The firm’s roots are grounded in the rich history of Jim Neal’s legacy.
Following Jim Neal’s graduation from the Vanderbilt University School of Law, where he was first in his class, he was named a special assistant to Robert F. Kennedy, United States Attorney General. In that position, Mr. Neal was responsible for the successful prosecution of Jimmy Hoffa, president of the Teamsters Union, who was convicted of jury tampering. After his government service in Washington, D.C., Mr. Neal returned to Nashville, where he became the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee.
After Mr. Neal ceased being the United States attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, he and Aubrey Harwell, Jr., formed Neal & Harwell. The firm’s emphasis was and continues to be on criminal and civil litigation.
Neal & Harwell has a rich history in regard to high-profile litigation. In the mid-1970s, Jim Neal served as chief trial counsel in the prosecution of the Watergate defendants and garnered national recognition for the successful conviction of high officials in President Richard Nixon’s administration including Attorney General John Mitchell, senior White House aides John D. Ehrlichman and Bob Haldeman, and others.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Jim Neal and Aubrey Harwell successfully led the defense for the Ford Motor Company in what came to be known as the Pinto case, the first time a major American corporation was charged with criminal homicide.
High-profile matters in which Neal & Harwell was engaged in subsequent years included the representation of movie director John Landis in California in a prosecution arising out of the filming of the Twilight Zone movie, the defense of Exxon Shipping Corporation in the Valdez oil spill case in Alaska, the representation of Michael Milken’s chief bond trader in the Drexel Burnham Lambert prosecution by then U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani in the Southern District of New York, and the representation of San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo in a case in Louisiana involving Governor Edwin Edwards. There were numerous other high-profile cases, but these represent the scope of the matters in which the firm achieved success and gained expertise in earlier years.
Neal & Harwell’s white-collar criminal practice has solidly continued and has grown to include additional experienced criminal defense lawyers such as Jim Sanders, Tom Dundon, Bill Ramsey and Jim Thomas. Like many litigation firms in the early 1970s, insurance defense work initially formed a significant part of Neal & Harwell’s civil practice. Over time, the practice has evolved into complex, high-stakes matters, many of them involving “bet the company” litigation. In more recent times, representation of Bridgestone, CNA Financial, Tennessee Valley Authority and Pfizer has been among those matters for which the firm has had significant responsibility.
In 1990, Neal & Harwell substantially expanded its developing transactional and commercial practice by adding two experienced business lawyers, James Kelley and Marc McNamee. These attorneys now form the core of the firm’s business, banking and bankruptcy practice, and additional lawyers have joined this area of the firm’s practice over the years.