Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, May 21, 2021

Ray turns the road into his practice away from home

RV, connection to internet provide essentials of office

Attorney Harry Ray in his mobile office, a Forest River Flagstaff Super Lite RV. Ray serves business clients across the U.S. while traveling and staying out of state. - Photos by David Laprad | Hamilton County Herald

As the pandemic wore on and lawyers began to lament the walls of their home offices, Harry Ray was enjoying the open road.

Ray, 67, still rose early to work. But instead of being confined to his home in Ooltewah, he’d sit down at the table in his Forest River Flagstaff Super Lite RV, open his laptop and engage in the practice of law as the hills and fields of Georgia rolled by.

Seated at the wheel of the Dodge Ram 2500 that pulled Ray and his Flagstaff Super Lite was his fellow overlander and wife of nearly 45 years, Sissy.

“She’s better at hauling the RV than I am,” Ray says. “And I could do a day’s work while she was driving.”

After seeing where Ray lives, one might wonder why he would ever want to leave.

Nestled in 8 acres of tall woodland off Standifer Gap Road, Ray’s house is a custom build he and Sissy completed in 1988.

Outside, Ray can use a hand pump to draw fresh water from a well or hike the shady trails that outline his property. There’s also ample room for his Dodge and RV.

This verdant patch of land also is where Ray and his wife raised seven children and host visits from 18 grandchildren (soon to be 20).

It’s an idyllic setting for their suburban life. So, Ray, who’s seated under the awning of his Flagstaff Super Lite, explains why he hit the road in January.

“When COVID hit, my wife and I were careful about isolating ourselves, and I was going stir crazy,” he begins. “I couldn’t stand to see this place. It’s a nice, but I wanted out. So I said, ‘Let’s go to Florida.’”

Sissy was game. Plus, they wanted to test the mettle of their new RV, which they had purchased in December.

Ray and his wife spent about half of their monthlong trip in Lake Placid, mainly because he and Sissy weren’t the only ones who thought of escaping to Florida, and it was all he could find. Later, they made their way to Fort Pierce on the Atlantic coast, where they spent the rest of their getaway.

Although Florida was considered a hotbed for the virus, Ray says they were well protected.

“What better place to stay than your RV if you’re worried about COVID?” Ray asks rhetorically.

Their 33-foot mobile dwelling certainly includes most of the amenities of home, including a bedroom, bathroom, full kitchen, two TVs, comfy-looking couch and mobile internet.

The latter was especially important, as Ray was not on vacation.

“I usually exercise at 5:30 in the morning, but I had no way to do that, so I just worked,” he says. “I’d get seven or eight hours in by midafternoon, and then we’d take the rest of the day off and play in the ocean.”

Ray is able to work on the road primarily because he’s accountable only to himself. Since 2009, he’s worked with his oldest son, Scott, at their two-man firm on Shallowford Road.

It also helps that many of Ray’s clients are located elsewhere in the U.S., as this allows him to practice from home – or on the road.

After connecting to a T-Mobile hot spot, Ray dives into tasks for the buyers’ groups he represents. He’s practiced in this area of the law since attorney John Stophel handed him his first group in the 1980s.

“I credit John with making a huge contribution to my career,” he says.

Ray also devotes a significant amount of his time on the clock to trademark work. He says this aspect of his practice stemmed from his connections to his buyers’ groups.

“Some of the groups I’ve represented evolved into marketing programs, and they needed their trademarks registered,” he explains. “That’s been a fun part of my practice.”

Ray, a Mormon, smiles as he lists the more memorable trademark work he’s done, including securing the phrase “Jesus is the reason for the season” for coffee cups a client was selling during Christmas.

“Another interesting trademark I registered was ‘I’ll love you until the last one dies” for a flower shop,” he continues.

“It was designed to be on a card accompanying a bouquet of roses. I ordered a dozen for my wife, which initially made her sad. But then she discovered one of the roses was artificial.

“It was difficult to detect because it looked like the other roses. That cheered her up.”

Ray says he decided to pursue the law because he couldn’t picture himself doing anything else, likely due to a genetic disposition to becoming an attorney.

“I come from a long line of lawyers,” he clarifies. “I’m probably a fifth-generation attorney.”

After wrapping up a three-year stint in the U.S. Army at Ft. Hood, Texas, in 1976, he married Sissy and began his studies at Emory University School of Law in Atlanta.

Stophel, Caldwell & Heggie hired Ray out of the law school and covered his desk with business work. He then labored for a who’s who of Chattanooga law firms until he and his son founded their practice.

Now Ray’s RV is his office, and the open road is his view. It seems sublime, but it does have one drawback, he says.

“People expect you to respond to things immediately. I used to take actual vacations, but technology hadn’t trapped me yet.”

Ray does escape work occasionally to enjoy his favorite pastime: geocaching.

As he explains it, geocaching involves hunting for hidden objects around the world. These items are usually concealed or camouflaged and range in size from thimbles to ammunition drums, he says. After locating a geocache, the spotter signs the log it contains.

“I became interested in geocaching when I was training to become a scoutmaster,” he says. “It just clicked with me. Some people think I’m half crazy.”

Thankfully, he adds, Sissy doesn’t. Instead, she’s joined him on object hunts around the world.

Ray claims to have found over 3,600 geocaches in the eight or so years he’s been pursuing the hobby. He’s even placed a few geocaches of his own, including an object designed to look like the nuts and bolts under a bench.

“It was magnetized to stay in place and the log sheet was hidden inside the bolt. You had to unscrew the top of the bolt to sign it.”

Although Ray is grateful Sissy supports his hobby and is willing to drive him to distant destinations in their RV, more than anything, he’s simply glad she’s at his side.

“She’s amazing. I’m lucky to be married to her. Life has been wonderful – probably more for me than for her.”

Sissy is scheduled be in the driver’s seat next January when she and Ray head for Vero Beach, Florida, to spend the first few months of 2022.

Like their last getaway, Ray says he believes he’ll be working, likely because he can’t picture himself doing anything else.

“I could retire, but I’m having too much fun.”