L-R Jeb Butler and Darren Tobin (John Disney/Daily Report)
Jeb Butler and Darren Tobin have left large, established plaintiffs firms to start their own, Butler Tobin. Butler was at Butler, Wooten & Fryhofer, where his father, Jim Butler, is a name partner, and Tobin was at Childers, Schuleter & Smith.
Butler said he enjoyed working with his father. “I love my dad very much and love working with him,” he said. “I wanted to do what my father did 35 years ago—start my own firm. Probably every plaintiffs’ lawyer who has ever walked has thought about it.”
He and Tobin were law school classmates together at the University of Georgia, receiving their J.D.s in 2008.
“We did not envision in law school that we would start our own firm together,” Tobin said. “It developed over lunch.”
Butler said Tobin got his attention when he mentioned during their lunch a few months ago that he was considering going out on his own because Butler had been thinking the same thing.
“There’s no doubt that leaving an established firm like Butler Wooten & Fryhofer or Childers, Schuleter & Smith is a big risk, but now is the right time,” Butler said. “I’m young enough to build my career and old enough to have the experience I need.”
Tobin concurred. “I had been toying with the idea,” he said. “When Jeb said he was open to it, I knew he was the guy I wanted to partner with.”
Before joining Butler Wooten three years ago, Butler clerked for Chief Judge Lisa Godbey Wood of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia and then volunteered as a prosecutor for six months at the Clayton County District Attorney’s office.
Tobin joined Childers Schuleter in 2011 after starting out at a family law firm, Kessler & Solomiany.
He said family law gave him good skills for representing plaintiffs. “It taught me patience and to listen first. These are good people going through a difficult time. It’s given me good skills on the plaintiffs’ side.”
Butler and Tobin said they have complementary experience on plaintiffs cases. “We were doing similar things with different flavors,” Butler said.
He was working on high-stakes auto product liability cases at Butler Wooten while Tobin handled trucking collisions, medical device and pharmaceutical mass tort litigation at Childers Schuleter.
“That coalesced into the idea of taking the personal injury cases we really believe in,” Butler said, adding that they are interested in serious cases where a plaintiff has suffered major injury or death.
Their approach is to be selective in the cases they take “and work them hard to maximize the value of each,” Butler said. “That’s why we started our own firm—so we could pick the cases we want.”
They are collaborating on some cases with their former firms, including a wrongful death case from a vehicle crash with Butler Wooten, and they’re getting referrals from other lawyers, former clients and people in the community.
“There’s no secret or magic formula. It’s about knowing people who decide to trust you,” Butler said.
Butler Tobin is located at 1932 North Druid Hills Road N.E. by the intersection of North Druid Hills and Buford Highway.
Kirby Mason was elected president of the Georgia Defense Lawyers Association at the group’s annual meeting last week. Mason is a partner in the Savannah office of HunterMcLean. She is a fellow of the American Bar Association and a member of Savannah Bar Association. Her community work includes volunteering for the Truancy Intervention Program of Chatham County, Habitat for Humanity and Clean Coast, and she’s served on the boards of Emmaus House, the Rape Crisis Center, Boy Scouts of America, Hancock Day School and the Marshes of Skidaway Island.
William Newcomb, a partner at Carlock Copeland & Stair, has been chosen for the American Bar Association’s tort trial and insurance practice section’s annual leadership academy. Only 25 lawyers nationwide are selected.
The University of Georgia School of Law’s alumni association gave two prominent graduates, UGA president Jere Morehead and Augusta lawyer Wyck Knox Jr., its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Scroll Award, at an alumni breakfast at the State Bar of Georgia’s annual meeting.
Morehead became UGA’s 22nd president in 2013, after serving as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. A former federal prosecutor, he is the Meigs Professor of Legal Studies in the Terry College of Business, where he’s been on the faculty since 1986, and has won several university-wide teaching awards.
Knox, who is of counsel at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, is a longtime UGA supporter who has endowed scholarships at both the law and business schools. He’s served as a trustee for the UGA Foundation, director of the UGA Athletic Association, vice president of the UGA Alumni Association and a member of the law school’s board of visitors.