“I went to law school so I could hear myself talk,” jokes Kirk Caraway, a partner with Allen, Summers, Simpson, Lillie & Gresham PLLC.
He’s laughing, but there is some truth behind such a statement in that litigators must possess a certain confidence in their expertise and their experience, especially when arguing in front of the United States Court of Appeals or the Tennessee Supreme Court, as Caraway recently did.
He’s been amassing his communicative skills since his days at White Station High School when his interest in journalism led him to the school newspaper and a statewide competition for writing as a junior. As a senior, he was editor of the sports section.
This interest spilled over into the University of Memphis where as a student he had designs on becoming a sports writer.
“The graduates that were getting out of college were then taking jobs in little bitty small towns and having to write about the local T-ball game or whatever the case may be, and I’m just not a small-town kind of guy so I didn’t want to go that route,” he said.
An uncle was an attorney in Jackson, Miss., and the youngest of seven children. “Notwithstanding that, all of his brothers and sisters always came to him for advice on everything,” Caraway said. “Everybody looked to my uncle as a problem solver. I was impressed by that and I liked that, that’s one of the things that I think lawyers can and should do is be problem solvers.”
Caraway graduated with honors from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 1997 and went to work for Allen, Scruggs, Sossaman and Thompson where he was drawn to civil cases involving workers’ compensation and employer defense because of the potential for time spent in court, the potential to talk about a case.
“I always knew, even before I went to law school, that I wanted to do trial work,” Caraway said. “The opportunities to actually go to court are somewhat limited in employment cases because most of them don’t go to court, so the partners at my firm gave me quite a bit of the workers’ compensation cases to work on where I was able to cut my teeth on taking depositions, arguing motions and went to trial a couple of times. That’s what I enjoy.”
“I always knew, even before I went to law school, that I wanted to do trial work.”
Partner, Allen, Summers, Simpson, Lillie & Gresham PLLC
From that firm, he went to Rosenblum & Reisman with a larger litigation practice where he was in court all the time.
“I got a lot of very good litigation trial experience,” he said.
In 2004, the Allen Scruggs firm split apart and the resulting firm of Allen, Summers, Simpson, Lillie & Gresham PLLC asked him to come back shortly after and, he says, “It’s worked very well.”
In the spirit of his uncle, Caraway has seen that there are two ways to solve problems, proactively and retroactively, and Caraway has learned through his years of practice that the former is always preferable, both to the client and the attorney.
“If the clients contact me early enough then we can walk through what the problem is, what the potential ways are to fix the problem and try and do something that would minimize their risk and minimize their heartburn later,” he said. “That’s what I like to do.”
A father of two boys – ages 6 and 8 – with wife, Anne, a marketing director for the accounting firm The Marston Group, Caraway finds time to coach his boys in little league as well as play on an adult baseball league in Germantown.
“Baseball is one of my passions, so I make the time for it,” he said.
Caraway is currently the secretary of the Memphis Bar Association and will rise to vice president for the upcoming year. While the workdays of a litigator are full of long hours with clients and in courtrooms, Caraway, ever the problem solver, also makes a point of working with many charitable causes such as the Special Olympics. He also gets into the classroom at his high school alma mater at least once per year to talk to the students about the legal system and how it works.
“I’m a product of Memphis City Schools,” he said. “I then went to state schools for both college and law school, so I think my having benefited from that public education that resulted in having the job I have today, that I’m obligated to give something back to the kids.”