Burch, Porter & Johnson PLLC and probate attorney Beth Bradley have been honored for giving back to the community.
The firm and the lawyer were recently recognized at the seventh annual Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Gala in Nashville with the Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Law Firm Award for a partnership with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital that involves helping low-income families manage treatment of their children at the hospital.
The partnership involves attorneys working with those of a low income and newly recognized by the law as adults while mental limitations make a conservatorship necessary.
Heading up the program for Burch Porter is Bradley, a 26-year veteran with the firm. The native Memphian attended St. Agnes Academy before heading east for college at Vanderbilt University with visions of studying pre-med. Along with degrees in French and English came a change of heart, and she instead set her sights on law and stayed on at Vanderbilt for her Juris Doctorate.
“I’ve always been motivated to try to do something positive or that I think can help other people,” she said about her switch to the legal profession.
It’s a trait she gets from her family – her father was a physician, as are her brothers – as well as from the firm.
“I feel very fortunate to have been associated with this group of individuals,” said Bradley, who became a member of Burch Porter in 1996. “I can’t imagine working anywhere else. Really, you hear a lot of bad lawyer jokes all the time, but I can’t imagine a finer group of people.”
Bradley began her work with Burch Porter as a clerk home from law school during the summers and was offered a job in 1987 as part of one of the largest hiring classes at the time.
She began working in the area of probate law and likes “the feeling of seeing something through to completion, where someone comes to you and it’s a sad or a trying or an emotional time for them, and you feel like you can be a voice of reason and also guide them through a difficult process.”
Probate involves estate administration and estate planning, but also the protection of the vulnerable such as children and those she works with at St. Jude. That protection is also the reason she continues to sit on the board of a nonprofit she helped found early on in her career, The Exceptional Foundation of West Tennessee.
The organization is “designed to address the needs of disabled individuals who have aged out of the school system,” Bradley said. “They can go to school until age 22, and then a lot of times they’ll lose their social connections. … They try to do a lot of enriching activities, so it’s a good benefit for them and certainly a respite for their caregivers.”
Burch Porter has a long history of civic engagement, from working with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the sanitation strike that led up to his assassination in 1968, to the successful fight to keep Interstate 40 from bisecting Overton Park in the 1970s.
And again, Bradley reiterates the good fortune of an association with a firm that allowed her the time and offered the encouragement to work with her new foundation.
“They didn’t blink an eye, just said, ‘We think that’s a great, worthwhile organization, you just do what you need to do,’” she said. “They were very supportive.”
The collaborative effort with St. Jude began when Linda Seely, president of the Memphis Bar Association and director of private attorney involvement with Memphis Area Legal Services, “perceived there might be a need at St. Jude for legal services,” Bradley said. “Once they (patients) become adults, they need a legal representative to give permission on their behalf to continue the treatment.”
Bradley’s husband, Bill Bradley, is an intellectual property attorney with Glankler Brown PLLC, and the couple has two daughters: Kate, a student at Mississippi State University, and Maggie, a student at St. Agnes. They are members of Christ United Methodist Church where she and Maggie work with a special needs Sunday school class.