Phillips & Ingrum

Leadership Law Blog – Jay Ingrum

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tballRecently, I got the opportunity to take part in the Tennessee Bar Association’s Leadership Law (TBALL) Program. I want to recommend TBALL to any Tennessee attorney as it is an extremely worthwhile experience, not just for the legal knowledge you gain, but for the quality relationships you build with other lawyers across the state of Tennessee, especially with your TBALL classmates. All lawyers should push themselves to learn and grow by getting out of their comfort zones. If you aren’t growing and moving forward in your practice of law, then you are stagnating and going backwards. After all, that is why they call it the “practice of law.”


Six months ago I was selected by the Tennessee Bar Association as one of thirty-three attorneys statewide to take part in their Leadership Law Program. The year 2016 was the thirteenth year of the Tennessee Bar Association’s Leadership Law (TBALL) program. Leadership Law is designed to equip Tennessee attorneys with the vision, knowledge and skills necessary to serve as leaders in their profession and in their local communities. The goals of Leadership Law include but are not limited to the following: to nurture effective leadership with respect to ethical, professional and community service issues; to build relationships among legal leaders from across the state and from across disciplines within the profession; to raise the level of awareness among lawyers regarding the broad range of issues facing the legal profession; and to enhance the diversity of leaders within the legal profession and the community as a whole. Needless to say, it was a great honor for me to be selected as part of this excellent group of attorneys from all across Tennessee.

In January we started our journey across each grand division of Tennessee with anTBALL2016_2 opening TBALL retreat at Montgomery Bell State Park in Burns, Tennessee. During the retreat we learned about leadership in action, the cost of leadership, the civil practice of law, and how to pay it forward in our respective communities. We heard from legends of the bench and bar including but not limited to: Allan Ramsaur, Byron Trauger, Houston Gordon, Nashville School of Law Dean Koch, TBA President Bill Harbison, Abby Rubenfeld, Gordon Bonnyman, Dwight Tarwater, Buck Lewis, and Randy Kinnard. The wealth of knowledge and experience in the rooms at the retreat was amazing, and it was a privilege to be there and soak it all in.

In February we met in Nashville to learn about issues in policy and politics. We heard directly from state representatives and state senators. Congressman Jim Cooper spoke to us. We got to interact with lobbyists and even visited Legislative Plaza to observe the confirmation hearing of Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Roger Page. It was eye opening to see how bills get written and laws get passed even for a group of practicing attorneys. It made me realize that we all need to be more involved in our government and gain more knowledge about how and why certain laws are passed and certain laws fail in our legislature.

In March we moved east to Knoxville and turned our focus to issues in the courts in Tennessee. Our class got to meet with, listen to, and ask questions to an esteemed panel of federal judges. We learned a federal judge’s perspective on the law. Later, speakers covered such topics as the problems of human trafficking in Tennessee and issues in our juvenile justice system. Touring a juvenile detention facility and speaking and sharing with the juvenile inmates was a highlight of our time in Knoxville. Finally, we got to hear a lecture from world renowned forensic anthropologist, Dr. William Bass who founded the University of Tennessee’s “Body Farm.” The purpose of the “Body Farm” is study how the human body decomposes over time under different conditions. The work of Dr. Bass has been groundbreaking in the field of forensic science.

In April it was on to the western division and the Bluff City of Memphis. There, we toured the National Civil Rights Museum and we heard from W.J. Michael Cody who served as legal counsel to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement. Later, we learned about leadership and about building better communities.

In May we returned to Nashville and to the Belmont University College of Law where our focus turned to diversity in leadership. We heard from Michelle Johnson, the Executive Director of the Tennessee Justice Center. At the Tennessee Bar Center we engaged in media training with Pat Nolan, Sr. VP with DVL Public Relations.

TBALL2016_3Finally, in June we all attended the Tennessee Bar Association’s annual convention in Nashville. We heard a fascinating lecture from a speaker with the National Holocaust Museum about the role of attorneys and judges in the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, and how their actions or in many cases there inaction allowed the Holocaust to take place. The class met privately with all of Tennessee’s Supreme Court Justices and we were able to hear about their personal life experiences and their reflections on the profession of practicing law.

At the conclusion of the convention, the Leadership Law graduation ceremony was held. At the graduation, it was announced that I received the Tennessee Bar Association Leadership Law Larry Dean Wilks Leadership Award in recognition of exceptional leadership qualities that enhanced the Leadership Law experience for all class members. This is the greatest honor that I have ever received in my legal career because it was voted on by my distinguished Leadership Law classmates and because it carries the name of esteemed attorney Larry Wilks.

Like my classmates, Larry Wilks was brilliant and was very accomplished in his legal career. Sadly, Larry passed away at the age of 56. During his life and legal career, Larry had many great achievements including but not limited to the following: Doctorate of Jurisprudence from University of Tennessee at Knoxville (1980), President of the Tennessee Bar Association in (2006), Co-Chair of Leadership Law (2003-2004) and (2008-2010), Assistant General Counsel and General Counsel to the TBA (1994-1999), American Trial Association Top 100 Lawyers (2010), Mid-South Super Lawyers (2009), Bar Registry of Preeminent Lawyers (2004-2011), and Best Lawyers in America (2006-2011). However, out of all these great achievements, Larry’s pride and joy was his family, especially his wife of thirty years Jan McIllwain Wilks and his sons, John Ray Wilks and Adam Garrett Wilks.

larrywilksaward2016Although I never got to meet Larry Wilks, I have been fortunate enough to meet Larry’s son, John Ray Wilks, who is also an attorney. I am proud to call John a friend. I can tell you that Larry has left a legacy not only through his legal career but through his family. His son is a fine young man and a fine young attorney. Larry and John never got to practice together, but I know that Larry would be extremely proud of John and the man and attorney he has become. I will continue to work hard and try to live up to the example that Larry Wilks set. I will do my absolute best to prove that I am worthy of receiving the award that bears his name.