From that somewhat threadbare office, in what was then the four-story Peoples Bank building on Adamson Square, the law firm now known as Tisinger Vance, P.C., has grown into a legal powerhouse that has just celebrated its 90th anniversary. While still a family business, tied to a shared history with Carrollton, the firm has earned a statewide reputation in a competitive profession dominated by firms with the words “Peachtree Street” in their address.
It is a firm that seems to draw its strengths from many contrasts: seasoned, experienced lawyers paired with new talent; clients from decades past mixed with modern entrepreneurs; and old-style legal principles behind the click and hum of 21st Century life.
“We’re centered here, but you go throughout the state and you’ll realize that a lot of people know us,” said David Tisinger, one of three Tisingers who occupy the firm’s current offices in Wagon Yard Plaza. The reason the firm is so well known, he said, is because its lawyers have ranged across the state over the decades, pioneering in legal defense work, as well as representing the interests of numerous commercial enterprises.
The firm was established in the fall of 1922 by Harvey Tisinger, but it was built by his brother, Robert D. Tisinger. The brothers were raised in the Victory community, just southeast of Bowdon, when Carroll County was mostly an agricultural area, and when legal matters mainly focused on property and personal disputes. When Robert finished law school in 1932 and wanted to join the firm, there wasn’t enough law work for him to do. So, he farmed for a year.
When Harvey left the firm in the mid-’30s to work for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Atlanta, Robert came into his own. While doing all kinds of legal work imaginable, he also took an interest in his community. In fact, the county has much to thank him for, as he played instrumental roles in establishing radio station WLBB and Tanner Medical Center. When the Carroll Electrical Membership Cooperative began, Robert went across the countryside encouraging farmers to sign up and modernize their farms with electricity.
The law firm also has the senior Tisinger to thank for some of its current clients and practice areas. His experience with the electrical co-op led to work as general counsel for the state and national trade associations for Rural Electric Cooperatives, and the law firm still works with many such co-ops across the state. The elder Tisinger – who in later years served as solicitor and later judge of what was then called the Carrollton City Court – also was a pioneer in using the latest in office technology to streamline the firm’s practice.
David Tisinger, Robert’s son, said the firm entered a “crossroads” when he and his brother, Richard G. Tisinger joined the firm. David joined first, in 1963, when both the practice and the legal profession was changing from the kind of law Robert had practiced since the 1930s. Law firms at that time began to split into areas of specialization, with some lawyers doing trial practice – arguing cases in court – and other lawyers researching the law and strategizing with commercial clients to help them develop.
Today, the law firm is led by Richard Tisinger Sr. and senior partner J. Thomas Vance. David Tisinger remains “of counsel,” which in legal-speak means he has shifted his legal practice to working as a mediator and occasional trial strategy consultant.
The firm is vastly different from 90 years ago, employing 14 lawyers involved in areas of law ranging from banking and finance to personal injury – not to mention a small army of staff who keep the firm organized.
Richard’s son, Richard G. Tisinger Jr., who joined the firm in 1995, is proof that the firm will continue to grow. To ensure there would be no favoritism when he was hired, Richard senior said that he had circulated his son’s resume to the rest of the lawyers having first taken the younger man’s name off. But there were no worries. Richard junior, educated at Georgetown and experienced at a law firm in Atlanta, had a resume that, his father said, “glowed in the dark.”
Richard senior said the firm has succeeded in keeping its clients over the years because of another legacy of his father – transitioning.
“Clients don’t hire law firms, they hire lawyers,” Tisinger explained.
To keep their client relationships going, the Tisinger brothers learned from their father how to bring in new lawyers early in the game to ensure a smooth transition as the years went by.
The firm has also established a method to ensure there will always be lawyers at Tisinger Vance to look after the needs of their clients. The partners recruit from law schools across the state and the nation, offering talented young law students the opportunity to work in the unique environment of Carrollton – where one day an attorney may be working with a major corporation, and the next work to settle a dispute over property lines.
“We tell them, if you want a (fancy) lifestyle, you go over there (to big Atlanta firms),” said David Tisinger. “But if you want to get down in the weeds and really do what a law practice is about as a profession, you can come out here and still do it.”