challenged by the clever lawyers on the other side of my cases; and I get to help people during the worst times of their lives.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 74 74 17,458
MORTGAGES 93 93 20,128
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 0 2,645
BUILDING PERMITS 126 126 36,072
BANKRUPTCIES 63 63 11,227
BUSINESS LICENSES 32 32 5,741
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 6,715
MARRIAGE LICENSES 51 51 3,967