Malcolm Futhey III recently made a leap of faith by opening his own practice, the Futhey Law Firm PLC, in Midtown.
He said the idea of working for himself was something he always had in the back of his mind.
“Over the last couple of years, there’s something that comes over you to try to build something of your own, just have your own business,” he said. “And I think, with that, I just decided to try to cut my own path and try to make something.”
To prepare for the solo venture, Futhey researched and picked the brain of a large and varied group of people around town, a list of mentors he said is “too long to name.”
A decade of experience helped him prepare for the moment, pulling most recently from his work with Farris Bobango Branan PLC, where he focused on business litigation since 2009.
It’s an area of law he’ll continue in his own practice, while allowing that he’ll need to diversify and broaden his area by also focusing on personal injury, class action and entertainment law.
Getting his hands into a little bit of everything is something he enjoyed during his time as a clerk just out of law school for U.S. District Court Judge David R. Herndon in East St. Louis, Ill.
“I had to touch everything,” Futhey said. “It gave me a really broad practice and killed the monotony.”
Part of that diversification includes entertainment law, which he became interested in through his own experiences while growing up, as a guitar teacher and in helping friends who are still working as artists.
“I’ve represented some different rappers around town and I have a lot of friends who are making movies, so I help them out with their licensing and stuff,” Futhey said.
A musician himself as a teenager, Futhey never enjoyed getting up in front of audiences. Not so with court, however, as his business litigation practice has put him in front of many juries.
“It’s different,” he said. “It’s not as personal when you’re representing or advocating for somebody.”
Futhey grew up in Memphis and attended Evangelical Christian School, where his mother was a music teacher. His father is president of the United Transportation Union in Cleveland, Ohio, representing employees in the railway, bus and airline industries.
Futhey traveled to the Northwest and Reed College in Portland, Ore., to study nuclear physics, but he left in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, afterward spending three months studying at the Goethe Institute in Munich, Germany.
His plan had been to attend graduate school for philosophy, but he was wary of the current job market for professors at the time. Futhey worked as a runner for law firms during and after college, and it had sparked an interest. Instead of graduate school, he applied to Wake Forest University School of Law in Winston-Salem, N.C., where he was the executive editor of the Wake Forest Intellectual Property Law Journal.
After graduating in 2003, he clerked in Illinois before moving back to Tennessee and working for Bass, Berry & Sims PLC in Nashville. A move home to Memphis found him practicing ERISA litigation with Lawrence & Russell LLP before moving on to Farris Bobango.
Futhey and his wife, Leigh-Taylor White, a family law attorney with Shea Moskovitz & McGhee PLC, have a 2-year-old son, Finley.
Though his new practice keeps him busy, Futhey enjoys jogging and playing piano in his spare time. He volunteers his legal skills with the Memphis Music Foundation and is a committee member for both the Memphis Area Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts and Sustainable Shelby County Commission, Neighborhood Rebirth Subcommittee.
A little more than a month into self-employment, Futhey has embraced his entrepreneurial spirit and is pleased with the endeavor so far, saying it’s “been great” though there has been more administrative work than he’s known in the past.
There was the matter of spending two full days dealing with the phone company and there have been those days that begin at 4:30 a.m. and continue past midnight. But, now that he is his own boss, he’s not complaining.
“I haven’t felt as free and lighthearted since I became a lawyer,” he said. “It’s really nice, it’s really good.”