Ask Andy Campbell why he practices law in Birmingham, and you will get an enthusiastic answer from a man who truly loves the Magic City. He thinks the future of the city is bright, and having lived in Birmingham most of his life, he has watched the city go through the turmoil of the civil rights era and through tough economic and political times.
But now, he revels in what he sees as “a genuine Renaissance happening in Birmingham” that he feels is building more momentum every day.
His firm, Campbell Guin, is a boutique law firm with offices in several towns throughout Alabama and Mississippi. The firm has offices in Birmingham, Dothan, Tuscaloosa and soon in Columbus, Miss.
Partners Campbell and Jay Guin were classmates at the University of Alabama School of Law, where they both finished at the top of their class. After law school, both attorneys established practices in Alabama. Jay Guin built a practice in Tuscaloosa focused on corporate taxation, and Campbell built a substantial business and general commercial litigation practice in Birmingham.
The BBJ sat down with Campbell to discuss the law atmosphere in Birmingham, where his firm fits in and why he loves his job and his city.
What do you find most challenging about operating a firm of your size?
Trying to fit the demands of your practice with the management of responsibilities takes working six or seven days a week. With the ever-changing pace of the law practice, trying to monitor each office, travel, make sure we are meeting our model efficiently, it’s challenging. You have to run a law practice like you run any business. It takes a tremendous amount of time to run the business side of the firm on top of practicing law.
After more than 30 years, do you still enjoy what you do?
It is great fun. Yes, there has to be a balance. I have set time apart from work for introspection. Make time for yourself. But in order to be successful, you have to have an absolute passion for your work. To me, this is not really a job, it’s a mission. For someone to get up every morning and do this, you need a passion for helping people. You can’t stay happy in any profession if you do not maintain that passion. I often talk about the “joy of advocacy.” Not just about winning and losing, it is about how well we have served the client, seeking the best solutions, seeking justice, all of it revolves around a passion for advocacy. And having that passion and joy is a must.
What does it take to operate a boutique firm and keep it successful?
First, you have to keep up with technology. You must have the highest level of technology. Second, you need excellent lawyers who are also entrepreneurs. Third, you need a willingness to be creative with fee arrangements with clients - that sets us apart from larger firms. And fourth, it takes a tremendous amount of work to keep growing, which involves overcoming a lot of challenges.
What are some pieces of advice you like to live by professionally?
The quote from John Kennedy, “A rising tide lifts all boats,” is a good one. Any organization, if people will stand and work together as one, we can surpass our own personal limitations. That comes from good leadership, transparency, people with the same goals and people working together.
Another good quote I like is from (former New York Knicks coach) Red Holzman. “Don’t worry about the things you have no control over.” I like to add to that and say, “Only worry about the things you can control.” Taking charge of the things in your life and work that you do have control over is vital to problem solving and eventually to success.
And I always like to use a quote from Bear Bryant, “Be brave.” I try to instill this in all of the people who work here. Don’t be afraid to make decisions, even if those decisions are unpopular. That type of approach helps any business leader.
How important is it for Birmingham firms to maintain a level of civic pride?
With globalization, and so many firms expanding, I think it is important to serve our city first. We are heading into a time where regional firms are coming into the city and expanding into the Birmingham market. I think it is very important for law firms to commit to building the city, and remain committed to growing the city. We feel very strongly about the future of Birmingham. We need to be in Birmingham marketing our rich cultural, religious and racial diversity, and marketing the quality of life here. We have wonderful parks, restaurants, museums. And everything we want to do in the city is no more than 15 minutes away. It is a great time to live and work in Birmingham. It is important to me that we support the growth and achievements of this city. We are proud to call ourselves a Birmingham firm. Most of the litigation we do is local, and we are very proud of that. We are proud of the city and proud to do business here.
Michael Seale covers the banking, finance and legal beats for the Birmingham Business Journal