VOL. 127 | NO. 238 | Thursday, December 6, 2012
Memphis Law Talk
McGhee’s Career of Service Stretches From Police to Bar
By RICHARD J. ALLEY
Charles McGhee of Shea Moskovitz & McGhee PLC grew up in a family dedicated to service.
Born in Japan to a U.S. Marine father and Japanese mother, McGhee moved with his parents to San Diego when he was not quite a year old. Upon his father’s duty coming to an end, they moved to Memphis to be near family.
McGhee’s father took a job with the Memphis Fire Department where he worked until retirement and the call to civil service was a strong one for his son. The graduate of Westside High School entered the University of Memphis to study criminal justice and sociology and, in his third year as an undergraduate, joined the Memphis Police Department.
“I enjoyed my time there,” he says of his five-and-a-half year stint for the department.
He ultimately returned to the university part time after his first year on the force to complete his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
“I had the desire to be a lawyer when I was in undergraduate school, but I was unable financially to directly matriculate from undergraduate to law school,” he said.
The city of Memphis paid for his final year of school and, at 26, he “decided that I needed to either go to law school now or not ever.”
He took a leave of absence from the department, withdrew his accumulated pension and paid for his first year of law school.
He graduated from the University of Memphis School of Law with honors in 1989, and went to work as an associate with Kay Turner, “who taught me well,” he said.
His practice now is primarily in the field of family law, a result of working so closely with Turner, who specialized in domestic relations, for more than seven years.
“The only thing I was sure of when I left the police department was that I didn’t want to do criminal law,” McGhee said. “It was just an area that I did not feel I was going to be cut out for.”
“You don’t fix everybody ... but I think the biggest reward is if you’re able to help children that are in a crisis situation be properly cared for and not exposed to any either physical danger or emotional abuse.”
For a dozen years after leaving practice with Turner, McGhee ran his own practice before being asked to merge with Mitchell Moskovitz and Wanda Shea.
“It’s been a tremendous transition,” he said, “and the best decision I’ve made because of the support staff here and the lawyers. It’s made practicing law fun again.”
McGhee has been with the firm for nearly four years and his work now, in handling divorces, reconciliation and termination of parental rights, is still that of service. He seeks, through legal avenues and mediation, to avoid the problems and contentious situations he saw while in uniform for the police department.
As a Rule 31-certified general mediator, McGhee has received training required by the Tennessee Supreme Court, which sets forth the criteria – including a 40-hour class – and maintenance of certification in mediation. When judges require such actions in a case, a Rule 31 mediator is generally who they want to attempt to resolve the matter.
He said of the practice of family law: “You get to help people that are in a very emotional state and work with them to arrive at solutions that will ultimately make their life easier to go forward, although it’s sometimes difficult to know what direction that has to be in each case. I think that the satisfaction is helping people in custody issues and disputes move forward with their life.”
It’s stressful work, he says, “a very highly intensive area of the law where people need immediate attention because of family crises, custody issues such as visitation over the holidays, or children being in danger.”
It’s work that hits home for the 53-year-old single father who relaxes by spending time with his daughter, reading about history, following Memphis sports teams and, when the opportunity permits, scuba diving.
From his fireman father and his time spent as a policeman, McGhee learned to serve and to look at life and his career with perspective.
“You don’t fix everybody, for sure, and everybody has their different reactions to the divorce or custody issues being resolved,” McGhee said, “but I think the biggest reward is if you’re able to help children that are in a crisis situation be properly cared for and not exposed to any either physical danger or emotional abuse.”