Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, October 15, 2021

Hatcher finds familiar buyer for title company

Attorney Paul Hatcher is selling Hatcher Title & Escrow and will become of counsel with Farinash & Stofan Nov. 1. - Photograph provided

When a competitor approached Paul Hatcher earlier this year about purchasing Hatcher Title & Escrow, the 64-year-old real estate attorney replied with a polite “no.”

The news that Hatcher would be retiring this year was beginning to seep outside of his circle of law partners at Duncan, Hatcher, Holland & Fleenor, and parties were starting to express interest in his 27-year-old company.

But there was a catch: The business bore his name, which is why he was reluctant to allow anyone to take over.

“It’s Hatcher Title & Escrow, not Premium Title & Escrow or Perfect Title & Escrow,” Hatcher explains. “If I had called it Good Enough Title & Escrow, walking away from it would have been easier.”

Hatcher was talking with attorney Jerry Farinash about his unwillingness to part with his concern when the Chapter 7 trustee asked him if he’d sell it to him.

Hatcher considered Farinash’s proposal long enough to draw the breath he needed to reply with an enthusiastic “yes.”

“I felt like one of the other contacts who offered to buy my business didn’t know enough about real estate law to do it right. But Jerry not only knows the ins and outs of a closing, as a Chapter 7 trustee, he’s dealt with the worst and knows how to solve every problem,” Hatcher says. “My name will be in good hands.”

Attorney Amanda Stofan, who’s joining Farinash in purchasing Hatcher Title & Escrow, says the reputation Hatcher built over the decades for being expeditious and trustworthy gave his company value.

“Paul’s name means something to people. That’s what we’re buying.”

Hatcher says he’s simply adhered to the best practices for his line of work.

“The title and escrow business is similar to a bank in terms of the many protections you need to have in place to keep money safe. For example, we have as much as $125 million going through our escrow account every month, so we reconcile our bank accounts daily. You want to place your money with an established business with proven controls.”

The sale of Hatcher Title & Escrow to Farinash includes the company name, phone number and website. It also includes Hatcher, who will move his practice to Farinash & Stofan, where he will work in an of-counsel capacity.

This will allow the firm to direct callers who ask for Hatcher to the attorney himself. It will also give Farinash and Stofan a ready resource for answering questions and solving problems, Stofan says.

Hatcher says the move is a win for him, as well, as it will allow him to work as much or as little as he desires.

“The title and escrow business is very demanding. Clients want everything done right now, and we do our best to accommodate them by doing everything right now,” he notes. “That takes a toll.”

A published wtriter and actively performing musician, Hatcher also wants to move a number of personal projects to a front burner, including the authorship of a real estate practice manual for title and escrow companies.

He initially considered taking a 12-month sabbatical, but as he explored the option, he realized it wouldn’t be possible.

“I searched my first title in 1980, so I have been going at it hard for 40 years,” Hatcher points out. “But in this business, you can’t take a year off and then come back and sit in your chair and expect everyone to be there. So, I decided to use the ‘R’ word and be done with it.”

The transition will take place Nov. 1 as Hatcher moves to the USB Building (formerly the Krystal Building) at 1 Union Square and leaves the firm the late Stuart Duncan formed in 1974.

At that time, the remaining partners will print a new letterhead that reads “Duncan, Holland, Izell & Fleenor,” and the firm will continue to offer services in several practice areas out of its McCallie Avenue office.

Both Hatcher and Fleenor, who have practiced together at the firm for a decade, say the parting of ways is friendly.

“It’s been a great ride, but the happiness of Paul and his family is paramount,” Fleenor offers.

“Phil and I see each other outside of work,” Hatcher adds. “He knows where my bathroom is.”

Hatcher’s ride in real estate began while he was in law school. A graduate of Red Bank High School, he earned a degree in English from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and then attended the College of Law at UT Knoxville.

When he wasn’t in class, Hatcher handled closings for a firm that did real estate work.

A little over a year after Hatcher graduated, Provident Life & Accident Insurance Company recruited him to work at a subsidiary engaged in pension fund work.

“They were receiving large quantities of money and were having to invest it,” Hatcher said in a 2010 interview with the Hamilton County Herald. “I was one of three attorneys involved in closing the deals. In 1987, we closed a half-billion dollars in mortgage funds. That was a lot more zeros than I was accustomed to seeing.”

Six years later, Hatcher left Provident to start his own practice.

“I didn’t know if I had six years of commercial real estate experience or three years of experience twice,” he quipped in 2010. “I became restless and started wondering what else was out there.”

Hatcher opened his own office in 1989 and was its sole practitioner for 12 years. He then joined forces with Duncan in 2002.

Despite the demands of operating a business and maintaining a busy law practice, Hatcher found ways to serve the Chattanooga community and the legal profession. In addition to sitting on the board of directors of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Speech and Hearing Center for 19 years, for example, he completed a term as president of the Chattanooga Bar Association in 2015.

He and his wife, Bambi, also raised five children, who are now grown and no longer living at home.

Other highlights in Hatcher’s life and career include opening for Atlanta Rhythm Section in the 1990s, contributing a chapter to “The World War II Desk Reference,” which Harper-Collins published in 2004, and becoming a fellow of the Chattanooga Bar Foundation in 2016.

As Hatcher focuses on the transition that will take place Nov. 1, he says he’s looking forward to writing the next chapter in his life.

“I’m in good health and feeling relatively young, so it’s a good time to make this change.”