If not practicing law, attorney Charles Lamb says his dream job would to be a dessert critic. “If I could get paid to travel the world eating desserts and reporting back on it, that would be really fun,” he said. (Staff Photo: Brad McEwen)
ALBANY — When Albany attorney Charles Lamb woke up in the hospital 25 years ago, doctors told him he would never walk again. What had begun as day a of poolside leisure for the then 18-year-old college student who was home for the summer after his freshman year at the University of Georgia, suddenly turned into a day that would define the rest of his life.
THE CHARLES LAMB FILE
NAME: Charles Lamb
POSITION: Attorney; owner of Lamb Law Firm PC
EDUCATION: B.B.A. (Accounting) from University of Georgia Business School and Juris Doctor from UGA Law School.
ACTIVITIES: Current Immediate-Past Chairman of the Board of Leadership Albany (Board Member from 2008-2013). Current chairman of the Georgia Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund Commission Appeals Committee (2007-2013). Recently completed second and final term on Georgia State Rehabilitation Council (2007-2013). Recently served as president of the Dougherty Circuit Bar Association (2011-12). Previously served on board of Albany Advocacy Resource Center (2005-2011) (Executive Board 2006-09) and currently serve as legal counsel.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Lamb was named to Georgia Trend Magazine’s 40 Under 40 in 2009, was awarded the Justice Robert Benham Award for Community Service in 2010 and was the recipient of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dream Award in 2011.
Undeterred by the prognosis, Lamb not only returned to Athens to resume his studies sis months later, he proved those doctors wrong and was walking again in short order. Lamb went on to finish his education and earn a law degree, eventually returning to his hometown to practice law and become a staunch advocate for the two groups of people he feels strongly connected to—those with disabilities and those without.
Lamb recently participated in a question-and-answer session with Herald reporter Brad McEwen.
Q. What was your first job?
A. I delivered the “Stars and Stripes” newspaper on an off base route in Okinawa, Japan. It was very cool. There was a little old Okinawan man and every morning he’d say good morning and I’d say, “ohayo gozaimasu (Japanese for good morning) cause that’s the only thing we could say to each other.’ He was delivering, obviously, the Japanese language newspaper. I was in Okinawa for about six months.
Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first paycheck?
A. I believe it was ice cream and firecrackers. Just what an 11-12 year old boy would want. Plus those that know me today know I’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth.
Q. What was your first job out of law school and how did that lead you to start your own firm?
A. I worked for Superior Court Judge Joe Bishop in the Pataula Judicial Circuit. That’s a seven-county circuit. It goes all the way from Dawson down to Donalsonville. That was a great experience. All the felony cases go through superior court and all the family law matters and all the matters involving extraordinary relief, so I got to see just about everything under the sun come through the court. It was pretty neat, he trusted me to do a lot of the research and initial drafts of orders. After that I went to the Beauchamp firm, Beauchamp and Associates it was at the time. I was an associate attorney and handled a variety of personal injury claims, you name it, whether it be auto accidents, premises liability cases, and I had some product liability cases. That was the focus of that firm. My interest in it, to some extent, was getting into private practice. Those clerkships are not meant to be a permanent type arrangement. Part of my experiences as having been a person who was injured in an accident was what drew me to that. I felt like I had a pretty good base of how the process worked. God bless the people who open their own firm right out of law school. Law school’s great in terms of teaching you how to analyze things, but as far as the practical application of it, you really get that when you get into practice. I really felt that I had a good base by the time I opened my own law firm.
Q. Do you have a role model or a mentor in your career?
A. Annette Bowling has kind of been a mentor as far as how to be an effective advocate for people with disabilities. Joe Bishop, Judge Bishop, is kind of a role model as far as community services in addition to the way he conducts himself as far as the legal profession.
Q. What is one thing you really like about your job?
A. The flexibility and the autonomy that I have, and the variety of things that I see. Working for myself like I do, I don’t have anybody to answer to if I decide I’m going to go off and spend a day doing stuff for Leadership Albany or Albany ARC or whoever I might be with.
Q. What do you least like about your job?
A. It’s kind of tied to flexibility. I think clients expect you to be available 24-7 these days. And I am. When I’m not in the office I have call forwarding so it always goes to me wherever I am. I have taken calls early in the morning, late at night, on the weekend, on holidays. Just generally I tend to really become engaged with the cases that I handle and so sometimes leaving that at the office is hard. Sometimes those things keep running through my head about what more I could do for this or that. And sometimes it’s hard to just cut that off and relax.
Q. What is one important trait or characteristic a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?
A. I’ve thought about that and it’s weird. My mom was sitting in here when I was thinking about the questions you might ask and we said the same word at the same time — perseverance. Regardless of whatever the challenge is, just keep moving forward.
Q. What are your favorite hobbies or activities outside of work?
A. I enjoy listening to live music, going out to eat with friends. I enjoy reading. I dabble in some humorous writing from time to time too. I’d like to give some more time to that, but it seems like there’s never enough time for everything.
Q. What music is getting the most play on your iPod?
A. Somehow or another I think I got stuck in the 90s and late 80s. You’d find REM for sure, Pearl Jam, Matthew Sweet, Fiona Apple. And the Law Band. I’m serious that’s been in high rotation lately. I’ve had to explain to some people that it’s not a group of lawyers that play in a band.
Q. What is the most recent book you’ve read?
A. “Mind Gym.” I went to see Buster Posey speak one time and he had mentioned a book he read before the start of every season but never named the book. I finally asked him what it was and he told me. It’s a really interesting book. It’s 40 anecdotal stories from athletes about mental preparation. It’s by Gary Mack and David Casstevens.
Q. Have you seen any good movies lately?
A. I’m only somewhat of a movie watcher these days. I tend to wait until they come on cable television. There was some comedy that came on recently, what was it, “Hall Pass,” that was entertaining. I’m not sure what that says about me but it was funny; and the “Hot Tub Time Machine.” I know I’m not a teenage girl but I actually liked some of those movies with the werewolves, “Twilight.” But I have cool old things that I like too like the original “Highlander.” I saw that on the big screen at the UGA Theater.
Q. You’re up and going by what time each day and what are your daily routines:
A. It varies but usually by 7:30 I’m up and going. Shaved, showered, checking emails. There’s no real typical day though. That’s one of the things I like about what I do, everyday is different.
Q. What famous person would you like to meet and why?
A. FDR. He was a man whose actions had a major positive impact on this country and on the rest of the world despite his having had a significant physical disability, the true extent of which was not widely known or publicized during his presidency; perhaps because of the public perception at that time of the abilities of people with disabilities.
Q. Finish this thought, “on the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself…”?
A. Reading, either pool side or on the beach. And maybe doing some traveling. I’d like to go back to Italy and we’ve got some kinfolk in Chicago and I always have a lot of fun when I visit them. I think I’d like to go to South America actually; Brazil, Argentina, Chile.
Q. What was the best vacation you’ve ever taken?
A. When I was in high school actually I went with a group of folks from Albany and we travelled through Europe for about a month, in the summer of 1985. We went from England to Italy to Portugal, all the little places that you could blink and miss like Liechtenstein. I had a great time. I got to see a lot of things that I’d read about in books. Having studied Latin for a number of years in high school, it was kind of cool to see Rome and all that. We went to Pompeii and that was really cool. I also loved the summer I spent out in California the summer after I finished high school before I started college. Southern California is a fun place to live and visit.
Q. What is the biggest challenges or changes you see facing Albany in the future?
A. I’d like to think that this is a place that people would like to come to; if folks could just see what we have here. I find myself talking to folks from time to time and when people say there’s nothing to do in Albany, I say, ‘have you done this, have you done that, did you know this was coming up?’ There’s just a lot going for the place. I was talking to somebody who’s new to town the other day about the variety we have in terms of industry and education. I think back to when I was a youngster growing up here and I think back to what was going on 10 years ago and I don’t know, I think it’s getting better. I never thought it was bad. I was never one of those folks who thought, ‘I just want to grow up and move away from Albany.’ I just think there’s an awful lot going for this city. I think there’s a lot of potential here. You see people who are being successful here. There are talented people here. Look at Sasco or Equinox or Thrust Aircraft; I mean you can have a successful business here but I think maybe you have to be a little smaller and leaner than you used to be. I don’t know if we could get something like a Kia or a Caterpillar like other places in Georgia have gotten. I think that would be great but some of those smaller, mid-sized, more nimble companies that are flexible are what we’re more likely to see more of.
Q. If you could take back one decision you’ve made in your career, what would it be?
A. I think one thing I’d come up with is, it’s not as much in business but getting ready to go into business, I considered at one point after business school getting a joint MBA/JD, but I just got the JD. I think looking back it would have been beneficial to have gone ahead and done that joint program. I had a counselor that said, ‘if you don’t have a specific reason for doing that then I’d suggest you not.’ So I didn’t.
Q. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in your line of work in the past few years?
A. It’s been about 15 years now and a lot of what I’ve seen are the technology changes, like the accessibility of information online. Not just legal research but everything under the sun. There’s a lot of information found online, whether it be through the Secretary of State’s website or the local clerk of court’s office, the tax assessor’s office, a lot has changed in terms of accessibility of information. I think it’s really leveled the playing field between your mega-firms with 500 plus lawyers and your smaller firms. It used to be to get some of those details and some of those obscure laws and writings you’d have to have a full time librarian on staff in your law firm and there’s some that had those. These days, you know I have the same access to obscure peer journals as the folks in Atlanta.
Q. What do you wish people would think of when they think of lawyers?
A. I’d like to think that it’s somebody that you can trust that is dedicated to justice; somebody that puts society above themselves.
Q. What is the most fulfilling thing about your chosen profession?
A. I would say letting people know that despite an injury or a disability, they can have a very full and meaningful life.