Vanderbilt Lawyer - Volume 35, Number 2

Larry D. Soderquist—a Tribute to a Colleague

by Gary Brown, '80
Larry Soderquist

Securities law expert Larry Soderquist had the art of making the complex seem simple.

The phone would ring, and a soft voice would say, "Hey, Gary - Larry." That was how many of my conversations with Larry Soderquist began. Whether it was a discussion about an upcoming program for one of Larry's most cherished institutions, the Practising Law Institute, or a response to a particularly difficult legal question, Larry's simple greeting was emblematic of his style - simple.

That simplicity masked a towering intellect and a person of broad interests. Larry's expertise in corporate and securities law was what he was known best for, but he was much, much more.

One had only to visit his office and see his collection of Russian military memorabilia to see the breadth of Larry's interests. He was an ordained minister. I also recall when he gave me a copy (several, in fact) of his first mystery novel, The Labcoat. It was one of those "can't put it down" books. I looked forward to the next, The Iraqi Provocation, with great anticipation.

While not one for small talk, Larry spoke often of his wife, Ann, and his two sons, Hans and Lars. He loved his house on a farm outside of Nashville, which he built as an escape from the routine of the city and the law school. He found time to ride motorcycles. He enjoyed life while achieving the pinnacle of success in his academic endeavors.

Larry wanted the same for all around him. He stressed enjoyment of life while encouraging everyone to be all they could be professionally. That made it especially difficult for all of us who knew Larry when he suddenly succumbed last fall to complications of an automobile accident that had occurred some six weeks earlier.

I came to know Larry Soderquist in 1993 when he became of counsel to our firm. His accomplishments in the field of securities law were already well established, and there is no need to recount them here. If you type Larry's name into a Google search, you will quickly learn about his many publications and honors.

Over the ensuing years, Larry and I worked together often, teaching and for clients, and I came to know him well. When we encountered a particularly difficult issue, lawyers in the firm quickly learned to count on Larry. He had a way of making whoever was asking him a question feel as though they rather than he were giving the answer. A career in academia had not rendered Larry impractical. He often made the most incisive comments, and he displayed an uncanny ability to focus on the heart of the problem at hand and resolve it.

He was so incredibly efficient that I once jokingly accused him of not actually having worked on Wall Street because of his uncanny efficiency. Students and others found him incredibly generous with his time.

In 2002, I was investigating whether major investment banks had committed securities fraud in connection with the collapse of Houston-based Enron Corp. I did not want to believe the evidence we were finding, and I called Larry for a reality check. Before I could recite all of the facts, Larry said, "These guys had better get their checkbooks out." An explanation offered by one investment bank for its activities was quickly contextualized by Larry. "Oh, you don't have to tell investors the truth as long as you think it's a good deal, eh?" he said. Those words later resonated in our interviews and hearings.

And, of course, Larry was right. The checkbooks came out to the tune of almost $7 billion.

His family misses Larry. The law school misses Larry. Our profession misses Larry. Our firm misses Larry. And I miss Larry.

But when I think of Larry, I don't think about securities law. I think about his kindness, his gentle demeanor, his smile, and his always positive attitude. Those attributes had a tremendous influence on me, on an entire generation of law students, and on others with whom Larry worked. We all are better for having known Larry Soderquist and are greatly in his debt. The greatest honor we can bestow upon him is to strive to continue his ideals. I believe that's what Larry would want us to do.

—Gary Brown, VU '77, VULS'80, is chairman of the corporate department of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz and serves on the law school's adjunct faculty.