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VOL. 125 | NO. 4 | Thursday, January 7, 2010

Glankler Brown’s Thornton Receives Annual Pro Bono Award

By Rebekah Hearn

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Laurie M. Thornton
Glankler Brown PLLC
Thornton has received the firm’s third annual Frank J. Glankler Jr. Pro Bono Award for the second consecutive year.

Laurie M. Thornton, an attorney at Glankler Brown PLLC, has received the firm’s third annual Frank J. Glankler Jr. Pro Bono Award. This is the second consecutive year Thornton has received the honor. She provided more than 40 hours of free legal services during 2009.

The Frank J. Glankler Jr. Pro Bono Award is given annually to the recipient who best demonstrates the firm’s belief that quality legal services should be made available to those who can’t afford it. Each year, the recipient receives a monetary gift endowed by Jim Gilliland, one of the firm’s former senior partners.

Thornton focuses her practice on residential and commercial real estate law. She is a member of the Memphis Bar Association’s Real Estate Section, the Tennessee Commercial Real Estate Women, the Tennessee Bar Association and the Association for Women Attorneys.

Previously, Thornton worked as communications director of a nonprofit organization. She also served as a board member for the Episcopal Church Home Trust, Hutchison School Alumnae Association, Foster Care Review Board and St. Mary’s Manassas Area Rehabilitation Team.

She wrote grant proposals, organized volunteers and oversaw public relations and fundraising. She currently serves as a vestry member at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

She also has worked as an assistant district attorney and an assistant public defender in Shelby County.

Q: How did doing pro bono work become so instilled in you?

A: I have been involved with community service projects for as long as I can remember. Throughout my years at Hutchison School, I participated in many community service projects. Hutchison stressed the importance of taking care of our community. Today through my church, St. John’s Episcopal, and through Glankler Brown’s support of the Memphis Area Legal Services program, I plan to continue to do what I can.

Personally, I have been in situations when I needed help, and I received that help from family, friends and total strangers. My life was changed by others and I often wonder what I would have done without the compassion and assistance I received. I will never be able to repay those who helped me, but what I can do is help as much as I am able. Memphis Area Legal Services provides a perfect opportunity for me to give back and Glankler Brown supports our work with them. I have met many very special people through this program who have inspired me, strengthened my faith and encouraged me by sharing their own personal struggles.

Our city is hurting and it doesn’t take much to ease the pain. A little compassion, understanding and assistance go a long way in diffusing the anger and frustration of many Memphis Area Legal Services clients.

Q: When doing pro bono work, can you only handle real estate cases, or are you able to help a client with any case you feel capable of taking on?

A: I do not limit my pro bono assistance to real estate matters. I take cases as I feel qualified. Memphis Area Legal Services offers training in many areas that I don’t regularly practice. I have also called on associates and partners at Glankler Brown for guidance.

Q: What are some of the more difficult cases you’ve had to handle for clients?

A: The more difficult cases have involved properties with environmental issues. The laws are drastically changing to better protect our environment and the requirements are time-consuming and costly. I have learned that patience is a requirement when there are environmental issues.

Q: Has the recession caused you to have to adjust your practice in any way?

A: The recession has changed the parties in many of my real estate transactions. I deal with many institutional sellers now due to the numerous foreclosures that have taken place. The closing process takes much longer as many of the institutions are being absorbed or purchased by other institutions. It takes awhile for the “dust to settle” before we can move forward. The recession is slowing the process down, requiring patience by all parties, and that can be very challenging.

Q: What was it like working as a prosecutor and then a public defender for Shelby County?

A: Mayor A C Wharton Jr. hired me right out of law school as an assistant public defender. I quickly learned how sheltered and green I was. The revolving door to the jail was difficult to accept. That experience opened my eyes to the continuous cycle of poverty. I was later hired as an assistant district attorney for Shelby County. The case load was unending and the work load was tremendous. By working for both offices, I learned that there is a little bit of good in the bad and a little bit of bad in the good. Life is very, very gray. I have great respect for the public defender’s office and the district attorney’s office in Shelby County. The experience was valuable and rewarding.

Q: Did your experience with nonprofit organizations, particularly grant-writing and public relations, help you in the law profession?

A: My experience with the nonprofits and public relations put me in contact with many people throughout our city who are trying to make a difference. It helped me to better understand our city on many levels. I learned about the many challenges Memphians face and their ongoing struggles. Indirectly, that helped me in my profession.

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