Interview with Bill Mann, Chief Deputy Little Rock City Attorney

William C. Mann, III

Today’s post is an interview with William C. Mann, III (aka Bill). Mr. Mann is one of the nicest attorneys I have ever worked with and he is extremely good at his job. I am involved in a case with Mr. Mann in which there have been numerous depositions and I have learned something new every time I watch him. Without further ado, my interview with Mr. Mann:

JenniferCan you tell me about your life growing up? 

Bill: I grew up in three different towns. I was born in Searcy, which is where my parents are from.  Then I moved to Stuttgart in grade school for ten years when my dad was transferred there for his job. My dad’s job moved again to Pine Bluff, which is where I went for my last two years of high school. After I graduated, my parents moved back to Searcy, which is where they lived until their death.

Jennifer: Where did you go to college?

Bill: I did two years at Henderson State, then I transferred to UALR, which is where I graduated. Then, I attended law school at the University of Arkansas and graduated in 1979.

Jennifer: Are you married? 

Bill: Yes, in June, I will have been married for 34 years. I have two children. My daughter, 24, who lives in Little Rock, and a son, 29,  who lives in Colorado Springs.

Jennifer: What did you do after you graduated?

Bill: In 1979, when Bill Clinton was Governor, the Arkansas Legislature created the Arkansas Court of Appeals. One of the first judges was one of my law professors in Fayetteville, David Newman. So my first job right out of law school was working for him.

Then, I very briefly worked as in house counsel for Traveler’s Insurance Company. When they asked me to transfer to Hartford, Connecticut, I decided I couldn’t keep working there.

So, I went to work at the Arkansas AG’s office for a little over four years. I worked for two years doing capital litigation at the Supreme Court, both on appeals and habeas petitions. The last two years, I did consumer rate advocacy petitions. On one occasion, I had a case that went to Washington and I appeared before FERC. That was pretty fun.

Then I was in private practice for five and half years.

Then I joined this office in 1991.

Jennifer: And what was it that appealed to you about working for the City Attorney’s Office?

Bill: As you know, in private practice, the life blood is billing and I wasn’t enjoying it too much. This job came open and I had worked for the State Government before, and I had enjoyed that quite a bit. I thought this was similar, and it is in a lot of ways. I also thought it would give me more of a chance to do litigation and it has. I knew Tom [Carpenter, the City Attorney] from law school. He was a couple of years ahead of me.

Jennifer: I like that you point out that Tom is older than you!

Bill: He’s extremely older than I am, but I knew of him and when I was at the AG’s office, we had gone against each other on a couple of cases at the Supreme Court. After working for about 2.5 years, I moved up to be Chief Deputy in 1994.

Jennifer: In addition to litigation, what do you do?

Bill: I represent some different boards and commissions. For instance, I’m counsel to the Little Rock Civil Service Commission. That is limited to our uniform employees, police and fire. Anytime they are suspended for three days or more, or demoted or terminated, they have the right to appeal to the Commission. My role in that is to answer legal questions that come up. If the Commission elects to uphold the suspension or termination against the employee and the employee appeals to Circuit Court, I would be one of the attorneys to represent the Commission there.

I also am counsel to Little Rock Parks and Recreation, for ordinances, resolutions, and any legal questions that may come up from time to time.

I’m Tom’s primary backup for Board of Directors meetings and I am responsible for overseeing nine other attorneys and reviewing their work and answering their questions. That pretty much keeps my days full.

Jennifer: It sounds like you are pretty busy. My blawg is primarily designed for new attorneys or even those still in law school. Would you recommend your job to someone else? 

Bill: Yes, I would recommend our office. I would also recommend the Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for someone who is interested in getting lots of trial experience. We have hired people from that office before, because they have a lot of trial skills. You can transition to other areas of the law, but you can’t get those trial skills just anywhere.

Also, if you are interested in transactions, have a lot of land use work that involves contracts, if that is your career goal.

Jennifer: What is it that appeals to you about trial work? 

Bill: For some reason, I don’t know why exactly, I just love getting up in front of a jury and explaining our side of the case. I enjoy working with most lawyers I know. I like the challenge of the preparation and the depositions and just the presentation of it. I’ve done other areas of law practice, but for me that’s my favorite.

Jennifer: What other advice can you give to people just starting out? 

Bill: One of the things I tell our young lawyers, is, because I did it, is to not be too proud to accept any assignment. No matter what it is. As I was coming up, I took a lot of assignments that weren’t too glamorous. Any little thing will give you experience that you can use later. Somewhere down the line it will pay off for you. That may sound trite, but I believe it. But,  I don’t ask our lawyers to do anything I wouldn’t do, even at my advanced stage.

Jennifer: How do you make sure you spend enough time with your family and maintain your practice?

Bill: Well, that’s another good question. We work hard and do our jobs, but I also tell them that we are going to make sure that our families are our first priority. I tell them to make sure they take vacation and be with their families. I spent many days at work with a sick son or daughter taking a nap on my office floor, because my wife works too. We split the time of taking care of our children. My family is a huge priority for me. I think if I ever got to the point that work was overtaking it, I would find something else to do.  But that’s another advantage of working for the City. There are times that we have to work nights and weekends, but our office and lawyers do a good job of balancing home and work life.

Jennifer: Thank you so much for your time. 

Bill: You are very welcome.