Our beloved colleague James Hubert (‘Jim”) Coil III died at age 73 on Dec. 29, 2018, succumbing to an eight-month battle with cancer. Jim was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama. He graduated from Duke University, where he played football and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He then graduated from Harvard Law School, followed by four years in the U.S. Marine Corps’ Judge Advocate General Division as a captain. He was based at Camp Pendleton in Southern California and was assigned to then-President Richard Nixon’s California White House in San Clemente, California. Jim was one of the proudest Marines any of us ever met, and his service no doubt contributed to his strong sense of patriotism and duty to country.
Jim’s first job after military service was with our firm, then called Kilpatrick, Cody, Rogers, McClatchy & Regenstein. He never left. The firm changed names several times, first to Kilpatrick & Cody, then to Kilpatrick Stockton LLP and most recently to Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP, but Jim was a stalwart pillar of the firm throughout his time here.
“We have lost one of the key people who has made this firm such a special place,” said partner Diane Prucino, Jim’s employment team colleague. “He was one of those ‘glue’ people—he held the firm together and we all loved him.”
Former partner David Zacks remembers Jim’s deep affection for the law firm he practiced at for over 45 years. When David joined in the early 1990s, Jim said, “David. I love this place. It’s a lawyer’s law firm. It allows freedom of expression and ideas. That’s why I’m here.”
Jim is survived by his wife, Terri, whom he met when she was an associate at the firm, and their sons, Jake (Gaia) and Sam. Funeral services were held at First Presbyterian Church in Midtown Atlanta on Jan. 5.
Jim spent most of his career as a labor and employment lawyer within the firm. He had a national reputation in this regard, representing companies such as Pepsi-Cola, Frito-Lay, Nestle Waters, North American Van Lines, Monsanto, Kmart and many others. He regularly developed client relationships into lifetime friendships. He also enjoyed mentoring younger lawyers in the firm and helping them thrive. There are many lawyers at the firm today who were mentored by him and are better lawyers as a result.
One of Jim’s great strengths as a litigator was his obsessive attention to detail. Long before we all had computers on our desks, Jim would create spreadsheets in longhand on lined paper summarizing relevant data in his lawsuits. He understood intuitively that the side that knows every detail of the case and is able to access the facts readily has a huge advantage in litigation. Those of us who worked with him were glad when Excel came along so that we did not have to try to read his handwritten charts.
Jim was also a skilled and strategic litigator. He taught several generations of lawyers at the firm how to draft answers, written discovery and discovery responses; how to take a deposition; how to argue motions; and how to examine and cross-examine witnesses at trial.
In the last decade, one of Jim’s niche practice areas was representing employers undergoing audits conducted by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs of their affirmative action plan compliance. Jim did an excellent job for his clients in these cases, largely because of his attention to detail, knowledge of calculus and statistics and ability to create and manipulate data on Excel spreadsheets. He dazzled the clients and persuaded the OFCCP as a result of his expertise.
The best way to characterize Jim Coil’s legacy is the Marine Corps motto, with which he signed many letters in his final years of life—Semper Fi, or Always Loyal. Jim was a good and loyal friend to many of us at the firm, and he would do anything to help a friend. He had a generous spirit that was unsurpassed. He was known to help staff when they needed a few dollars to get them through until the next payday, and he was always willing to open up his longtime home in Ansley Park to host firm events. Those events included an annual officewide post-Peachtree Road Race party every July 4 for at least a decade and many client and practice team dinners. Jim and Terri’s home, which was affectionately referred to as “Phi Kappa Coil,” was a great entertainment venue. Jim had a fun-loving spirit, and he was a great host. Many of his parties ended with him regaling his guests with an a capella version of “In The Still of the Night.”
One of Jim’s great loves was classical music. He was an opera aficionado, and you could often find him on Saturday afternoons working in his office with the Metropolitan Opera playing in the background. He served as a past board member of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Jim also was a man of great religious faith. He was an active member of First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta, where he served as an elder, taught Sunday school, chaired the personnel committee, and showed up faithfully every Sunday.
Until the end, Jim had an irrepressible spirit and was comfortable expressing his love and affection for his colleagues. He always had a big smile on his face and a kind word for everyone, even when it was clear he was losing his battle with cancer. The entire Kilpatrick firm is saddened by the passing of this man who was such a giant, both personally and professionally.