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Sher Garner endows new emphasis on commercial law

October 07, 2015

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Law partners Jim Garner (L ’89) and Lee Sher (L ’76), both members of Tulane Law’s adjunct faculty, have endowed a fund dedicated to commercial law.

Lee Sher and Jim Garner, devoted Tulanians and founders of Sher Garner Cahill Richter Klein & Hilbert, have endowed a new fund to support Tulane Law School's expanding emphasis on business law.

The Sher Garner Fund for the Advancement of Commercial Law will underwrite lectures, roundtables and other activities devoted to the study of commercial, business and finance law.

"This generous endowment gift will provide essential resources to accelerate Tulane's leadership in commercial law," Dean David Meyer said. "I am deeply grateful to Lee, Jim and the entire Sher Garner firm for their vision and wide-ranging support of Tulane Law School."

The fund augments Tulane's other recent additions in the field, including the arrival of Professor Ann Lipton, an experienced securities and corporate litigator; the introduction of a course focused on small business planning, taught by John Herbert (L '77), longtime general counsel for Ceritas Energy in Houston; and the launch of a workshop series on regulation conducted by law faculty in partnership with Tulane's Murphy Institute.

The first fund-related event already is planned: The Sher Garner keynote address on commercial law at the Tulane Law Review's November symposium on "The Promise and Perils of Convergence in Financial Regulation and Consumer Protection."

The scheduled keynote speaker is Christopher Lewis Peterson, the John J. Flynn Endowed Professor of Law at the University of Utah College of Law and a special advisor in the Office of the Director at the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Sher (A&S '74, L '76) said the fund is “really to give back” to the school that he and Garner (E '86,L '89) and their families have remained committed to for decades. “Fortunately, we’ve had a fair amount of success practicing law, and we understand that Tulane Law laid the foundation for it,” he said.

Sher and Garner have built a thriving firm melding the two key aspects of representing business clients: Sher’s a premier transactions lawyer, expert at the art of the deal, and Garner’s a renowned litigator specializing in trial work and appellate argument.

They’ve also made a practice of molding lawyers in much the same fashion as the most successful pro baseball teams. They employ young talent, groom them in the firm’s culture and make sure they understand how transactional law and litigation complement each other.

Their devotion to Tulane takes many forms: They seek out Tulane graduates to hire and develop. Both men, along with five colleagues, volunteer their time to teach law classes. And the firm established the Sher Garner scholarship in 2012.

Sher’s wife, Karen (NC ’74, L ’77), and daughter Rose (L ’10) also are alums. Garner’s wife, Tracie (UC ’97), has a Tulane Continuing Studies degree.

Garner said that the new resources for commercial law would provide for examining issues beyond those raised in litigation — something especially important in a field where most of the action never reaches the courthouse.

“It addresses a broader audience of lawyers on both sides,” he said. “And it dovetails with our firm philosophy,” he added, referring to having the business and litigation practice groups work together.

The Sher Garner firm opened in 1999. It weathered the flooding that shut down the city after Hurricane Katrina by setting up shop in Baton Rouge, complete with helping employees find housing for their families and schools for their children until it was possible to restore operations in New Orleans.

The firm’s wide-ranging practice includes cases involving property damage caused by a new highway bridge, federal offshore oil and gas leases, commercial construction permits and complex contract claims arising out of the Mississippi River levee breaches area after Katrina.

On the transactional side, the firm negotiates every imaginable kind of commercial deal, whether the client is a real estate developer, lender, hospital, university, mineral company, restaurant chain, retailer, hotel, refinery, power plant, manufacturer or franchisor. 

Sher Garner’s 50-plus legal team includes close to 20 Tulane Law graduates, including several Class of 2015 members who recently joined the firm.

“We appreciate what Tulane does to prepare future lawyers to work for us,” said Sher, a veteran member of the adjunct faculty who has taught in the law school’s annual transactional-skills boot camp and now is developing a potential new course on contract drafting. 

Garner, who teaches a night class in advanced appellate practice, said so many of the firm’s lawyers volunteer to share their experience because it’s critical to give students insight into the realities of law practice. He said he’ll use documents from active cases and bring in guest speakers such as judges and general counsels.  

“This takes you to real life,” he said.


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