Fayetteville’s law community is unlike any other. Having a lawyer who understands the unique landscape can help provide the best results possible.
Fayetteville native Bo Morton is what he calls a “second career” lawyer. At the age of 40, he went to law school at the University of Arkansas. In 1994, he opened his practice and combined his love of the law and passion about his hometown. Bo chooses to focus a portion of his practice to aid the students of his favorite college town.
Fayetteville Law: Bo Morton Q&A
Why do you focus so much of your time on college students?
Part of it is a conscious decision, and part of it is that we are located within a mile of campus. I went to college here. My brother went to college here. My parents went to college here, and I grew up near the University campus. The University has always been a central part of my life and my family’s life. Dealing with college-age students is a rewarding part of being a lawyer.
Why do you think it is essential that the college-age group has lawyers who specialize in their common types of crimes?
It’s certainly important to have a lawyer who works a lot in the area that you are interested in. With the students primarily as criminal, many of them do not have estates or businesses that they have to deal with. Being familiar with the law and the criminal code is certainly the bedrock.
With criminal defense, as with any kind of law, relationships matter. Being familiar with the customs in the Fayetteville, Springdale and Rogers systems and the personalities involved is critical to getting good results. Despite the fact that we work under the same set of statutes and court rules, each court, prosecutor’s office, each judge is their personality. They all have their view of how the world turns. We don’t gain any special favor, but being able to understand where these people are coming from is very important.
Why did you stay in Fayetteville?
There’s a saying about Fayetteville that it’s difficult to attain escape velocity from Fayetteville, and I found that to be true. I’ve moved a couple of times. I was in the military and came back. I moved to Houston, and that lasted for two years, and I came back. Fayetteville is a place that I tried to escape from just because I grew up here, but there is no place on the planet that is like it. There is no place around Northwest Arkansas that has what Fayetteville has.
In addition to the obvious things like the University, culture and physical beauty of the town, there is a mindset here that is unique. It’s very much live and let live. The Fayetteville Police Department has a piece of that. You don’t see the kinds of abuse here that you see in other places. The Fayetteville Police Department goes out of their way for most people that they encounter not to arrest them. If there’s a way not to do it, they won’t. You have to drive 15 minutes from here to find other types of law enforcement.
One of the things that I like about doing criminal law is that I know who my opposing counsel is going to be within a double handful of people. We’re all friends and get along. There are no special favors, but it’s a much easier way to practice law when you don’t have to establish relationships every time you get a new case. Being credible and dependable in cases helps with prompt and favorable resolution.
How has Fayetteville shaped the way you practice?
Lawyers in Fayetteville are taken at their word, and not everything has to be in writing. If I tell another lawyer in the prosecutor’s office or vice versa, we don’t have to get it in writing. I know that they’re going to honor their commitment, and they know that I will honor my commitment.
It is much less stressful to deal with people that are good to their word. It’s the kind of place where if an attorney makes a minor error, they’re not going to get it shoved down their throat.
There’s a great deal of courtesy among the bar in Fayetteville. You don’t find that in other places. Many times, it’s a very hostile environment, and we don’t have that here.
Why is being located on Dickson Street important to you?
Being on Dickson Street sort of completes my circle. When I was in law school, I worked at George’s lounge. I was the doorman for five years, and I lived on Dickson Street just beyond George’s.
When I started practicing, I practiced near the square on Center Street and then moved around this area two or three more times. Then, I landed here on Dickson Street seven or eight years ago.
Dickson Street where I intend to stay. It’s not so much where it is physically, as it is on Dickson Street. It’s the address, and of course, it’s a very easy place to find, particularly for students. While it’s not in the entertainment district, it’s on the same street, and it’s only three blocks.