VOL. 122 | NO. 96 | Thursday, May 24, 2007
Memphis Law Talk
Military Call-Up Turns Office Neighbors Into Law Partners
By Andy Meek
Name: Joseph T. Townsend
Firm: Tommy L. Fullen and Joseph T. Townsend Law Offices
Basics: Townsend's practice includes work in the areas of bankruptcy, probate, real estate and small-business matters.
" ... One of my biggest challenges I've ever done was succeeding - was running the office while (partner Tommy L. Fullen) was gone for about 14 months in Iraq. I worked till nine o'clock at night many a night. But I had a lot of help from the judges and the bankruptcy bar and the staff here."
- Joseph T. Townsend
To say the past few years have represented an interesting chapter in Joe Townsend's legal career would be an understatement.
To cite one example, the gregarious, easy-going attorney had to hold down the fort, so to speak, when the attorney with whom he shared staff and office space - Tommy Fullen - was called to duty in late 2004 to serve in Iraq. Townsend then became a partner in Fullen's firm and handled much of the caseload in his absence.
In 2006, he also took a stab at elected office by running unsuccessfully in the Republican primary for the Shelby County Commission's District 5 seat, which represents parts of East and Southeast Memphis.
Most recently, he represented a client in a Probate Court dispute involving a Memphis businessman's estimated $2 million estate. Ron Callan Jr. left no will, and his father was appointed administrator of the estate.
But despite the vast amount of wealth involved in the court case, one of the most strident fights between the man's father and mother in the matter was over custody of their late son's dog. Townsend represents the mother in the continuing case.
Townsend earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Memphis in 1980, majoring in economics with a minor in political science. In 1986, he graduated from the U of M Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
Q: What made you want to study law?
A: When I was young, my dad's best friend was a guy from Memphis named Ed Draper. He died as a young attorney. Ed Draper's father was one of the original circuit judges that rode horses from county to county, so I'd hear all these stories about Ed being a public defender here in Memphis - he's one of the original part-time public defenders - and about his dad being a circuit judge riding on horses. So my dad would tell me stories about that. That's what probably started me thinking about it. In addition, my dad saved me Ed Draper's attorney desk - it's a really nice, full-sized walnut desk with the leaves that pull out on the front and sides, which I have today.
Q: Where are you from?
A: I'm from Memphis - I'm a third-generation Memphian.
Q: What brought you to your current law office?
A: I was sharing office space and staff with Tommy, I guess that's been about three years, and then I became his partner when he got activated to serve in Iraq. And to me, one of my biggest challenges I've ever done was succeeding - was running the office while he was gone for about 14 months in Iraq. I worked till nine o'clock at night many a night. But I had a lot of help from the judges and the bankruptcy bar and the staff here.
Q: What is the best part about your job?
A: Being partners with Tommy. It's hard to find a partner that you really mix well with, business-wise but also personally. Tommy's somebody who I like as a friend, and I really enjoy his company.
Q: If you had not become a lawyer, what would you be doing now?
A: I would apply immediately to be one of The Boo Boys. They make these $1,000 fly fishing rods out of spliced bamboo. They used to be part of a company, then some CEO came in and he got upset because they'd only work a few days a week and then they'd all go fly fishing. There are four of them, so they started their own company called Sweetgrass Rods. I definitely think I would try to be one of them.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
A: One of the things I'd really like to do is get attached to the Air Force as a reservist, to be a JAG (Judge Advocate General) for the Air National Guard base out on Democrat Road and serve the Air Force legal community. And hopefully I'm going to be attached to them in another month or two. I'm currently a major in the Air Force reserves.
Q: What do you do when you are not working?
A: I work in the yard, and I'm into boating at Greers Ferry Lake in Heber Springs, Ark.