The Hays file Featured

8:00pm EDT May 26, 2008

Born: Memphis, Tenn., but grew up and lived in the small towns in eastern Tennessee — between Knoxville and Chattanooga.

Education: J.D., Vanderbilt University; bachelor’s degree, University of North Carolina

What’s the best business lesson you’ve learned?

That environment where I grew up in East Tennessee and other aspects of my background are old-school values — persistence and hard work pays off over time. There are no shortcuts. That ethos is not in vogue in the modern world always. It’s more of an old-school value system from the greatest generation, but it’s what influenced me, given that I’m 50, and it’s what my parents and grandparents value system was particularly where I grew up. I think those values and lessons are still proven true. There are no shortcuts.

As a kid, what did you want to be?

My father came from modest means so he went off when he was a teenager and began to work in a boiler room in a hospital in a small town in Athens, Tenn., and put himself through college and then worked after college and put himself through med school. When I was younger, that’s all I knew, so I thought I’d be a doctor because that’s what my dad did.

Then I was exposed, through my father, to other people, and I liked aspects of the law and what I thought law to be. I went to law school, and I loved Vanderbilt, but what I thought the law would involve, I found, to a degree, boring and tedious. As I was summer clerking at this firm, I went and interviewed and went pretty far in the process to work for the CIA to do something more exciting, and I ended up not doing that. I went into the law and was frankly surprised by how many different possibilities [there are] for growth and development within a law firm. It has been a challenge and constantly changing.