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VOL. 125 | NO. 58 | Thursday, March 25, 2010


Brown Recalls 50 Years At Glankler Brown

By Rebekah Hearn

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“I’m the only one who has been here this long. Frank Glankler ... was here when I joined in ‘60 ... until he passed away (in 2007).”  

– R. Grattan Brown

R. Grattan Brown, a member of the law firm Glankler Brown PLLC, marked an important moment in his career earlier this month when he notched 50 years at the Memphis firm that bears his name.

Brown said he’s been “extremely fortunate” to find a career with a company that not only offered longevity, but one that he enjoyed.

His choice to stay at the firm through building moves, gradual staff expansions and wild changes in technology is unique in a transient society that sees people jump not just from job to job, but from career to career.

In the beginning

Brown received his juris doctorate from Vanderbilt University in May 1959. He had worked at the firm, then called Montedonico, Boone, Gilliland, Heiskell & Loch, during other summers of his law school career, and he also did so after graduation.

After his last summer stint at the firm, Brown went into the Air Force Reserve on active duty for six months, which took him to Feb. 1, 1960. On March 1, he joined the firm as an associate.

“I’m the only one who has been here this long,” Brown said. “Frank Glankler … was I think 10 years older than me. He was here when I joined in ’60, and he was here basically until he passed away (in 2007).”

As an associate, Brown did a lot of litigation work, joking that he was the “general flunky and librarian,” since when he started, the firm had nine attorneys and nine offices, so he worked in the library.

The firm used to be at the Commerce Title Building, and moved to One Commerce Square in the late 1970s.

“Mr. Canale and Mr. Glankler and the others in the firm, they were some of the better-known lawyers in town and the firm was well-established,” Brown said.

Today, 54 attorneys and 49 support staff occupy several floors of One Commerce Square.

“One of the things that’s been a source of pride to me has been to see it grow and prosper,” Brown said. “We’ve done pretty well.”

In addition to litigation, Brown did a great deal of banking work, as the National Bank of Commerce was one of the firm’s largest clients.

Brown’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all lawyers, although his father used his law degree to work in the banking field as the head of NBC’s trust department.

“His banking experience was related to the law, handling wills and estates and trusts and so forth,” Brown said.

Brown said it wasn’t strange to work for the firm representing his father’s employer.

“They were a big organization and he was just one part of it,” he said. “I didn’t do a whole lot directly for him. It would have been more for the bank. But no, I enjoyed the fact that I got to interact with him in a business-type setting.”

Brown served as the general counsel for many years for the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority beginning in 1983. He also took John Montedonico’s place on the NBC board of directors when Montedonico retired, and as more of Brown's work became tied up with the airport and bank, he did less litigation.

“(My practice) did evolve,” he said. “I still had other clients, good clients, too, but in terms of the time I spent, I spent more time on those two clients than others.”

He no longer works for the airport authority, although Glankler Brown still represents the body, which also now has in-house counsel.

Multitude of changes

In the past half-century, the legal community has faced a lot of changes in growth, technology and even attitude, Brown said.

“The technology is out of sight compared to what we had in 1960, so not just seeing the growth of the firm but the evolution of technology has been outstanding, really,” he said. “And now with your iPods and all that, the whole mechanics of practicing law has changed.”

Brown said he’s watched the law community in Memphis grow substantially.

“It’s less personal and in some respects more adversarial, but on the other hand, the quality of lawyers in Memphis is very good, and the judges,” he said. “And it’s just like the firm’s grown, other firms have grown significantly. It’s just a bigger community.”

Still a full-time attorney, Brown has stopped doing a lot of airport and bank work in recent years.

“My practice today is limited to a few other longtime clients,” he said, adding that he and his wife have a cabin in the Appalachian Mountains where he goes to work and unwind.

Brown said simply that the quality of the firm and its people have kept him in one place.

“I had a couple of opportunities (over the years) to go elsewhere into a company position, but I just … liked where I was and liked the people,” he said. “I just really was not that interested in going to another firm.

“What I’m proudest of is the fact that our firm has grown over the years and that we have been successful in doing good legal work for some of the best clients in the city. We’ve just been very fortunate.”

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