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It has never been about the money for Bob Marshall

Robert Bob Marshall of Council never had to take a walk in his clients shoes when it came to understanding the struggles of life, needing money, or just someone to listen.

He has been there. In fact, he didn't start his career as a lawyer, he started as a client.

If you were to ask Bob why he became a lawyer, he will provide a simple answer.

The more complex answer is a story filled with lessons everyone can take home no matter their walks of life.

Why did you want to become a lawyer?

The short answer is to help others solve their problems.

The period of time after World War II and up to the 1960’s was a shameful time in the history of the United States.

I enlisted in the Unites States Army after my second year of undergraduate school at Ole Miss.

I witnessed first-hand the vestiges of segregation in the United States Army. After spending three years in an infantry company, first as a machine gunner and then as a fire team leader, I returned to Mississippi and completed my interrupted college education at Mississippi College with a degree in English.

I subsequently accepted a teaching position at a high school run by the State of Alaska.

I was granted a Ford Foundation grant to attend the Alaska Rural School Project at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks the summer of 1969.

During my second year teaching in Alaska, I became involved in a civil rights issue centered around a student who was Athabascan Indian and became a target of a smear and slander letter writing campaign orchestrated by the Tok chapter of the John Birch Society.

The State Operated School System wanted to transfer me from Tok which is located in the interior of Alaska to Southeast Alaska.

I refused to accept a transfer and was fired.

I was unable to hire an attorney due to finances and a lack of interest in my problems on the part of the attorneys I did interview, so I represented myself in a contract dispute with the State Operated School System.

As a settlement with the State Operated Schools neared, apparently news of the settlement leaked, and I was then contacted by one of the attorneys I had previously interviewed, who developed an interest in my case when there was money involved and ready to be paid out. I declined his services and completed the settlement on my own.

The experience convinced me that there were many people who needed the services of an attorney who was interested in their problems, not how much money they could pay. I decided to attend law school myself.

I used the settlement money from the State Operated Schools and the GI Bill to attend law School at the University of Mississippi from which I graduated in December of 1973 and began practicing law in January of 1974.

Since beginning my practice I have, in fact, represented many clients pro bono who had a problem and needed my services and were unable to pay legal fees. Helping these clients solve their problems has given me a sense of satisfaction. While I was practicing law, I was never able to tell a person with a problem that I could help them but wouldn’t because they didn’t have the money for legal fees.

How long have you lived in Hattiesburg, and why did you choose to have a career here?

I moved to Hattiesburg in December of 1989 to attend Southern Mississippi and pursue a degree in counselling psychology.

My interest in the field of psychology had developed over the years of my practicing law and observing clients and their, to me, irrational behavior.

I wanted to find out why persons acted as they acted. I studied psychology until I realized the psychologists could not answer my questions either and withdrew from the master’s program and returned to the full time practice of law.

Before I moved to Hattiesburg, I ran into Erik in bankruptcy court and told him my plans. He asked if I wanted a part time job. I began working for the firm in January of 1990 and have been working for the firm since that time.

My practice is mainly in Chancery Court; and I and this firm have worked diligently to protect the quality of the Chancellors is this district. In my opinion, we have the best Chancery district in the State. Since my retirement in December of 2017, I continue to work for the firm on a part time basis.

You have several degrees and have studied many different areas other than law. Can you list those and say why you pursued those degrees?

I have already described my experience with counseling psychology. In addition to this degree pursuit, I intended to pursue a career in creative writing.

I was a contributor to and attended the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference at Middlebury College in Vermont.

I later moved to Berkley California in the late 60’s, intending to study creative writing at San Francisco State. Shortly after I arrived, the school was closed due to riots.

I was then hired to teach English in Alaska and drove to Alaska in 1969. Before leaving Berkley for Alaska, I witnessed one of the last riots of the 60’s - the Peoples’ Park riot. When I retired, I enrolled in the Master Gardner’s program and earned a Master Gardner certification. My relaxation is working in my yard and garden.

Is there a particular case you are proud of?

One case that stands out is one of the pro bono cases I mentioned. A young father of a three year old girl came to me because of his concerns about his three year old girl living with her mother and waking up every morning with a different man in bed with her mother. The mother also had a drug problem.

At the trial of this matter, we were successfully able to convince the Court that the best interests of the little girl would better be served by vesting custody in her father and restricting visitation with her mother. The child is now fifteen years old and in the ninth grade with exceptional grades and skills.

Had the father not received custody, there is little doubt in my mind that the fifteen year old would have copious and varied issues. I am still invited to family functions and have watched the child mature into a beautiful teenaged girl and expect to see her excel in college. The mother has not had any contact with the child in several years.

What is your favorite thing about Hattiesburg?

The small town atmosphere along with the plethora of good restaurants.

You have a ton of experience in law, if you had to give advice to the next generation of lawyers, what would it be?

Prepare for each trial carefully, know what you need to prove factually before you begin a trial, and cover each element thoroughly. This is what I have tried to impart to new attorneys with whom I have worked.

The second thing is that when you pick up a piece of paper to make notes of a meeting or telephone call, write the date, the time, the place, and who was present before making any notes. This procedure will enable you to place events in chronological order at any point in the future and refresh your memory about the facts.

Learn more about Bob Marshall here.

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