Practicing for God
McCleskey attorneys Bill Lane and Tommy Swann don’t leave their faith when they walk in the office.
When Bill Lane was 10 years old, he watched the movie “To Kill a Mockingbird” for the first time. Moved by the film, he put on his Sunday morning suit and asked his mother to drive him into town to one of the few law offices in his hometown of Sweetwater, Texas.
When his mother asked him why, he replied, “to ask for a job!” His mother drove him into town and dropped him off without one discouraging word. Bill did not get hired that day and was told he was still a bit young to be the next Atticus Finch. But the attorneys spent a few hours visiting with him, explaining what their jobs entailed and encouraging him to take future steps to one day become a lawyer.
Tommy Swann grew up in Wilson, Texas and after graduating high school, came to Lubbock to attend Texas Tech University where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics.
After graduating, he served in the Vietnam War for two years and returned to Lubbock to get his master’s degree in Agricultural Economics. Around age 30, he felt a call to go to law school. Applying late and skeptical he would get in, Tommy knew it was a divine nudge when he received his acceptance letter to the Texas Tech School of Law.
Two different backgrounds, two different stories, but each of these men’s lives, at the core, reflect one story – the Gospel. And, living that Gospel doesn’t stop during the hours they practice law.
Bill Lane and Tommy Swann are attorneys at the McCleskey Law Firm. Bill primarily practices Labor and Employment Law, Energy Law and Business and Commercial Litigation. Tommy works cases in a wide variety of areas: Real Estate Law, Agriculture, Bankruptcy and Creditors’ Rights – to name a few.
Both Bill and Tommy made the decision to follow Christ at a young age.
For Tommy, attending college and serving in the war were circumstances that he recalls drew him away from God. He refers to the feeling he had during that time as a “hollowness.” It was not until a close family member passed away he realized the only source of purpose to fill that hollowness was turning back to his Creator.
Bill, although he became a Christian at the age of 8, grew up in what he refers to as “the church of the girlfriend.”
“In my teenage years, I was a Baptist, a Methodist, and whatever else my current girlfriend at the time was as I attended with her,” he said.
That ended when he met the woman who became his wife, Robin. For the majority of their married years in Lubbock, Texas, they have been consistent members at Southcrest Baptist Church. It was at a Franklin Graham Crusade in March of 2000, where Pastor Graham was preaching, that Bill recommitted his life alongside his 8-year-old daughter Laurie who was making the decision for the first time. It was the same age Bill had been when he first made the choice.
It’s the mercy and grace these men have experienced through Jesus Christ, they aspire to live out as attorneys.
“I don’t advertise myself as a Christian lawyer. I don’t want anyone to come to me because I am a Christian. I want them to come to me because I am the best lawyer they can find,” Tommy said.
They do, however, reach for excellence in their jobs because of their convictions. Tommy described it as “giving your whole life to the Lord.” That includes every aspect of your marriage, your children, your finances, and even your job. Even when it’s a job not many people associate with Christian attributes.
Tommy recently handled a bankruptcy case where a couple in their 60s was struggling to keep their farm, and Tommy was representing the creditor who was planning to repossess their tractor. Tommy and the creditor worked with the couple to bring current the payments, and the couple was able to keep the tractor.
A while after the case had been closed, Tommy received a handwritten note from that couple. It read, “We appreciate you being kind to us, we really needed to see a smile.”
Tommy said, “I wasn’t trying to treat them any different, I was trying to represent my own client well. But, letting those people know that they had worth, made a difference when they were going through a difficult time.”
Bill also has found some unique ways for his faith to be a central part of his job.
“I may be the only lawyer my clients are ever exposed to; because of that, I want to make sure I am leaving them with an impression that this profession is still an honorable one. I will do whatever I need to do to help someone when they are in need, and sometimes that is praying with them. I’ll ask, ‘would you like me to pray with you about that?’ and I’ve never had anyone turn me down once to this day,” Bill said.
“We rather enjoy breaking the stereotype of lawyers,” they both said.
“Being a lawyer is not just constant arguing,” Bill said. “You see these television shows where every scene is a dramatic courtroom scene, and that is just not the reality of practicing law. It is actually a lot of paperwork, meeting with people, and rather mundane days.”
Tommy added, “To be an attorney, you do not need to have an aggressive, bulldog-like personality. In fact, you usually get a lot more done when you are friendly to those you are working with.”
When asked how serving a just God has affected their experience working in a not-as-perfect justice system, Bill said, “the law, with as much good as it does, is not perfect – perfection belongs to heaven. While here on earth, bad things do happen to people. Injustice occurs. However, that being said, I hope I’ve been given the tools to lessen that impact on people.”
Bill and Tommy both made it clear they are just trying to love God and love the people He puts in their path, something they both believe every Christian is commanded to do. Some days that is easy, some days it’s very hard. On the hard days, Tommy said that one Bible verse often comes to mind: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” – Psalm 23:4
Atticus Finch, Gregory Peck’s character in “To Kill A Mockingbird,” is the greatest hero in film history, according to the American Film Institute.
There are also a number of articles on the Internet about the beloved character’s faith connections. If interested, here are links:
FYI, Bill did not name either of his daughters Scout.