Meet the Barrister – Shannon van Tol
A periodic Q & A session with a Lewis Thomason (LT) lawyer
Lewis Thomason: What is one of your most memorable moments in your life so far Shannon van Tol: One of the most memorable moments in my life is the birth of my five children, Willem, Sean, Isabella, Ashley and Meghan, on January 14, 2004. After the high-risk pregnancy, my husband and I felt so incredibly blessed to get to see them and to know that they were ok. We have not been bored in the 13 years since!
Lewis Thomason: What book is on your bedside table (or on your e-reader)?
Shannon van Tol: Bible.
Lewis Thomason: Where is the best place you have ever visited?
Shannon van Tol: The best place I have visited is probably the Jungfrau in the Swiss Alps. I also love the Caribbean and Aruba.
Lewis Thomason: What is your favorite thing to do in Knoxville?
Shannon van Tol: My favorite thing to do is spend time with my family. I love watching my kids at their various sporting events, shuttling them between their middle school activities, and spending time one-on-one with each of them when I can do it.
Lewis Thomason: Describe your most memorable moment in a deposition or trial?
Shannon van Tol: One of my most memorable moments in a trial came in a case I tried with John King in state court a few years ago. King and I defended an attorney (and then his estate since our client died during the many years the case was pending) in a case brought by Young and Hasty (—those were really their names). Though Young and Hasty did not take much time to visit, care for or check on their elderly father during the last twenty years of his life, after their father died they became convinced that our client had breached his fiduciary duties in handling their fathers affairs under a power of attorney. The attorney representing Young & Hasty was from Ohio. He was very unreasonable and condescending and made the case unnecessarily contentious for years. On the morning of trial, the Ohio attorney showed up as confident as ever and well-dressed in his tailored, three-piece suit with gold pocket watch chain showing. He conducted his voir dire in a very stilted, formalistic style as I had expected.
As King was standing up to conduct voir dire for the defense, the attorney from Ohio attempted to sit down but somehow missed his seat and ended up lying flat on his back in front of the jury. His face was beet-red as his client helped him back into his chair and as he assured the court that he was embarrassed but otherwise fine. Without missing a beat, King shrugged and remarked to the jury (in a way that only King can deliver), “Sometimes, ladies and gentlemen, I merely rise and my opponent goes down.” The courtroom burst with laughter. King’s voir dire, speaking to each juror by name respectfully but in a tone as if they were neighbors, was in stark contrast to the formal approach taken by the Ohio attorney. King also gave a strong opening statement (that personalized our client with a compelling explanation of the relationship our client had with Young’s and Hasty’s father and the work our client had performed over the years). We won the case with a directed verdict at the close of Plaintiff’s proof. Our client’s widow was extremely grateful for the result, and I could tell that she appreciated King’s moving opening statement in defense of her deceased husband just as much.
Lewis Thomason: What is your favorite family vacation?
Shannon van Tol: My favorite family vacation is a beach vacation. We like Pawley’s Island and also Hilton Head, South Carolina, and we desperately try to avoid any vacations that will require having the five kids in a van for more than eight hours.
Lewis Thomason: What type of kid were you (e.g. spoiled, rebellious, well-behaved, quiet, obnoxious…)?
Shannon van Tol: As the oldest of four, I was responsible and pretty well-behaved.
Lewis Thomason: What is your favorite way to waste time?
Shannon van Tol: I don’t get to waste time often, but I do occasionally escape to a bubble bath with a glass of wine.
Lewis Thomason: What is the best way to stay motivated and complete goals?
Shannon van Tol: My philosophy with most things is to do the best I can one day at a time. For me, it is easier to stay motivated with long-term goals when they are broken down into a series of realistic, short-term goals.
Lewis Thomason: What is the most interesting thing you can see out of your office?
Shannon van Tol: The clock tower above the entry of the federal courtyard.
Shannon van Tol, special counsel, practices in the firm’s Commercial Litigation group. She represents individuals, businesses and lenders in state and federal courts in a variety of matters ranging from employment and contract disputes to False Claims Act litigation and collection matters.