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Copeland Cook garners reputation as tough litigation foe

Copeland Cook Taylor & Bush, P.A., has gained a solid reputation as a plaintiff attorney’s formidable foe.

Founded in 1985 by University of Mississippi School of Law alums Greg Copeland, Thomas Cook, Glenn Gates Taylor and Glen Bush, the firm initially specialized primarily in oil and gas law, business transactions, insurance and defense litigation.

“Although it sounds old-fashioned, this firm was founded in part to provide a good place to work. While we were all members of a very successful practice, each of us recognized that something was missing,” said Copeland, referring to the decade the foursome spent at Jackson-based Heidelberg, Woodliff & Franks. “We wanted to get back to basics. We wanted to focus on our clients more, find ways to get to know their needs, and figure out what we would need to do to meet their needs for years to come. Truthfully, it is this commitment to what can be called hometown values of quality service and community that brought us together.”

Today, nearly two-thirds of the firm’s business involves defense work. “Mississippi has been a hot-bed for litigation in the last decade,” said managing partner Tucker Mitchell. “Copeland Cook has taken the steps necessary to provide both the quantity and quality of trial lawyers to fulfill the needs of our clients.”

Former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove joined the law firm in July. “With his passion for people and his commitment to service above self, he is a tremendous addition to our team, especially as we think strategically about what serving our business clients will mean in the decades to come,” said Mitchell. “Having the highest Martindale Hubbell rating (AV), Gov. Musgrove comes to us as a tremendously well-respected attorney with a wealth of experience and knowledge of local, state and federal government, adding to our ability to understand the needs and offer sound advice to our clients.”

Tom Kirkland, a former member of the Mississippi State Board of Health, heads Copeland Cook’s healthcare section, the firm’s second largest.

“The aging of America and the challenge to provide assisted living have created many business opportunities and has brought a number of healthcare clients to our firm,” said Kirkland.

The healthcare section publishes a bimonthly newsletter for clients that “provides information about recent developments and changes in the law which may affect them,” said Mitchell. “This is another way we work every day to address our clients’ needs so they can get about the business of doing business.”

A merger in 1994 with an experienced tax firm brought Copeland Cook expertise in taxation, complex transactional work, employee benefits, estate planning and probate law. As Mississippi’s economy has expanded and the Baby Boom generation has aged, those have been high-growth areas of practice, said Mitchell.

“The firm is further expanding its base of business and tax work with targeted newsletters and will soon start a program of continuing legal and professional educational seminars on tax and business issues,” said Ted Sanderson, a member of the firm’s tax and business practice group who joined the firm in 1992 after working for five years in the IRS’s Office of Chief Counsel in Washington, D.C.

Another merger with a firm that concentrated primarily in healthcare transactions, litigation and compliance further added talent to Copeland Cook’s healthcare practice. The firm also added lawyers in the area of general business, banking, bankruptcy and labor and employment law.

“In 1997, the firm made what was at the time considered a bold move in deciding to build an office building,” said COO John Hunter Nance, of Copeland Cook’s 50,000-square-foot home at 200 Concourse on Highland Colony Parkway in Ridgeland. Attorneys moved into the building in 1999; a second building at 400 Concourse was added in 2003.

“While it may not seem all that exceptional, at the time, there were not many law firms in this part of the metro area,” explained Nance. “We thought long and hard about our decision to make this move to Madison County and out of downtown. The more relaxed atmosphere, the ease of parking and the access to the metro area made this the perfect place for a firm looking to do things differently. In conjunction with the move, the firm incorporated advanced telecommunications, the latest in legal research technology and conference facilities. Planning is currently underway for a third building (100,000 square feet) that will allow all of the attorneys and staff to once again occupy one building.”

Since its inception, Copeland Cook has grown from eight attorneys to 60, primarily from internal growth rather than mergers and acquisitions. Twenty-two attorneys are shareholders. The firm employs 25 paralegals and 65 others in support staff roles.

“As the firm has grown in areas of practice and in numbers, the client base likewise has grown,” said Mitchell. “By providing a full range of legal services, we are now in a position to serve all of our clients’ needs.”

Copeland Cook’s client list reads like a who’s who of the business world, with global corporations such as AXA Global Risk, B.F. Goodrich, General Motors, Goodyear Tire, Kawasaki, and Shell Oil Company, and home-grown firms like AmFed, BankPlus, Ergon Oil & Gas, KLLM, Miskelly Furniture, Mississippi Baptist Medical Center, Southern Farm Bureau and Trustmark.

“The firm has been fortunate,” said Mitchell. “A lot of good things have happened over the years, and some lucky things. We have not lost sight that the good things have happened because of our clients.”

Earlier this year, Copeland Cook was accepted as the Mississippi member of the U.S. Law Network, an organization of law firms in 43 states that share information to enhance the speed, efficiency and quality of legal services provided to its clients.

“By sharing this information, it better allows our firm to provide high-quality legal services without unnecessary expense to the client,” said Mitchell. “It is our opinion that with today’s technology, nationwide alliances of law firms is the way of the future.”

In their spare time, Copeland Cook staff members can be found stirring up a batch of red beans and rice for the annual festival benefiting Stewpot Ministries or teaming with Union Planters Bank for Habitat for Humanity, as they recently did building a house near Poindexter Elementary School in west Jackson, or sponsoring teams in the annual Walk to Cure Diabetes event. The firm recently assisted in housing evacuees during Hurricane Ivan via a monetary contribution and donations of food, linens and toiletries.

Since the firm’s inception, it has funded the Moot Court Program competition at the Mississippi College School of Law. The Madison County Foundation recently recognized Tom Cook for his service to the community by creating the Thomas A. Cook Fund for Education.

Mergers are not anticipated any time soon and there are no concrete growth plans for the firm, said Mitchell.

“Growth for the purpose of growth was not the primary objective in 1985 and is not a primary objective today,” said Copeland. “Our firm has grown in response to the needs of our clients for quality representation.”

Mitchell added: “With law firms, like any profession or business, people come and people go. I think it is a testament to our work environment that some people, after heading for what appeared to be greener pastures, returned to the firm and are long-time valued employees.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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