Native Memphian and Germantown High School alum, William Morris, has joined the Memphis office of Husch Blackwell LLP, a St. Louis-based litigation and business law firm with 600 attorneys across the country and in London.
Morris will work with the firm’s aviation group, which serves a clientele base made up of airlines, maintenance and overhaul companies, airports, aviation insurance companies and the like.
His days are spent with contracts and the details of complex transactions and laws from around the world for which he uses skills and knowledge gleaned over more than a decade in work ranging from general corporate and real estate law to tromping through the marshes of Louisiana as an environmental lawyer with the Army Corps of Engineers.
It all began as a law student at the University of North Carolina School of Law, which he attended after receiving his undergraduate at the University of Alabama. He planned to attend school for an MBA but instead set his sights on a top-tier law school.
“I started thinking about other things to do and ways I could maybe differentiate myself a little bit, and instead of putting a business degree on top of an undergraduate business degree, I decided to look into law school instead,” he said.
And he hasn’t looked back. A job with Burr & Forman LLP in Birmingham, Ala., introduced him to general corporate and real estate law.
“Generally, lawyers get classified as either corporate lawyers or litigators, which are pretty broad distinctions,” Morris said, “but I did not see myself going into a courtroom every day.”
Instead of a hushed and paneled courtroom, his next job found him in New Orleans working with the Corps of Engineers, “an interesting career choice” as he puts it, where he focused on environmental and conservation projects in Southwestern Louisiana.
“I did not see myself going into a courtroom every day.”
Husch Blackwell LLP
“Instead of driving a desk for 10 hours a day, I was able to spend a lot of my time out in the field and touring marshlands and other wetlands for particular projects, meeting with landowners and negotiating rights to do projects on their land. It was pretty fascinating.”
Home and love brought him back, and he married fellow Memphian Renee Schauer, the two eventually having two sons, and he went to work with the firm of Bass Berry & Sims PLC.
As with anyone making his home in this city, the pull of the purple and orange of the city’s largest employer is great.
“I really backed my way into FedEx,” said Morris, who at 41 years old is the same age as the shipping company and grew up with it in his periphery of knowledge. “I feel like I kind of grew up with the company … but it never occurred to me to go to work for FedEx, it never even entered my mind.”
A friend in the legal department notified him about a job opening and he applied more out of a willingness to network and professional courtesy, and ended up taking the job.
As an in-house attorney, he found, there was a completely different dynamic than private practice, but he enjoyed his time there, and the travel and immersion into foreign cultures and law in places such as Malaysia, China, Singapore and Japan.
“Working for FedEx as a lawyer was really fascinating and it was a tremendous experience,” Morris said. “I was definitely able to advance my transactional experience in ways that I never imagined doing so while practicing law in Memphis.”
After six years with FedEx, Morris had become lead aircraft counsel and was looking to advance his professional career and stay in Memphis. “If you’re not going to be an aircraft lawyer for FedEx, and you want to stay in Memphis, your opportunities are fairly limited.”
He began work with Husch Blackwell’s aviation group Dec. 1. The group is relatively small, Morris said, “but they have great attorneys, they have great experience and do very sophisticated work. The firm is looking to expand that practice, so they were looking for someone with my qualifications.”
The avid outdoorsman and fly fisher feels as though his career has been a series of moves brought on by luck and chance, like a stone skipping across a mountain stream. They’ve all added up to the experience needed to become a leader in his field.
“I can’t say that it was any well thought-out plan,” Morris said. “A lot of these opportunities have just fallen into my lap or I’ve backed my way into them, but they certainly have been fun and exciting and I’ve enjoyed the fact that I’ve had those experiences, been able to move around and see a lot of different things; and I do think it adds value to my legal skills and being able to serve my clients too.”