These are the People in Your JRCLS Neighborhood: A Conversation with Media Committee Chair Gordon Foote
The JRCLS Newsletter is pleased to continue a series of articles dedicated to learning more about some of the international leadership positions in the J. Reuben Clark Law Society and the people who serve in those positions.
JRCLS Newsletter: So tell us a little about yourself—your family, hobbies, schooling, professional career.
Gordon Foote: I was born in Salt Lake City to Gordon and Susan Foote, and am the oldest of seven children. We moved every 3-5 years around the country while my father worked for LDS social services (Utah, Kentucky, Missouri, Texas). We visited Utah frequently to visit my extended family, many of whom still live there. One of my favorite hobbies is fly fishing—I grew up fishing with my grandfather on the Weber River above Oakley. I came back to Utah for college at the University of Utah, with a break for a 2 year mission to Argentina. I married Jennifer Allen (from Vernal, Utah). When I graduated we had a brand new daughter and were deciding which law school to attend. My family was then living in Dallas, so Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law was a great choice because of family proximity (and we hoped free babysitters). I graduated in 1999 and then in 2004 earned an LLM in Tax, again from SMU.
JRCLS Newsletter: Is your current legal practice tax focused?
GF: While I have a background in Tax, my practice areas focus more on M&A, general corporate and transactional work, and a bit of healthcare. Also, early on in my legal career I was asked to work with Hispanic Broadcasting Corporation who later became Univision Radio. Through that assignment I worked with other broadcasters and through continued relationships over time have created an enjoyable radio and TV broadcasting niche.
JRCLS Newsletter: You mentioned your wife Jennifer and at least one daughter. Would you share with us more about your family and some things you enjoy doing together.
GF: Jenn and I have four children: three girls and a boy. Our oldest is on a mission in Nagoya, Japan, then we have a 17 year old daughter, an almost 14 year old son, and a 10 year old daughter. As a family, we love to be on the water. Texas gets very hot in the summer, and so we play on the lakes. All of our kids play sports and Jenn and I love to cheer for them (they say I am a bit too loud at times). They are all athletes, (I never was… my wife is a much better athlete than I am. She was a star on her high school basketball and track teams.). Of course, in Texas, football is a big deal. My son plays football and my daughters at home have both been cheerleaders. From the back of our house we can see the stadium lights and every Friday night we go down as a family (with the rest of our town) to cheer on Sunnyvale (Jenn and I only last about half the game, but the kids stay to the very end).
I also love to work on old cars. I built a barn out behind our house that I’ve turned into a mechanic shop. I restored a 1968 Ford Bronco with my kids. My 17 year old and I are getting ready to start on her senior project redoing an old car. (I have an affinity for Fords, in part because as a 2L, I interned with the Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, MI.)
JRCLS Newsletter: When did you first get involved with the J. Reuben Clark Law Society?
GF: I didn’t have any lawyers in my immediate family, and in 1999 when I started practicing in Dallas as a fresh-out-of-law-school lawyer I didn’t know the lawyers in the area. I was called to sit on the high council and the stake president happened to be the outgoing Law Society Dallas Chapter Chair, and almost from the beginning he invited me to attend the chapter and be the secretary. The Law Society was a way to get to know the area right away, to rub shoulders with senior lawyers that I looked up to that had established practices and pepper them with questions. I was able to learn from their experience in a very comfortable setting.
JRCLS Newsletter: Thus began your consistent involvement and service with the Law Society. How did you get from chapter secretary to [international] Media Committee Chair?
GF: I kept serving as secretary for the term of several chapter chairs, then I was the student chapter liaison, then over membership, then chair-elect. While I was chair-elect, the chair had a sudden job change so I became chair for the remainder of that term plus the next for a total of 4 or 5 years. After I finished my term as chapter chair, I became the co-chair with Daren Perkins—now Vice-Chair of Conferences—responsible for the 2011 JRCLS International Conference in Dallas. We had a fantastic experience working with Southern Methodist University and the student liaisons for that conference (and arranging the armadillo races).
JRCLS Newsletter: You obviously value your associations within the Law Society, otherwise you wouldn’t have dedicated such a large part of your discretionary time to it’s activities. If you were talking to a prospective lawyer, a recent law school graduate, or even a colleague, how would you describe the benefits of continued involvement with the Law Society?
GF: I think the blessing of the Law Society has changed for me over time. As I mentioned earlier, it began by giving me the opportunity to build relationships with people I frankly wanted to be like. It also gave me access to CLEs I needed when I began my practice at a smaller firm. I don’t think I’ve missed the leadership conference for 10 years, but every time I go, I come away reminded that I am part of something bigger, that I have something to contribute to an organization that is a force for good across the earth. Through the various firesides, and listening to the brethren and the leaders of the Law Society talk, I am reminded that the Law Society plays a really important role in society, it reminds me why I chose this profession and the good that can be brought by honorable, faithful, believing lawyers. As individuals we can make a difference, but as a group there’s real strength and conviction and a sense of belonging that allows us to move forward in a very meaningful way. I love being part of that.
JRCLS Newsletter: Is there a particular experience that stands out in your memory that exemplifies the Law Society being, as you mentioned, a force for good?
GF: When I was the chair of the Dallas Chapter, the Dallas Bar Association wanted to charge us for using rooms at the Belo Mansion (home of the Dallas Bar Association). When we asked why the change, we were told that we were not a recognized group or organization. So, the chapter leadership decided that we needed to do something to be more recognized. Once a month the Dallas Bar Association has a night—Legalline—where anyone can call in and ask any legal question from lawyers that donate their time. The lawyers staffing the phones don’t represent the callers or tell the callers their name, but it’s a wonderful benefit to people who don’t have access to lawyers and have trouble understanding the decisions they’re being asked to make. When our chapter realized the Bar had trouble staffing Legalline, we offered to staff it 2 months out of 12, and each time we brought anywhere from 5-15 people to handle the phones. This service completely changed the relationship that we had with the Bar, and that relationship continues today.
JRCLS Newsletter: That is a fantastic example on so many levels: serving a community need, creating positive relationships with others lawyers, fulfilling the purpose of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society.
GF: Absolutely. In fact, I have a client who is a Christian lawyer not of the LDS faith who I invited to be involved with the Legalline service from the very beginning. He came, made some new friends in the chapter, and later joined the Law Society and served as the Dallas Chapter’s technology chair. \ While he is not of our faith, I believe the service, ethics and principles we espouse allowed him to be comfortable joining the Law Society.
JRCLS Newsletter: That reminds me of our mission statement: “We affirm the strength brought to the law by a lawyer’s personal religious conviction. We strive through public service and professional excellence to promote fairness and virtue founded upon the rule of law.” Have you noticed these principles affect your personal practice?
GF: They have been a foundation to my practice over the years. My clients may not know it, but I believe many of them have chosen to be a part of my practice for the same reasons that my friend chose to become part of the Law Society: There is a foundation of faith that influences the decisions I make. In fact, with many of my clients we candidly discuss these principles—what can we do? What legally can we do? What is the right thing to do? I think the Law Society has helped me appreciate that the important of our mission statement. It has made me a better counselor.
JRCLS Newsletter: Did you have prior experience with the Media Committee before being asked to chair it?
GF: No, in fact, as I’ve had a chance to be part of the monthly committee calls, I’ve noticed that the committee is comprised of all women. And it has been the best run, most effective, most responsible committee I have ever been a part of in the Law Society, and possibly even in active practice! I am grateful how this wonderful committee has opened my eyes and helped me see the Law Society and the value it is for everyone who has a law license to be involved and move our mission forward in a way I didn’t see before.
JRCLS Newsletter: Do you have any specific goals for your service going forward as the chair of the Media Committee?
GF: Not to mess up with what Tom Isaacson did—he put so many great things in place! I felt like I was stepping into very big shoes. I see the media committee doing a couple of things that I didn’t think about when I was first given the opportunity to serve: promoting and helping the members of the Law Society as a whole see the good works of the individual chapters and members. Outside of the annual conference, that happens through the newsletter, through articles, it happens through videos that we will be posting, it happens through recognition of new chapters and their leadership on Facebook or on twitter. For all the members who don’t have access or ability to come to the conferences, we can get those messages out through social media. We want to disseminate the good works of all the members in such a way that inspires and uplifts the chapters and individuals wherever they may be—Tijuana, Mexico new chapter, Orange County, California old chapter, or Salt Lake and Provo.
I have been inspired by all levels of leadership in the Law Society—from within my local Dallas chapter to the international level with people like Lew Cramer or Doug Bush or Jeremiah Morgan or Mary Hoagland. When I go to the fall leadership conferences I try to bring one of my kids with me and then we go to General Conference together. I love going to the JRCLS reception after General Conference and having my kids rub shoulders with these wonderful people. I look around and I see leaders who are kind and wonderful and principled and consistent. I love that. I hope I can be like that for someone else someday.
Thank you, Gordon, for taking the time to participate in this interview, but even more for your ongoing service to the Law Society and your personal example of congeniality and faith as the foundation of your legal practice.
By Danielle Dallas, Media Committee
Posted: March 29, 2016