ALAJ Salutes...

William Tipton "Bo" Johnson


BIRMINGHAM ---When Bo Johnson and his family sat down for dinner in his hometown of Tuscumbia, the conversation inevitably turned to the courtroom.
And, they weren’t talking about Perry Mason. They were talking about his parents’ day at work. For a short time, Bo’s father, Bill Johnson, and his mother, Inge, practiced law together. His mother later became a circuit judge, and in 1998 President Bill Clinton appointed her to the federal bench in Birmingham. His father has now been practicing for nearly 40 years.
“When I was growing up, our family ate dinner together five out of seven nights a week,” Johnson said. “While we were eating dinner, my parents talked about what happened in court because that is what they did, they were lawyers.”
Johnson said his parents were proud that he followed in their footsteps but that they always encouraged him to choose his own path. In high school, when he started talking about becoming lawyer, his mother encouraged him to come to the courthouse and watch several trials.
Those trials involved some of the premier plaintiff lawyers in the state, like Lanny Vines and Ken Hooks, Johnson said.
“I just sat back and watched those heavy hitters trying medical malpractice cases and product liability cases,” Johnson said. “My mother was right. I could not have seen any better lawyers trying any bigger cases.”
After graduating from Birmingham-Southern College, Johnson worked as a copy editor for Southern Living magazine. A few years later, Bo packed his bags and headed to Jackson, Mississippi, to Mississippi College School of Law. He and his wife, Clare, had their first child, John Parker, about six months before Johnson graduated. Although they had great friends in Mississippi, they did not have any family there. Both decided they wanted to come back to Alabama.
For a time, Johnson practiced law at a well-known Birmingham defense firm. However, in 2006, he got a chance to work at Pittman, Hooks, law firm, where his feet were permanently planted on the plaintiff’s side of the courtroom.
“I have always known that what plaintiff lawyers do for people is important,” Johnson said. “Most times, plaintiff lawyers don’t get their names in the paper. Their focus is on the clients, who are the victims.”
Johnson’s favorite cases to work? Fraud cases where a company has lied. “The fun is in the chase,” Johnson said.
One of his most memorable involved Dollar General and a female employee, who developed a life-threatening infection while working late on Christmas Eve.
“She got an infection that ultimately caused her to have her arm partially amputated,” Johnson recalled. “Dollar General denied her worker’s compensation claim internally but told her and her family that they were going to hire infectious disease specialists and do everything they could to help her.
“All the while, she had a legitimate claim that they should have paid, and her job should have been protected,” Johnson said. “They just flat-out lied to her all along the way.
“After her arm healed, she wanted to go back to work. One of her supervisors told her she couldn’t work with just one arm, and another told her that she had not filed the appropriate paper work. Unfortunately for them, they terminated her.
“It was really gratifying to work with Jeff Kirby on that file and see the kind of justice the client got in the case,” Johnson added.
He occasionally consults his mother about strategy and said they don’t always agree on how he should try a case or what the outcome will be. He does still visit her in the courtroom, but, once again, only to watch. His dad continues to practice, primarily handling real estate and domestic matters.
“We still talk about the law when we get together,” he said, laughingly.
Johnson joined ALAJ very early in his career and currently leads the Community Service Committee of the Association’s Emerging Leaders Caucus.
This year, Bo spearheaded the group’s effort to refurbish a city park near Bessemer. The group chose the park project because they wanted to do something for kids, he said.
“We got a very positive response from the city and the neighborhood. It was an opportunity to show others what this organization is about.”
In his spare time, Bo, Clare, and their children, John Parker, now 6, and three-year-old daughter Libby, are very active in the Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church. They also enjoy doing anything outdoors, riding bikes, camping, or playing on his parents’ farm in north Alabama.
William Tipton Johnson III, known simply as Bo to all of his friends and ALAJ members, is the epitome of an emerging leader in his profession.