English classes, Hall believes, “teach you how to think” rather than “what to think.”
For attorney Christopher A. Hall, practicing law is often a matter of character analysis.
“There’s an adversary. Someone who wants to best me. I’m looking at his or her clients, I’m trying to find out what motivates them—pressure points, areas of vulnerability they might have,” Hall said. “I don’t know how to play poker, but I make my living reading people.”
His love of reading developed when he was young. Growing up in St. Louis, he would drive with his father to the Goodwill in search of books by local legend Mark Twain. His father, who himself had little formal education, would read to him at bedtime.
“I have to credit this man, with no degree at all, but a lot of natural curiosity,” Hall said.
Curiosity is vital to Hall. “To me, just having an interest in the arts in general—and certainly literature and theater in particular—it expands my perspective on life and law practice and what clients pay me to look at. It also gives me insights into the world. The arts speak to the human condition.”
As a lawyer, Hall’s main areas of practice include business and taxation. But even in these specialties, seemingly far removed from the liberal arts, he sees critical thinking and a breadth of knowledge as what give him an edge. English classes, Hall believes, “teach you how to think” rather than “what to think.” He specifically credits his English degree with preparing him for the intensive reading and textual analysis that would become central to his legal education.
Hall himself is a UT alum. He graduated with a BA in English in 1979, before obtaining his Juris Doctor at Memphis State and a Master of Laws in Taxation at the University of Florida.
He still speaks passionately about his time as a Vol. He remembers the professors who encouraged and inspired him. In addition to providing him the skills that would lead to such a successful legal career, his English degree left him with a lifelong passion for writers such as the Beats and the modernists, in particular Ernest Hemingway.
Hall is an avid sports fan too. He’s devoted to UT football and basketball. He has season’s tickets for the Tennessee Smokies. He loves auto racing.
“Although it’s fun and exciting after a big win at Neyland Stadium or Thompson Boling. . . . It’s not that glow I get when I’m leaving a play in the Clarence Brown Theater,” he said. “Both entertain, but one speaks to the soul.”