Jason Strain, a shareholder with Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC, grew up with the idea of the legal profession being a “good and interesting job.”
He saw it as a career his father, Alan Strain, a litigator with The Hardison Law Firm PC, always seemed to enjoy.
“To some extent I was kind of modeling that,” said the younger Strain.
It’s a path that led him to Mississippi State University to study political science and history, graduating summa cum laude in 2003. There was a brief flirtation with medical school but ultimately, he said, “There was too much chemistry involved.”
Wanting to go someplace different to spread his wings, and having worked in Washington one summer, he set his sights on Georgetown University Law Center. His wife, Amanda, worked for the IRS at the time and together, he said, they had “the quintessential D.C. experience.”
While at school, he used his background in history while working with a professor to research English legal history and in digging through the Georgetown law library, one of the best and most complete in the world. It was the perfect activity for someone who enjoyed the hunt for old manuscripts and primary sources.
“A lot of it was going through these old hand-written case reports from the 1500s and opinions from Lord Mansfield and oldy-moldy stuff like that, which to a history geek was fun,” Strain said.
In the summer of 2002, he clerked for Baker Donelson, which led to a job offer a year later. Returning to Memphis, his wife’s hometown as well, felt like the right thing for the couple.
Strain practices in the area of real estate and finance, working to help people buy, sell and lease properties, acquiring PILOTs and other incentives for companies looking to move to town. In one such case, the client Riviana Foods was looking to expand from its home in South Memphis and considering options in other parts of Tennessee as well as Arkansas.
“We worked with them … and they ended up building a big, new facility right across the street from their existing one, which was in an area of town that probably needed some jobs,” he said.
“One thing I like about doing real estate is there is kind of a tangible piece of it.”
Shareholder, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC
It was a rewarding project for Strain to work on, and it’s a pride he shows with other developments he’s had a hand in throughout the city.
“Those projects are fun because you think that, in addition to helping the company, you’re potentially helping Memphis as a whole,” he said. “One thing I like about doing real estate is there is kind of a tangible piece of it, I can drive around town and see an office complex where I represent the landlord and we’ve helped fill it up or buildings that I’ve worked on or companies where I’ve worked on loans and that sort of thing.”
Strain’s brother, Ryan, is also with Baker Donelson as a litigator, the same role their father plays at Hardison. With a family in the courts and in front of juries, Jason Strain relishes his work behind the scenes.
“I didn’t really have the desire to go to court,” he said. “My dad and my brother are both litigators, so I definitely have a lot of respect for that.”
But he has once played the role of litigator. That was with firm patriarch and industry stalwart Leo Bearman, who called and asked for help on a case.
“I wasn’t going to say no,” Strain laughs now.
The team won the case in Shelby County Chancery Court, lost at the Appellate Court in Jackson and then won in the Tennessee Supreme Court in Nashville.
“So I sort of said I would let that be my court career,” Strain said. “I’m 1-0 with a win in Supreme Court with Mr. Bearman. I think I’ll stop it there.”
Strain cites the culture of mentorship and teamwork at Baker Donelson that has pushed him to excel at his career and one that has helped him to recently be elected a shareholder of the firm. It also allows him and, indeed, encourages him to take the time for pro bono work, which he has done with Literacy Mid-South, Promise Academy and sitting on the board of Door of Hope.