Babaoglu driven to help others find American dream

Law Talk profile for The Memphis Daily News

Jan. 3, 2013

Being of Azerbaijan descent and born in Milan, Italy, Rehim Babaoglu of Thomason Hendrix Harvey Johnson & Mitchell PLLC, preaches the American dream from his pulpit high above Main Street as an immigration lawyer.

He tells the story of a 5-year-old boy in 1951: “I was on a boat and it was coming into New York Harbor, people were being called on deck and I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. I go up on deck and there, in the fog-shrouded harbor, is the Statue of Liberty.”

It was, he said, “the penultimate immigrant experience” and is one he has carried with him throughout his life. He grew up in coldwater tenement flats in Newark, N.J., a fictional yet very true-to-life setting for “The Sopranos.”

“I used to shine shoes as a kid in bookie joints, they were on every corner,” Babaoglu said.

Babaoglu’s father spoke eight languages and worked distributing international music records, but he went to college at Rutgers University, originally with plans to be a dentist, yet ending up with majors in Russian language and history.

His work as a probation officer after graduation taught him that there was too low of a ceiling in government work and, while observing attorneys in court, Babaoglu said, “I can do better than that.”

It was the dean of the Rutgers Law School who suggested studying at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law … (read more)


Diverse career leads Morris to Husch Blackwell’s aviation group

Law Talk profile for The Memphis Daily News

Dec. 27, 2012

Native Memphian and Germantown High School alum, William Morris, has joined the Memphis office of Husch Blackwell LLP, a St. Louis-based litigation and business law firm with 600 attorneys across the country and in London.

Morris will work with the firm’s aviation group, which serves a clientele base made up of airlines, maintenance and overhaul companies, airports, aviation insurance companies and the like.

His days are spent with contracts and the details of complex transactions and laws from around the world for which he uses skills and knowledge gleaned over more than a decade in work ranging from general corporate and real estate law to tromping through the marshes of Louisiana as an environmental lawyer with the Army Corps of Engineers.

It all began as a law student at the University of North Carolina School of Law, which he attended after receiving his undergraduate at the University of Alabama. He planned to attend school for an MBA but instead set his sights on a top-tier law school.

“I started thinking about other things to do and ways I could maybe differentiate myself a little bit, and instead of putting a business degree on top of an undergraduate business degree, I decided to look into law school instead,” he said … (read more)


Good deeds can help get us through tragic times

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

Dec. 20, 2012

Helping out can allow us to reclaim holiday spirit

This being the last column before Christmas, I had this funny little bit planned, in the defense of Christmas carols, that much maligned music genre that pops up earlier and earlier each year.

I walk my kids to school in the mornings, and during this, the most wonderful time of the year, we sing on the way there. My youngest daughter has been leading the caroling lately with favorites “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or “O Hanukkah” from her school’s holiday program.

The column was going to be funny and light and possibly a little off key.

And then last Friday, after walking and singing them to school, I went on the Internet to learn that two Memphis police officers had been shot and that one, Martoiya Lang, a mother of four, had died. About the same time, news started coming in about a school shooting in Connecticut that would eventually leave 26 dead, including 20 children.

All of the funny went out of me. All of the music left my voice. What was left was a void and the indescribable urge to see my children, so that I practically ran up to the school at the end of the day.

The acts, of course, are senseless. The fact that they were perpetrated on a mother of four, on the children of so many, is unforgivable. It throws a pall on the most wonderful time of the year, doesn’t it?

That day, though, my kids hadn’t heard the news. We walked home, and while one daughter prattled on about her class’ Christmas party, I heard my 6-year-old, bringing up the rear, singing “Silent Night.”

Silent night, holy night.

Mister Rogers, everyone’s neighbor, once said that when the news was scary, his mother told him to “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping,” and urged us to tell our children the same. And we have, my generation, through Columbine and 9/11 and Virginia Tech and every other unthinkable tragedy that comes to us within seconds through today’s technology.

As adults now, and parents, we shouldn’t just look for helpers, but we must also be the helpers. There are people in our community who need help, whether from a sudden, inconceivable act of violence, or through a long season of neglect. This is the time to begin helping, during this most wonderful time of the year.

All is calm, all is bright.

If your child is safe at home today as mine are, sitting on the floor beside the tree in anticipation of next Tuesday, watching SpongeBob, eating a Pop-Tart, making a mess, all of the things I make light of here in this space, be thankful and be gracious. Hold them tightly, and do your best to put that music back into their lives.

As I write this, news is still pouring in fast and furious, and things could change, though not necessarily for the better. More bad could happen between now and the day this runs.

But also a lot of good could happen. That’s up to you, and it’s up to me.

Sleep in heavenly peace, and Merry Christmas from my family to yours.

Permanent link to The Commercial Appeal


Gupta trades life of science for career as patent attorney

Law Talk profile for The Memphis Daily News

Dec. 20, 2012

With a Bachelor of Science in biomedical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and a new job in the Hematology-Oncology Department at the jewel of medical institutions, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Hemant Gupta’s life appeared to set with a promising career in medical research.

But then a funny thing happened on the way to the lab one day.

“While working at St. Jude, I met the patent attorney,” Gupta said. “He was speaking to a large group of researchers about what he does and I was really fascinated by what he described. You get to see so much different technology.”

Gupta’s plan was to finish his master’s degree while at St. Jude and work as a researcher, but that plan was altered and he instead entered the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law to become a patent attorney.

After graduating in 2005, Gupta went out on his own before eventually joining Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens and Cannada PLLC in 2007 … (read more)


The Noble Krewe of Hathor

Feature story for The Downtowner Magazine

December 2012

Ancient Egyptians revered the goddess Hathor as the otherworldly embodiment of love, mirth, motherhood and music. They worshipped her in their Memphis on the banks of their own mighty river, while h ere on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, the Noble Krewe of Hathor has taken her name and vowed to help those in need.

This new world Krewe,  however, is not a lithe goddess with the horns of a bull holding a sun disk and Uraeus, as she’s been depicted on urns and in texts for centuries, but a 501-c-3 whose mission is to raise money and awareness for local charities … (read more)


December 2012



Magee wins Sam A. Myar Jr. Memorial Award

Law Talk profile for The Memphis Daily News

Dec. 13, 2012

Marcy Dodds Magee, a partner with Thomason Hendrix Harvey Johnson & Mitchell, PLLC, has been awarded the Sam A. Myar Jr. Memorial Award.

Named for the late Sam Myar, who died in 1959 at the age of 39, the award is given each year to an attorney younger than 40 years old who has “rendered outstanding personal service to the Memphis and Shelby County legal profession and community,” according to the Memphis Bar Association.

Magee described the award, which was presented Thursday, Dec. 6, at the MBA’s annual meeting, as “humbling” and “an unbelievable honor.”

“My law firm has been very active in the bar association and there have been several recipients of this award that are my current partners right now, so it does mean a great deal to me,” Magee said.

Magee is the past-president of the Young Lawyers Division of the Memphis Bar Association for which she was also on the board of directors. In college at the University of Tennessee, where she received her undergraduate degree in political science, she volunteered with the Tennessee School for the Deaf, the Humane Society and other organizations through her involvement with the student government association.

Her dream of being an attorney began long ago. When she graduated from law school, her mother gave her a forgotten essay written in the third grade about wanting to be a lawyer … (read more)


Blood pressure numbers go up with math homework

Because I Said So column for The Commercial Appeal

Dec. 6, 2012

The hardest thing about kids: Math homework

A word to the wise today for new parents out there: Take your eyes off your sleeping baby just long enough to read this column. She’ll be fine; they rarely up and roll out of a crib or burst into flames. And she’ll still be just as precious when you return.

What you should know is that there is a time coming that will make you forget who that sparkling newborn come forth to brighten your lives ever was. My fellow veteran parents know what it is and I apologize now for any post-traumatic stress you may suffer when I tell these new mothers about the mother of all headaches: a first-grader’s homework.

Is there anything more dispiriting, more threatening to our blood pressure, than sitting at the dining room table trying to induce a 6-year-old to focus — please focus! — on this next math problem? The induction of labor might be a more pleasant experience.

Walking? Piece of cake. Talking? It’s only natural (though be aware that once it starts, it will not stop). Learning to ride a bike? The worst you might end up with is a broken bone, and it won’t be yours. Even the teens and puberty, driver’s license and prom have nothing on that half-hour … hour? … You’ll lose all track of time trying to teach your child about time.

The table, normally the site of tranquil family dinners, becomes a battleground, the only weapons a stubby pencil, wrinkled worksheet and a fleeting grasp of the most basic in mathematic fundamentals. I point, again, at the problem at hand and read it aloud to my daughter. She’s there with me, physically, but her mind is across the house with her siblings, or in a pineapple under the sea.

When I finish reading, she looks up as though surprised to find me there, and then she answers: “Four?” No. “Eight?” No. “Three.” An exasperated look. “Two. Twelve. Four?” When it becomes too much, when the intensity over these integers becomes more than I can bear, the answer is, at long last, shouted: “Five! It’s five!”

And then we both just sit and stare at each other because, once again, it’s I who blurted it out.

Our homework session ends when I stand to leave the room as she writes an “S” in the wrong blank.

I love my daughter. Perhaps I don’t say that enough in this space. I love all of my children just as much as you new parents cherish that ball of drool and gas sleeping in its crib beside you (I know you haven’t even left the nursery), but this one might not be cut out for academics. She’s more Frankenstein than Einstein these days.

But we’re working on it together, and throughout first grade I expect her grades to rise as steadily and as high as my systolic pressure.

Permanent link to The Commercial Appeal


McGhee’s career of service stretches from police to bar

Law Talk profile for The Memphis Daily News

Dec. 6, 2012

Charles McGhee of Shea Moskovitz & McGhee PLC grew up in a family dedicated to service.

Born in Japan to a U.S. Marine father and Japanese mother, McGhee moved with his parents to San Diego when he was not quite a year old. Upon his father’s duty coming to an end, they moved to Memphis to be near family.

McGhee’s father took a job with the Memphis Fire Department where he worked until retirement and the call to civil service was a strong one for his son. The graduate of Westside High School entered the University of Memphis to study criminal justice and sociology and, in his third year as an undergraduate, joined the Memphis Police Department.

“I enjoyed my time there,” he says of his five-and-a-half year stint for the department.

He ultimately returned to the university part time after his first year on the force to complete his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

“I had the desire to be a lawyer when I was in undergraduate school, but I was unable financially to directly matriculate from undergraduate to law school,” he said … (read more)


Pettes finds every day a ‘learning experience’

Law Talk profile for The Memphis Daily News

Nov. 29, 2012

With just more than a month under his belt as a practicing attorney, Brandon Pettes believes he is in the best place possible to begin his career and learn on the job with Glankler Brown PLLC.

“I feel blessed to have a lot of partners in this firm who have taken an interest in me and feed me work so it’s allowed me to gain some skills,” he said.

Pettes grew up in Memphis and attended White Station High School where, in the 10th grade, he was asked by a history teacher to memorize and recite a speech by constitutional lawyer Daniel Webster.

“They say there are very few people who have always known what they wanted to do, I like to think of myself as the exception to that,” Pettes said. “I was just so impressed with the power of (Webster’s) rhetoric that I was interested in perhaps studying the law. And here I am.”

Upon graduation from high school, Pettes followed in Webster’s footsteps and entered Dartmouth College. The cold New England winters would prove to be too much, however, and after two years he transferred to the University of Memphis to get his undergraduate degree in history before going off to the University of Tennessee College of Law … (read more)


UrbanArt chief preaches getting active for change

Feature story for The Commercial Appeal

Nov. 27, 2012

In only five months as a Memphian, Christina Lanzl has already settled into an easy routine, finding favorite coffee shops, restaurants and a safe route to bicycle to the Poplar Avenue offices of the UrbanArt Commission, where she is the new executive director.The energetic and eager Lanzl leans forward to speak excitedly about art and the public spaces so important to today’s urban planning. She looks at the creation of such public plazas as “place making” and, since moving from Boston, she has been taken with the convenience of the Shelby Farms Greenline and the beauty of a sunset over the Mississippi River.

“Walk outside your house, look around you, think of it as your living room,” Lanzl said. “And then think, do you like what you see? Is there anything you can do in your own small realm to actually make it special to you? If there are things that you wish for, then you perhaps want to get active if you have the energy or time.”

She points to local skateboarding activist Aaron Shafer, who worked hard on a grass-roots effort to create the first outdoor skate park in Memphis at Tobey Park. The park was recently ornamented with a sculpture by artist Mark Nowell, a project spearheaded by the UrbanArt Commission.

Born in Los Angeles and moved to Germany at age 2 with her German-born parents, Lanzl speaks with a thick accent as she talks about her work before Memphis in Boston where she was the director of programs at the Urban Arts Institute at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She has also been the executive director of the Brookline Arts Center and the director of the Bromfield Gallery. After more than 20 years in Boston, Lanzl says, she “was looking for a new challenge” when she came across the nationally advertised position at the UrbanArt Commission.

“I had heard of Memphis; obviously, it has an important history,” Lanzl said. “I’m interested in civil engagement, and if you know about civil rights, Memphis is a big city.” … (read more)