When Russell Lewis IV entered the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, he had no plans to become a practicing attorney.
Though fascinated with law, he instead wanted the critical-thinking education that such study provides.
“I had an idea that I would be able to use that in a corporate setting to be a better manager or executive,” he said.
The Crossville, Tenn., native had graduated from Tennessee Technical University with a Bachelor of Science in finance and stayed on for an Master of Business Administration. While in law school, though, he participated in mock trial and moot court, experiences that changed his career path.
“I really found that it was very satisfying,” he said.
After graduating from law school in 2005, Lewis went out on his own, “doing basically anything I could do,” he said. In contrast to his friends and colleagues who were working for large firms, concentrating on one area day in and day out, Lewis found himself having to figure out the different areas of law and how to handle a case from beginning to end.
“It was definitely challenging at the time, but I feel like it served me well because I had no choice but to make it all the way through the process,” he said. “I was in the trenches, learning as I went.”
Two years later, Lewis became connected with the Johnson Law Group, a Houston-based firm that practices in general civil litigation, focusing especially on wrongful death, personal injury, mass tort and nursing home negligence.
He currently has his own practice yet remains of counsel with the Johnson Law Group, an arrangement he says “provides me with access to resources that a traditional solo practitioner would not have. This provides me with the ability to work on a greater number of cases and cases of greater complexity.”
Lewis grew up with a veterinarian father who owned his own business and a social-worker mother who instilled in him a sense of justice he carries into cases defending his elderly clients and their families.
“My father owning his own business is part of what caused me to feel the comfort in doing it myself because I grew up with that, so I think that’s probably where the genetic wiring came from for both of those,” Lewis said.
Lewis’ area of law now focuses on nursing home medical malpractice, serious injury and mass torts. The number of cases involving negligence in nursing homes is growing.
“The nursing home cases are by far the most interesting out of all of those to me,” he said. “The numbers of people that are going into facilities are increasing every year, and it’s becoming more challenging because the vast majority of nursing homes are part of corporate chains.”
To take on such cases in a national scope, Lewis has passed four bar exams and is licensed in six states. He is what he refers to as a “new school” litigator, practicing in both state and federal courts, traveling and utilizing the newest technology in cloud-based computing and file storage, file sharing, outsourcing and mobile technology to stay better connected with clients, whether they be on the bluffs of the Mississippi or the banks of the Cuyahoga.
Lewis is a member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum, the American Association for Justice, and is on the executive committee and board of governors for the Tennessee Association for Justice.
He and his wife, Renee, have two daughters – Charlotte, 2, and Dorothy, 2 months – and he enjoys the flexibility of working on his own and setting his own schedule to spend time with them.
Such freedom also allows the time given to pursue other interests, such as following University of Memphis Tigers basketball and working toward a private pilot’s license – he has taken lessons this year at Downtown’s General DeWitt Spain Airport. It’s a hobby Lewis likens to the legal profession, primarily with one’s own firm, where every decision – right or wrong – is his own.
“You have to be able to deal with the contingencies when you’re flying, and that’s a lot like the cases I deal with, too,” he said. “When you start out, you think you know how you want it to go or how it will go, but you’ve got to be able to handle it however it does go.”