Multitasking comes second-nature to newly installed Nashville Bar Association President Erin Palmer Polly. Not only is she a highly – successful litigator with Butler Snow LLP, earning an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell and being named a Mid-South Super Lawyers Rising Star, she’s also a loving wife and mother. Yet, even with a demanding career, family, and the extensive duties and responsibilities that come with her new status with the local bar association, Polly still finds time to volunteer for her favorite charities. What’s most impressive is, she makes it all look effortless.
While Polly acknowledges that her schedule is very busy, between her work with the firm and her new role as president of the Nashville Bar Association, she also indicates that working with great people in both places makes it a much lighter load to carry.
“I enjoy what I do because I am passionate about the law,” she says, “but it’s also because I like the people with whom I work. They respect me and treat me well, and everyone has been incredibly supportive, both on the job as well as in my new role with the bar association. They come out to support the various events, they are kind and really very lovely, and that’s what makes it a lot easier for me.”
Polly’s path to the presidency came through dedication, many hours of service and hard work. “I came up through the young lawyers division, serving as its president in 2014,” she says. “I loved it.”
“I’m very proud and excited to now be serving as president of the Nashville Bar Association,” she continues. “I’m honored to be in the company of so many fine people and truly excellent attorneys. I’m also proud of all the incredible things this organization does. I’m not sure most people even realize how much we actually do for our legal community and the community at large. I just know I’m very proud to be a part of it.”
Polly points out that while the organization provides important educational and informational opportunities, they also provide a number of fun and interesting social events, which she believes is equally important.
“Let me put it this way,” she says. “I know lawyers who leave their garage in the morning, drive to their office, park in another garage, go to their office, shut the door, eat lunch at their desk, and at the end of the day repeat the whole process in reverse. That’s not how we were meant to live.
“I understand how that can happen when you have so much going on and so much on you,” she continues, “but that’s where the bar association can really be a tremendous outlet. It offers an easy way to not be that way. For instance, next week we’re sponsoring a trivia night where 150 lawyers are going to get together, play a little competitive trivia, and have some fun.”
Each president brings his or her own ideas when they take office, and Polly is no exception. Her platform is designed to help busy attorneys give back to the community.
“You know,” she says, “I believe most people want to do something, but there are so many groups and various charities that they’re not sure where to start, so they end up doing nothing. What I’m trying to do is give our members opportunities to do things where there’s no long-term commitment. For instance, we’ll be doing another Habitat for Humanity build this year. Come out and help us build a house for somebody; it’s one day.
“We’re also working with Hands on Nashville. Last year, we all contributed just a few hours to a worthy cause. My thinking is that if you make it easier for people to see how and where to help, they will. If I can get 3,000 members mobilized to do that, we can make a positive difference in our community.”
According to Polly, the association organizes several events throughout the year that are fun for the whole family, encouraging members to get out, spend time with their family, and mingle with their colleagues. In addition to picnics and other social gatherings, Zoo Day is a popular event.
“On Zoo Day, members and their families come to the Nashville Zoo for free,” explains Polly. “It’s like killing two birds with one stone; you’re getting out and socializing with other lawyers and spending a fun day with your family.
“To me, the goal of the Nashville Bar Association is to make you a better lawyer and a happier person. That’s my goal. More specific still, I want to find ways to help our members give back in meaningful ways. We make it easy … just show up!”
Although she’s a passionate and dedicated attorney, Polly confesses that law was actually her second career choice.
“Until I was in the third grade I thought that my dream job would be to work in the local gas station in my home town of Winchester, Tennessee,” she says with a grin. “Every time my parents would get gas, I’d study the filling station. The attendant had a television and a seemingly unlimited supply of chips, cookies and soft drinks. I figured he got to watch television all day and talk to people and that he was surrounded by candy; that had to be the best job in the world!”
By the ripe old age of 8, however, her fascination waned as she found a new enticement. “I fell in love with People’s Court,” she says. “I guess I could be very argumentative, maybe because I was an only child and mainly interacted with adults. Personally, I don’t think that arguing makes you a better lawyer, but from that time on it seemed people were always telling me, ‘Oh you’d make a great lawyer,’ and I guess it just kind of stuck in my brain.”
In fact, long before she made it to law school, Polly spent her summers during college working for local attorneys. While she enjoyed some aspects of what she experienced, she knew that it wasn’t the type of law she wanted to practice.
“I liked it, but I knew that wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do,” she explains. “I mean it was family law, property disputes, that type of thing. I think even then I knew that my heart was in litigation. Her first year of law school confirmed this passion.
An excellent student throughout her scholastic career, Polly was even more impressive while attending the University of Tennessee College of Law. Not only did she graduate with honors, but she also served as the executive student materials editor of the Tennessee Law Review and as the Student Bar Association president, and she received the Dean’s Citation for Extraordinary Service to the College of Law.
During her summers while in law school, Polly clerked for one of the top litigation firms in the area where her passion for this area of law continued to grow.
“I love helping people,” she says enthusiastically. “Regardless of whether you’re representing the plaintiff or the defendant, you’re catching people at what is possibly the worst time in their lives. One client might be injured and needs help another might be dealing with a business lawsuit. Regardless of the details, it can be a very dark day, and it’s my job to help them through it. I love being able to do that.” Her most notable case came just over one year ago. She and her law partners, Bob Walker, Joe Welborn and Beau Creson, represented a local dentist and his dental group and ultimately obtained a $22.2 million verdict in federal court.
Throughout her life, Polly has met a wide variety of people from various walks of life. Yet, if you ask who her favorite person is she doesn’t hesitate for even an instant: “My daughter,” she says, the smile lighting up her eyes says it all. “She’s the coolest person I know.that’s how you can tell how much I love my work. If I have to spend time apart from Katherine then you can bet, it has to be something about which I’m truly passionate.”
When asked how she manages to juggle everything Polly once again flashes her trademark smile. “You don’t,” she quips. “I sleep a lot less, put in a lot of after-hours work. I wish it were more balanced, but I’m doing what I love and that helps.”
She also attributes her ability to manage everything to the support of her husband, Ben. “I’m incredibly fortunate to have a husband who is supportive and kind and makes my life so much better every day.”