There's More to life
Successful Annapolis attorney Jim Nolan is a very busy man who would have it no other way. He is also a man who believes there's more to life than just work - there's his loving family and the community that has given him so much he feels it is only right for him to give back.
"You work hard but there is also that quality of life part that is very important to me," he says. "It's a matter of making time for the things that are important to you."
As a managing partner of one of the most well-known law firms in Annapolis - Council, Baradel, Kosmerl & Nolan, P.A. -- as well a member of numerous associations ranging from the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association to the Annapolis Community Foundation, Jim is on the move morning until night and he couldn't be happier.
"I'm not a nine-to-five person," he says. "I never will be. I think if I were, I would be bored to death."
Although he handles a wide variety of cases, his focus is as a civil litigator and business attorney. In addition to handling such high-profile clients as Ross Perot and large development companies, he also handles cases involving small community organizations, often on a pro bono basis.
"There are different types of feelings you get from handling certain cases," he said. "It's always nice to be paid well by the large developers, but there's nothing like the feeling of helping out a small community organization that doesn't have a lot of money."
When not working on the high profile or pro bono cases, Jim spends a lot of his time serving on a number of bar organizations boards. He says his activism in the legal community is due to his firm belief in the importance of the law.
"Without the law, we'd end up in chaos and anarchy," he says. "That's not a trite thing to say. I believe the legal profession is extremely important to the social health of this country. We need to ensure in this country that everyone has access to justice. The minute citizens are denied the ability to go to court, that's when we are going to have significant problems. People are going to resort to other means to solve their problems."
Fran Czajka, executive director of the Anne Arundel Bar Association, said Jim was instrumental in building the county bar association - created to foster and maintain the honor and integrity of the legal profession - into a truly professional organization.
"Jim has vision," she says. "Over the years, this organization has provided much needed legal assistance to the underserved and more recently has made charitable gifts and contributions to community-based agencies."
So save your lawyer jokes for someone else. Jim might politely smile at them because he is a nice guy, but he won't be laughing.
"I am very proud to be a lawyer," says Jim, who also serves as a mentor for less experienced lawyers. "I want to protect the profession. I like to be a mentor to younger lawyers because they often graduate from law school with academic but not practical knowledge. I like to be there for when they have a question or simply want to pick someone's brain about something."
A busy career like Jim's is not unusual in the legal profession. What makes him stand out, however, is that he devotes a great deal of his time to many outside endeavors, such as serving on an Annapolis board designed to create activities for city youth as well as on a YWCA committee committed to ending domestic violence.
"I love to keep busy and I think it's important to give time to these organizations," he said. "Life's been pretty good. I have a wonderful family and wonderful people I work with, so I think it's very important to give back. I say that very seriously."
At the end of the day, however, he always ensures that he has time to spend with his wife, Nancy, and his two grown sons, Blake and Brady. When they were attending Severn School, he served on the school's Board of Trustees as well as several other committees. "A lot of people work to where it is a detriment to their families," Jim says. "I see that as a real problem in my profession."
Jim grew up in a large family with three siblings. His father, John "Jigger" Nolan, attended the Naval Academy as a member of the Class of 1943 and later served as an engineer designing submarines for the Navy.
As a Navy junior, Jim traveled around until 1962 when his family moved to Annapolis and he attended St. Mary's High School. When he left Annapolis for college, he swore he would never move back.
"I thought Annapolis was too small a town with nothing going on," he says.
He attended St. Bonaventure University in New York and then University of Baltimore School of Law, graduating with honors.
"I was a senior in college when I decided to go to law school," he says. "My older brother, Mike, was attending law school at Georgetown University and recommended it. I believed him. He also told me when he met my future wife for the first time that she was a wonderful person. We've been married for 30 years. He hasn't steered me wrong yet."
After graduating from law school in 1974, Jim worked for a law firm doing civil litigation for five years. He then joined his current firm in 1980 and became a managing partner in 1987.
"I finally realized that Annapolis offered such variety and that it was a wonderful town -- that turned out to be so very true," Jim says. "You get high-end legal work but you also get to be involved with real people on a day-to-day basis. Annapolis is sort of a small town big town. We have a very vibrant county and we are the state capital. It's a very popular place to live and as a result there is a huge influx of people moving to the area. It's great to be working at the center of it all."
Jim expects he will remain busy for many years to come."I'm very happy where I am," he says. "I have an excellent law firm."
He also expects he will continue serving on civic committees."They are always looking for people to be active in the community," he says. "When you've been around as long I have, you eventually get asked."
Frances has no doubt Jim will continue to get approached."Jim is the 'go to' guy," she says. "When there is something important to do, he brings people together and gets it done. He has a balanced way of looking at issues. He has a great sense of tradition, but he's not afraid to try something innovative."