Some attorneys project weary resignation when describing the work they have done for decades, and will likely do for the rest of their lives. But not Bo Hixson. After more than 25 years of practicing law in Chattanooga, he uses words like “fun” and “refreshing” to describe his job.
Hixson, who gives off an air of gentle sincerity and amiability, has good reasons to be upbeat about his work. To begin with, his commercial litigation practice at Duncan, Hatcher, Hixson & Fleenor continually brings in new challenges. While over the years Hixson has focused primarily on real estate and construction, and handled many architectural defect and premises liability cases, his expertise allows him to tackle a range of problems – including an identity theft case that fascinated him.
“The perpetrator in most identity theft cases is a family member or a business associate. In our case, a business associate had used our client’s social security number to open a credit card. Our client started getting calls only after the account had grown to a sizable amount and gone into default. We settled on the eve of trial. Learning about that subject was interesting,” Hixson says, his baritone voice filling his office in the inner sanctum of his firm, located on McCallie Avenue, near Highland Park.
“One of the fortunate aspects of a general commercial litigation practice is I have a variety of cases, clients and situations, so there’s a freshness to it,” he says.
Hixson is also pleased to be working with a small group of lawyers. Upon graduating from the UT Knoxville College of Law in the ‘80s, he moved to Chattanooga to take a litigation position. When that situation changed soon after he arrived, he moved to Shoemaker Thompson, where he remained until its dissolution in 2006. When Hixson entered into practice with Paul Hatcher, he went from working with over 50 other lawyers to a two-man firm. Today, Duncan Hatcher is home to seven attorneys, which gives the firm a relaxed feel.
“We have a small group of people who have chosen to practice together late in their careers. And all of my colleagues will tell you it’s fun practicing law again. I had gotten to the point at the larger firm where I was more of a manager than a lawyer, and now I feel like a lawyer again,” Hixson says.
Hixson says he made great friends and worked with many good attorneys at Shoemaker, but finds practicing at a small firm “refreshing.”
Like many of his colleagues, Hixson seeks to repay his profession for the good things it has bestowed upon him. One way in which he gives back is participation in P.A.T.H. to General Sessions Court, the first part of which stands for “Partnering With Attorneys to Help.” Through the program, individuals with a case on the Monday docket can receive basic information about Sessions Court rules and procedures from volunteer attorneys.
Although Hixson is on the board of the Chattanooga Bar Association, which launched the program, he was not an immediate believer in P.A.T.H.
“I was skeptical about it at first because of my concern about an attorney crossing the line from giving general guidance to giving legal advice,” he says.
Then Hixson volunteered one Monday morning. The experience changed his opinion. “It was rewarding. I’m now a big proponent of it. Often, you’re just pointing someone in the right direction, but if you weren’t there to do that, a default judgment might go down against that person because they weren’t in the right courtroom at the right time,” he says.
In other community service, Hixson is the incoming chair of the Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition, which apportions federal and state funding to local organizations that serve the homeless – including Room at the Inn, Community Kitchen, the Chattanooga Food Bank and others. Hixson is also a long-time Rotarian and a member of the outreach committee at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
Through his work and community service, Hixson has shown not only his compassion for people who are less fortunate but also his affection for the town in which he grew up.
“I have cases that take me to bigger cities and larger firms, and I always think, ‘What would my life have been like if I had gone that route?’ Life in Chattanooga is good,” he says.
Life in Chattanooga includes a wife, two sons and a daughter. Hixson’s oldest son recently completed his first year at Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in Memphis. It is a matter of pride for his father.
“I can’t say I tried to talk him out of it. The practice of law is all he’s ever seen. He hung around my firms over the years and knows many of my current and former partners, and he still decided to go to law school,” Hixson says, laughing.
Apparently, Hixson has a sense of humor.
He also has a golf game that’s getting better with each passing year, even though he didn’t pick up the sport until “late in life.”
“I play a lot of golf,” he says, looking at the clubs leaning against the wall by his office door. “Typically, I’m one over par. Two years ago, I would have been thrilled to be doing what I’m doing now, but I want to get better. I’m not competitive with the guys who have been playing all of their life, but it’s a good way to unwind,” he says.
Growing up, Hixson wanted to be a lawyer – he jokes it was the Perry Mason reruns he watched as a kid – but he almost took a different path. When he graduated from high school in the ‘70s, the economy was doing poorly, and he thought it would be more prudent to become an engineer, like his father. He had underestimated the amount of calculus and chemistry involved, though, and decided to pursue his first choice.
Today, Hixson’s life shows how one can make choices early in life, stick with them and end up happy and productive years down the road.
“I would do it again. I have no regrets.”