As a part of our Lawyer Do-Gooder special issue, we sat down with Randy Kinnard of Kinnard Law in Nashville to discuss his work in the community, including his annual RESPECT Contest, which asks fifth graders to submit a two-sentence definition of “respect” accompanied by an illustration. The winners receive a cash prize, a check for their school and a donation to a charity of their choice.
On January 17, Kinnard hosted an award ceremony at the courthouse for the student winners and their families.
Since 1976, Kinnard has tried over 260 jury trials, representing injured people and their families. He handles all types of personal injury cases, including car wrecks, products liability and medical malpractice claims. Prior to his legal career, he graduated from West Point and served in the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam as a 2nd Lieutenant, airborne ranger.
AALM: Tell us what inspired you to launch the RESPECT Contest.
RK: When I was a youngster it seemed to me people were far more civil and respectful to each other than they are now. We all have witnessed a steady deterioration of civility and respect, including in our legislatures. If I could do anything to help restore some respect and civility between people, I wanted to do it, and this contest is one way of hopefully helping.
AALM: Tell us a bit about this year’s contest winners.
RK: Each student has submitted a fantastic entry, and choosing the top three winners has been very hard. Each of the top three deserves to win first place. I’m proud of all of them, and I’m proud of every child who submitted an entry. Each student is in the fifth grade. Professionals will tell you that fifth graders are at an age that is a critical age in character development.
AALM: Of your work with other organizations – the Alive Hospice, Centerstone, Friends of Warner Parks– what are you most proud to have accomplished?
RK: This is a hard question because each organization does such a super job in their area. Because I have personally used Warner Parks for so many years, running there, hiking, I get to see how important the parks are. I am visually reassured that the parks are in outstanding shape. And I get to see people enjoying them so much.
AALM: Tell us about your experience as chair of fundraising for The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee. How are you involved with the organization today?
RK: It was a labor of love to chair the fundraising committee for one year for Legal Aid because there are so many people who need legal help but cannot afford it. I still support this organization every year.
AALM: Tell us about a specific person whose life was positively impacted by your work and why they stand out in your mind.
RK: Cody Wade was 17 years old when he was paralyzed for life by the negligence of others. I was lead counsel in his case, and a jury awarded him a lot of money. This money has helped Cody have a far better life than he would have if he had not won. Knowing that he is more comfortable in life is a good reward to me.
AALM: How do you balance your legal practice and home life along with your nonprofit work?
RK: I am the “burn-it-at-both-ends-of-the-candle” person. My military experience helps give me the discipline to do as much as I can. Family is so important. And so is your professional life and non-profit work. You have to focus as best you can on all of them.
AALM: Do you believe you have a responsibility to give back to your community? What inspires you to give back?
RK: Absolutely. “To whom much is given, much is required.” That’s in the Bible. I was taught that, believe that.