Attorney at Law Magazine sat down with Joe Thompson Cravens, founder of Cravens & Noll, and his daughter and newly admitted attorney, Lauren Cravens, to discuss their careers, plans for the future, and legacy.
AALM: Joe, tell us about your transition from serving with the JAG Corps to private practice.
JTC: I had a unique transition, almost directly from a year in a combat zone with the 101st Airborne to a 15th-floor office tower in a downtown Richmond law firm. I loved my new job, but I missed military service. I missed both the men and women and the mission. I missed morning physical training and flying in helicopters. It took the better part of four to five years to fully transition. I love the law but serving your country and defending freedom with 25,000 other patriots is a rewardingly sublime experience.
AALM: As a veteran of multiple military operations, including Operation Just Cause and Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, how has your military service influenced your approach to the practice of law?
JTC: My military service has influenced and continues to influence every aspect of my life: honor, duty, discipline, courage, teamwork, camaraderie, preparation, leadership, and compassion. These are traits that never go out of style. The years of training, realistic exercises, and demands prepared our forces well for combat, which is a surrealistic experience. The gratitude I felt for the professors, teachers, and military leaders who taught me, and my fellow soldiers so well was overwhelming. These people formed my decision-making process today as much as they did decades ago in Desert Storm. I am so grateful to so many.
AALM: Tell us about your decision to launch Cravens & Noll.
JTC: After several years in private practice, I felt prepared to open an office and help people. My goal was to provide the best legal service possible at a reasonable and affordable rate. I wanted to always provide value, and I think we have achieved those objectives. My best goal was to establish an institutional practice that would survive me long after I retired. I am still trying to meet this last goal.
AALM: Lauren, what attracted you to the practice of law?
LC: My adoration for my father and his career began at a young age. In the first grade for career day, my dad let me borrow his briefcase, because I wanted to be a lawyer. As I got older my desire to be an attorney did not change. I did consider other career paths but that only solidified my aspirations of working in the legal field.
I am a competitive person at heart and the courtroom gives me an opportunity to think on my feet on a regular basis. The evolution of laws requires me to continue to educate myself.
I have been given the incredible gift of working with my father. I believe that my exposure to the workings of this industry throughout my life has allowed me to see the bigger picture.
AALM: Joe, tell us what it means to you to practice law with your daughter.
JTC: Anyone who is a parent knows the love you have for your children, but to have a child join you in your practice is a feeling beyond words. It is incredible and humbling. I hope to be a good mentor and teacher while never forgetting that this is my little girl who has become a vibrant and beautiful young woman, who has her own career to make and her own giants to defeat. I have a fantastic daughter and am so proud she has chosen to work at Cravens & Noll.
AALM: Lauren, what does it mean to you to carry on the family legacy?
LC: The ability to be able to carry on a family legacy is a privilege. I was born in 1995, the same year my father started his own practice. My parents worked endlessly to create the firm that is now Cravens & Noll. I grew up with this firm. I remember coming to the office as a child in the evenings. There were many sacrifices my parents made for my father’s dream of owning a firm to come to fruition. I get to have a relationship with my father as a parent as well as a relationship with my father as a mentor. Rather than facing the harsh realities of this profession alone, I get to face them with my father standing next to me. I have the advantage of having someone who loves me guide me through tough legal dilemmas.
I hope I can continue to grow as an attorney with the help of my father. I am so thankful for the opportunity to carry on my father’s dream that has become my own.
AALM: Joe, tell us about some of your legal mentors and the best lessons they shared with you.
JTC: I was blessed to meet F. Lee Bailey and escort him for a day when I worked at the Judge Advocate Generals School. He taught me to forget the cue cards and the written questions. “If you don’t know your case and why a witness is important, how do you expect the jury to?” My mentors in the military were many. Colonel Malcolm Squires and General J. H. Binford Peay (a Richmond native) taught me so much about discipline, leadership, and planning. Finally, M. Pierce Rucker, my first civilian legal mentor at Sands Anderson in Richmond. He taught me the law, the medicine, the preparation, and to use the deposition as a trial. There were hundreds of others. I was definitely trained by the village.
AALM: Lauren, tell us about your work on the pro bono project with the Henrico Police Department.
LC: Dave Noll started the Pro Bono Estate Documents project for the Henrico Police Department to show Cravens & Noll’s appreciation for the work that the department does in creating a safer community in Henrico.
I joined Dave in drafting wills, power of attorneys, and advanced medical directives for over 300 Henrico Police Department staff and spouses. After completing the drafts, I sent them to the respective individuals, assisted in answering questions, and edited the documents as needed. This process started in 2022 and we are just now finishing up the last signings. The project allowed me to create relationships with the officers in Henrico while also getting hands-on experience with document drafting and client relationships.
AALM: Joe, how has your experience teaching at Nova University influenced your growth as an attorney?
JTC: Teaching is essentially what a lawyer does. We provide facts, teach the law to a jury or an insurance adjuster, and explain why our case is meritorious. Teaching a college class or instructional course to other attorneys is no different. I love the law and specifically our American legal system. It is by far the best in the world. It’s why the world comes to America to contract. Everybody gets their case heard. I think everybody ultimately gets a fair shake. The system is not perfect, but the checks and balances certainly right most wrongs, and our system permits and has always permitted this vibrant country to grow, absorb immigrants and other cultures, and march forward to the drumbeat of justice. That sounds hokey and homespun I know, but I am homespun. I’m still a farm boy from Western Kentucky, I just live and practice in beautiful central Virginia. My life has been blessed.
AALM: How are you involved in the community?
JTC: I am involved in church, the VFW where I am a life member, and over the years have coached youth football and basketball. I believe in giving back and paying it forward. I am particularly passionate about disabled veterans. So few men and women actually defend freedom worldwide, at great sacrifice to their minds, their bodies, and their families; they deserve our respect and support.
LC: In law school, I was on the executive board of the Latino Law Society at the University of Kentucky. I have also worked with Best Buddies, an organization that fosters friendships with disabled individuals, and Oxfam, an organization that focuses on eliminating global poverty and the injustice that is accompanied by poverty. I am looking forward to once again becoming involved in my community.
AALM: What goals are you hoping to accomplish in your professional career? What’s the next big milestone for you?
JTC: My next milestone is the case I have tomorrow, and the one next week. Every case requires your very best. I would love to participate in and be a lead litigator in a class action lawsuit. I don’t know if I will ever achieve this last one, but we can all dream big and reach for the stars as we should.
LC: I want to continue to network and build relationships with members of the bar, and intend to join more bar associations. I would like to continue to develop my professional skills in the criminal arena to represent an individual facing the possibility of life imprisonment.
A huge milestone for me would be receiving an award such as Super Lawyers. Lastly, I hope to eventually earn a leadership role at Cravens & Noll.
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