Evans Petree Law has operated for 110 years in Memphis, Tennessee. Six months ago, they opened an office here in Oxford, Mississippi with two full-time lawyers and a steady stream of other lawyers from the firm’s Memphis office who are working with various clients
Forty-five lawyers make up the practice across four offices, and 11 of them are Ole Miss alumni. With a strong connection to the university, Oxford was an obvious place for the firm to operate. Caren Beth Nichol was recently named the first female president of the major law firm in Memphis, and she spoke about the excitement that comes with opening a new branch in Oxford.
“We see Oxford as a place that is growing and exciting; it really is a place that is fun to be in,” Nichol said. “The university gives Oxford a great intellectual base, an innovative base for the city. It’s the brain trust, and for the investors, that is so positive. The culture that’s here is great… with great teachers in public schools, an innovative workforce, and a low cost of living, those things are attractive to us as a law firm and to the people we do work for.”
Julie Wells and Paul Edwards are the two full-time lawyers that live in Oxford, and both are Ole Miss alums. Wells graduated from Ole Miss Law School in 2007 and joined Evans Petree in 2014. Wells has been able to work in a variety of areas including business and commercial transactions, private client services, including drafting and reviewing contracts, company restructuring, employment work and business acquisitions.
Edwards graduated Ole Miss as an undergraduate and remained in the SEC for Law School as he attended Vanderbilt. His practice areas include banking, corporate law, real estate, and estate planning. Edwards was recently selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America 2017 in the field of Real Estate Law for the eighth straight year.
Evans Petree specializes in numerous areas including acquisition mergers, intellectual property, real estate, employment law, etc. The firm also specializes in helping small restaurants franchise and expand their brand, just as they have done for Gus’s Fried Chicken. They are able to cover a wide variety of areas due to their size. Attorney Rusty Hensley knows that a key to success is being able to help, no matter what issue may arise.
“We have a very broad base of practice that we do with a lot of expertise because of the size we are,” Hensley said. “We want to have a lot of ‘arrows in our quiver’ so when a client has an issue, we have someone who can talk to them and resolve their issue immediately. We also work with other lawyers outside of our firm who come to us for a certain type of expertise.
While Evans Petree is a law firm, they have worked to create the culture that led to their slogan “More Than Law,” a commitment to serve their clients and the community in any number of ways.
“We’re advisers above and beyond being lawyers,” Nichol said. “We like to try to connect our clients with the communities that they’re working in and not only give them legal advice but connections in their industries for the resources they need.”
“No matter whether it’s Memphis, Oxford or Nashville [where the firm has a small office]…we want to be involved in the community. Whether it’s through charities, boards or nonprofits, we want our lawyers to have the heartbeat of the community that they work in,” Hensley said. “For our clients, we want to be friends, confidants and people that they can call and trust with our advice.”
Evans Petree has wasted no time becoming entrenched in the Oxford community. With the help of the Oxford Chamber, the firm has hosted a pair of speakers to educate small business owners on estate planning and employment laws. A third seminar will be held later this month on the Jan. 26 at Mesquite Chop House. The events are free and open to the public.
“They’ve been very well attended, and we are very impressed with the people of Oxford’s desire to learn new things,” Hensley said.
Nichol began working for Evans Petree 24 years ago when there were only 14 lawyers in the firm. Now acting as the firm’s president, she feels the weight of the 110-year history on her shoulders but welcomes it with an ambitious attitude. She was on the board that set the vision to become a 45-lawyer firm. Now, she will lead the way to chart a vision for the next plateau.
“I’ve grown up at the law firm, and we really have built a family at the firm. It was shocking to me that I was the first female president of a law firm in Memphis because so much of what a woman does well is nurture, care, foster… all of those things that go into managing any business,” Nichol said. “My goal, since becoming President, has been to sit down and meet with each and every lawyer in the firm and to really listen to their ideas and allow them to voice their opinions to help shape the future of this firm.”
Wherever that future holds for Evans Petree, Hensley and Nichol are certain that it will include Oxford for a long time to come.
Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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