Founded in 1968 by Reese Joye, Joye Law Firm has offices in Charleston and Myrtle Beach. As the firm grew, Reese became a legendary attorney in South Carolina, fighting to make things right for his clients. Reese Joye passed away unexpectedly in 2008, leaving the firm in the hands of his son Mark and Ken Harrell, who joined the firm in 1994. We recently spoke with Ken about what has changed, what has stayed the same, and the path forward for Joye Law Firm.
Q: Reese Joye was the founder of Joye Law Firm more than 40 years ago. What were some of the values he brought to the firm?
A: Tenacity and a burning desire to do everything he could (within ethical guidelines) to get the best result for his clients. Reese was not an easy man to work for, because his standards were so high and he refused to compromise on his principles. But there’s no question that Mark, Chris, and I are much better lawyers for having worked with Reese for so long. Hopefully, we can pass on the same traits to our younger lawyers.
Q: What changes did he have to adapt to during that time?
A: Like most of us who have been around long enough, changes in technology were his biggest challenge. We had a real wrestling match with Reese when we decided to implement Needles as our case management system. For years, the lawyers took turns answering the night calls. Looking back, some of his “systems” seem crazy now, but they worked for him for so long that he struggled with making changes.
“There’s hardly a week that goes by without a former client or another Charleston lawyer sharing a ‘Reese story.’ ”
Q: Since he passed away, what has his legacy been, both at Joye Law Firm and in the community?
A: There’s hardly a week that goes by without a former client or another Charleston lawyer sharing a “Reese story” with Mark or me. I think his obituary said it best when he was described as a “trial lawyer’s trial lawyer,” meaning his peers respected him, because he was not afraid of a tough case and he loved being in the courtroom. That passion for going into the courtroom and not being afraid of getting knocked on our ass from time to time is something we want the Joye Law Firm to be known for in the years to come.
Q: What has changed since he has been gone?
A: Culturally, it was a big shift for everyone at the firm, because Reese had such a larger-than-life presence, and for years, it was his vision that directed the law firm. Mark and I have certainly been more open to getting outside counsel on how to best grow the firm. We brought in Vista Consultants shortly after Reese died, and that led to a number of healthy changes, from my taking on a more active management role, to an I.T. overhaul, to hiring a new firm administrator—the list goes on and on. We opened our first satellite office after Reese’s death. We’ve expanded into new practice areas.
I’m not saying we wouldn’t have done these things if Reese were still here, but there are naturally some conflicting interests when you have the generation gap that existed between Reese, Mark, and me.
Q: Did the perception of Joye change among the Charleston community (legal and otherwise)?
A: I think there was a brief period of time when everyone was wondering what would happen since Reese was the face of the firm for so long. cj was instrumental in helping us put together a marketing campaign (started after a grace period of being off the air for a couple of months) that was designed to say to our competitors and potential clients that “we’re still here and we’re not going away, so pack a lunch.” Within a few months, it was back to business as usual.
Q: Where is Joye Law Firm headed next?
A: Wherever it is, I am thrilled to be a part of it. I absolutely love coming to work every day. I have a great partner in Mark (who’s happiest focusing on trying big cases), a group of dedicated lawyers, and the best employees we’ve ever had. We won’t stand still. We’ll keep getting better, because the competition gets stiffer and stiffer. Growth-wise, I’m sure we’ll expand into other areas of the state. When and where? That remains to be seen.