A New Lawyer in Knoxville - Articles

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Posted by: William Haltom on Feb 20, 2010

Journal Issue Date: Mar 2010

Journal Name: March 2010 - Vol. 46, No. 3

Replacing the firm of Kiffin, Kiffin & Orgeron

There is a new lawyer in Knoxville. He arrived just a few weeks ago and set up shop in the offices formerly occupied by the firm of Kiffin, Kiffin & Orgeron. The new lawyer is Derek Dooley. Born and raised in Athens, Georgia, Mr. Dooley attended the University of Virginia where he was a member of the Varsity Debate Team. He was also a walk-on member of the school's intercollegiate football team.

After graduating from the University of Virginia with honors, he matriculated at the University of Georgia Law School. Not only did he matriculate, he also attended classes, took exams, and obtained his Doctor of Jurisprudence degree.

And then he did something that proves he is really smart. He married a doctor.

After passing the Georgia bar exam on his first sitting, and after being approved by the Georgia Bar Moral Fitness Committee, he was sworn in as an attorney before the Georgia Supreme Court. On hand for his admission ceremony was his father, who had recently retired after a long career as an employee of the University of Georgia.

Thereafter, Dooley practiced law for two years as a litigator with the law firm of Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarbrough in their offices in Atlanta. In this capacity, he did the glorious work of a litigation associate, including answering interrogatories, Bates-stamping documents, and sitting next to old geezer partners at depositions and hearings.

After two years of private practice, Mr. Dooley decided to leave this glamorous lifestyle and pursue a new career in the field of education. Following in his father's footsteps, he obtained a position at Louisiana State University where he worked closely with a senior staff member named Nick Saban. His job title was "recruiting coordinator." In this capacity, he worked closely with Mr. Saban to try to persuade fine young people to enroll at Louisiana State University, provided they could meet that institution's rigorous admission standards.

He then left Louisiana State University after obtaining a senior staff position at the Louisiana Technical University. His work at "La Tech," as it's known to Cajun engineers, was similar to the work he performed for Mr. Saban at Louisiana State University, as he tried to recruit outstanding high school students (primarily very large young men) to matriculate at Louisiana Technical University and, perhaps, to engage in some of the fine extracurricular activities offered by that institution of higher education.

In January, a position came open in Knoxville, after the fairly rapid departure of the aforementioned Kiffin, Kiffin & Orgeron. Members of that firm reportedly fled Knoxville in the middle of the night, and headed to California. They even tried to take some of the firm's best clients with them. Attorney Dooley was then contacted by the noted placement firm of Hamilton & Haslam who persuaded him to move his practice. Hamilton & Haslam had contacted highly respected professionals in Austin, Texas, Durham, North Carolina, and several other cities before landing Mr. Dooley.

Mr. Dooley has been pretty busy since starting his practice in Knoxville just a few weeks ago. His first job was to contact a number of University of Tennessee students who had formerly been represented by Kiffin, Kiffin & Orgeron, to see if he could take over their cases. This was a difficult task given that the firm of Kiffin, Kiffin & Orgeron had called a number of these students, told them not to attend class, and suggested they move to California.

Mr. Dooley then had to quickly work to develop his own client base. In this regard, he faced stiff competition not only from the Los Angeles office of Kiffin, Kiffin & Orgeron, but also from the Saban Firm in Alabama and the Meyer Firm in Florida, although there were some reports that the senior partner of the Meyer firm was considering retirement.

As if all this wasn't challenging enough, Mr. Dooley now faces a very vigorous fall trial schedule. He currently has 12 trials scheduled in the three-month period from September through November. And he could have more if any of his clients get arrested.

I haven't met Mr. Dooley, but I am pulling for him. I even plan on attending several of his trials this fall.

Bill Haltom BILL HALTOM is a partner with the Memphis firm of Thomason, Hendrix, Harvey, Johnson & Mitchell. He is past president of the Tennessee Bar Association and is a past president of the Memphis Bar Association.