by Brian Beise
When David Hawley ’70 finished high school he was not at all sure he wanted to go to college. His mother insisted he try it for at least a year, however, so he found his way to Covenant. College suited him after all, and he stayed all four years before going on to law school.
Though his mother thought he should be a lawyer, it was not until near the end of his time at Covenant that David began to seriously consider the possibility. “I realized I didn’t really know what lawyers did,” says David, though he imagined such a profession might suit his history major and philosophy minor. “So I went downtown and went from door to door to see if someone would let me sit in and see what lawyers do. I spent my senior year going to the courthouse and decided that was probably the thing for me.” When people ask him why he became a lawyer, however, he often jokes, “out of self-protection.”
After graduating from law school, David joined Duggan and McDonald, one of the firms whose trials he observed while in school. He practiced with them for decades and eventually inherited the firm.
Early in his career, David was occasionally appointed to represent defendants who could not afford an attorney. This was before the creation of the public defender’s office, which David was against from the start. “I think we’ve been proven right on this. You can get into all kinds of potential conflicts of interest when all the defenders are in one office. Let’s say you’ve got two guys that rob a bank. One of them might testify against the other, or their stories might be different. You end up in a situation where the public defender’s office can only do so much. Guys like us end up getting appointed anyway.”
In recent years, David’s specialty has been oriented toward real estate. For a number of years he was an attorney for a title company, defending real estate and insurance agents. “I do wills and estates, property line disputes, lots of things related to real estate.”
He has also been the attorney for Chattanooga Christian School since it was founded more than thirty years ago. “That entails a lot of different things,” says David, “the corporate status of the school, personnel issues, disciplinary matters with students, buying property, construction, consent forms, and everything else down to contracts to buy copy machines.”
When David’s son Patrick was trying to choose a college, he happened to attend a party where he met many Covenant students. “He reported that it was the first time in a long while that he had an intelligent conversation,” says David. “With my encouragement and help we went online and applied. Patrick graduated magna cum laude in 2005 as an art major. He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Tennessee College of Law in 2009 and is now practicing with the firm of Fleissner, Davis and Johnson. John Huisman ’98 works at the firm as well and was instrumental in helping Patrick get his position.”
David remembers his years at Covenant as vital preparation for his life as a Christian and a lawyer. “I was at Covenant when many Christians, including some at Covenant, found it hard to see how a Christian could be a lawyer. Some like Nick Barker were a tremendous encouragement to take what was taught into every sphere including law. I think I was the second graduate to go into law.”
David notes that integration of faith and vocation is double-edged. Faith clarifies vocation and vice versa. He is a better lawyer for his faith and says he sees God’s kingdom at work through being a lawyer. When he speaks about his profession and life, the results of that integration become evident. He notes that many view law as simply a business, all numbers and stratagems. “The way I came up, I learned from people … who saw it as a profession, as dealing with people. So when you’re dealing with someone, take a real estate agent who’s being sued, that man’s scared to death. My clients may have all kinds of things going on in their lives.
“So it’s one thing to look at the legal issues. It’s another thing to deal with people. That’s where the idea of integration really comes in. Some of my best clients are also my best friends. I had one client whose mother died on Christmas Eve and I was the person he called, and I went out and sat with him. My hope is that I can continue to help folks as God gives me continued strength.”