VOL. 125 | NO. 239 | Thursday, December 9, 2010
Attorneys Recall Myar’s Legacy
By Bill Dries
During last week’s annual meeting of the Memphis Bar Association, attorney Buck Wellford asked how many in the room of 500 attorneys and judges knew Sam A. Myar Jr.
A few people stood, including Wellford’s father, retired federal judge Harry Wellford, and attorney Leo Bearman. Myar’s widow and family members were also present.
But more people in the room only knew the name from the MBA’s annual award in Myar’s honor given to attorneys younger than 40.
Attorneys presenting the honor have wondered before about Myar’s life and law practice in a Memphis legal community that is much different than the one he left on the edge of the 1960s.
Myar died in 1959 at the age of 39. He was a partner at McCloy, Myar & Wellford, where his concentration was in corporate and tax law.
Myar was a graduate of the University of Virginia and earned his law degree from the University of Chicago.
“Sam Myar was first and foremost an outstanding lawyer,” the younger Wellford said in presenting the award. “He had what my dad called a photographic memory.”
Myar was also on the faculty of the old Southern Law University, which is now part of the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
“There were so many lawyers at the time who had other jobs … and went part time at Southern.” Wellford said. “And he viewed it as sort of his mission to help train those lawyers and get them on their feet.”
And with the annual award, which this year went to Craig C. Conley, came a reminder that Myar’s life and philosophy are still relevant to the practice of law 50 years later.
“He did something that is hard for a lot of us after we practice for a while if you want to build a client base,” Wellford said. “He would say, ‘No, I can’t do that. … Let’s figure out how can we do it the right way.’ He took that seriously.”
In addition to the annual MBA award named in his honor, there is also a Sam A. Myar Jr. Law Scholarship to the University of Memphis law school that goes to the editor in chief and the managing editor of the University of Memphis Law Review.
It’s not unusual for older attorneys who came along even after Myar to suggest at the annual luncheon that law firms focus a bit less on billable hours.
Incoming MBA President John Cannon pushed for more firms to take summer interns.
“Two to three hours of billable time pays the $500 for an intern,” Cannon said in the way of a plug for the program.
In accepting the Jerome Turner Lawyer’s Lawyer Award, David M. Cook invoked the memory of the late Lee A. Hardison, who founded what is now the Hardison Law Firm PC, where Cook is shareholder and president.
“Anything of merit that I may have accomplished as a lawyer is due to his patient, fatherly instruction,” he said before reaching even further back to Shakespeare.
“It was he who taught me that we lawyers never forget that we must, as Shakespeare wrote, ‘Do as adversaries do in law, strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.’”