ALFA International featured John Tarpley for their January 12, 2018 Friday Feature.
What made to choose to become an attorney?
When I was a kid, my parents told me that I would always be arguing with them about one thing or another. Interestingly, I had no lawyers in my family or no other role models that pointed me in that direction. In college, I was an agriculture major or all things. After graduation, I worked in information and public relations for a large agricultural organization in Tennessee. While there I pondered my future more. I then made a decision to either go to the University of Wisconsin and get a masters in agricultural communication or go to Tennessee to law school. Well, warm weather and my love of the beloved Volunteers won over. I went to law school and never looked back. Looking back, it was clearly the right decision for me. I enjoy debate, advocating for a position, and then working to reach a consensus. So, there was no single moment that led to me going to law school; it was just a culmination of many smaller things.
Do you have a favorite ALFA memory?
I have so many “favorite” ALFA memories. Some can be shared and others probably should not be shared. As I like to say, ALFA is a very “relational” crowd. It is truly a privilege to rub shoulders with the attorneys and clients in the organization. I have found the group to be great people and great lawyers. If I had to choose one or two memories, I would point out the barbecue held at the Transportation Practice Group seminar in Dove Mountain. There is something about me falling over a wall as I raced to the stage to sing with the band. (Of course, they were playing Rocky Top–why shouldn’t I be racing to the stage to sing with them.) Then, there is the time at the Transportation CAB meeting when the late night crowd ventured into one of Lou Bonnaffons’ favorite establishments on Bourbon Street. Little did I know that Lou had been taking bets on how long it would take me to be on stage with the band. To Lou’s surprise, the band was announcing the “King of Tennessee” joining them as Lou entered the building. But, I have many, many more, and if anyone wants to hear them, I am happy to share.
What advice would you give your 25-year-old self?
I would tell myself, or anybody else for that matter, to figure out what it is that you want to do and go for it. Find somebody you want to be like, and learn everything you can from them. If that person is not in your firm or organization, run until you find that person. Every person needs a mentor and somebody to show them the ropes. I have been blessed beyond measure to have several of those folks, many of whom are in ALFA in my life. If you need a second tidbit, I would tell myself to not take myself too seriously. For those of you who know me, you know that I have heeded that advice.
How do you spend your time when not practicing law?
Frankly, I am “all in” in whatever I do. If it’s work, I am all about it. If it is ALFA, I am all about it. But, when it’s free time, I am all about it. I have a great time with my family. Laura and I have been married for 33 years, and we have two great kids, Ben and Kendall–both 25. Kendall got married this year, and we have a great son-in-law, too. As a family, we travel frequently together. We really enjoy the beach, and three of us skied in Vail last week. Then, we have a ton of friends. We enjoy going to events, eating out, or just hanging out by our fire pit drinking fine red wine. I am also developing a taste for really good bourbon. As for hobbies, I love photography and am really good at it, if I must say so. Last, I have this passion for leadership programs. I have helped the local bar, the state bar, and a section of the ABA develop a leadership program for young lawyers. The programs have been replicated across the country. By my guess, several thousand lawyers have completed the programs. I regularly speak to the groups and participate in the planning of the programming.
John Tarpley a shareholder in our Nashville office, has been involved in complex litigation in the areas of tort, transportation, product liability, professional liability, commercial law, casualty defense, and a wide range of insurance-related matters in both state and federal courts. His product liability work includes the representation of manufacturers of automobiles, heavy equipment, appliances and power tools, as well as significant experience in asbestos defense.