“We’ve tried to create something unique here, something that perhaps other firms don’t have,” says Charles Robert Bone, member and treasurer of Nashville-based Bone McAllester Norton PLLC.
The firm, which traces its roots to 1978, is a boutique serving in almost every area of the law, but focusing on serving businesses, emerging businesses and entrepreneurs.
“I think my practice chose me,” Bone says.
After leaving law school, he worked for a boutique plaintiff ’s firm that focused on personal injury cases, work that he enjoyed, but he also felt a passion for working for business.
“I began to transition from personal injury, still doing plaintiff ’s work, but that plaintiff ’s work was more focused on commercial litigation or partnership disputes where I could put myself in their shoes better than I could on the personal injury side. Since my initial experiences in the law, dealing with litigation, I’ve always been drawn to the business world.”
A Management Style Centered on Consensus Bone McAllester Norton has 40 attorneys. With each one a member, consensus is key to the firm’s ongoing success.
“We treat every lawyer the same. We don’t have partner status. We don’t have associate status. Everybody is a member. Everybody has full access to the financials including compensation. That transparency and that unique model has served us very well,” Bone says.
And, for the specific clients with specific needs that the firm serves, this equality has served them well. We offer premier service in many ways; our clients know firsthand not only our commitment, but the focused presence of A-level lawyers at all times,” Bone says.
As for the structure of the firm, Bone says, “While we’re beyond the size where we can expect to make unanimous decisions, you have to look for consensus day in and day out the same way you would in representing a client in a lawsuit or a transaction. You’re trying to find that common ground. I think that is what the other lawyers would say that I search for consensus, and bring business judgment to the table to analyzing our financial status in a way not customary for most lawyers.”
The firm’s organization creates its own set of challenges. “My dad says that 38 of our lawyers are happy. It’s just not the same 38 every day,” Bone says.
A Passion for Business and for Politics Bone developed a passion for business early in his life. His father is a lawyer and entrepreneur and has been involved in starting numerous businesses allowing Bone the opportunity to observe businesspeople and their skills and techniques firsthand. “Learning from these experiences, I decided that was something I could do,” he says.
“Like many of our clients, we’re entrepreneurs too. That serves me incredibly well when representing my clients. I have stood in their shoes and sat on their side of the table. I have an appreciation of the challenges they have. As lawyers we’re asked to mitigate or eliminate risk. An entrepreneur or a small-business owner tolerates risk all day, every day and they’re going to make their money at the end of the day by taking calculated risks. They have to make hard decisions in real time as to how they balance that risk.”
Bone’s passion for law and business is matched by his passion for politics. He grew up in an active political environment and has been active in politics since his junior high school days. His first political action occurred when he was in the 10th grade working for the election of Al Gore to the U.S. Senate.
“Politics is a noble opportunity for service, but you also get to meet an incredibly diverse group of people. And, for me, it’s just always been a way of life,” he says.
Bone, a 2015 candidate for mayor of Nashville, says politics is a learning experience, one that cannot help but improve a person’s skills and abilities in other areas. “While I thought I knew something of Nashville, as a candidate I learn something new almost every day that’s different from what I thought or is different from what I have been exposed to,” he says.
One of the motivating factors for his entry into politics is the unnecessary partisanship he sees on all sides of the political spectrum. “We’ve gotten to a place in this country, particularly in the political field, that if you disagree with somebody then that other person must be a bad person. That just drives me crazy. Howard Baker once the Senate majority leader, from Tennessee, often quoted his father’s advice, ‘You need to go through life with the working assumption that the other guy just might be right.’ I don’t see that anywhere in politics today and I find that incredibly frustrating.”
Faith and Family Bone says his faith and his family are the chief motivating factors in his life. He began dating his wife in the eighth grade. They have three daughters and one son: Margaret, 13, Anne Carlen, 12, Simmons, 8 and Henry, 6.
He says, “We have a busy and chaotic household, but I love to come home to them. The ability to go home to a household I love with a fun, great family certainly gets me through the tough days.”