Gif Thornton, Class of 1990, was eating lunch with a group of fellow 1Ls early in fall 1987 when the truth came out: Thornton, who also earned his undergraduate degree at Vanderbilt, had worked for three years before starting law school. "Everyone else at the table was 22," he recalled. When Thornton confessed to the ripe old age of 25, classmate Andrew Campbell gasped, "Wow, you're a fossil!"
"I understand that older students with work experience are very common at Vanderbilt now, but I was definitely the exception in my class," Thornton laughed. However, his work experience as a special assistant to Ambassador Joe M. Rodgers at the U.S. Embassy in Paris and as assistant to the Republican Leader of the Tennessee House of Representatives kindled an interest in government relations and public policy that added a rich perspective to his legal studies and ultimately set him on a successful career course. "I was a lot more focused," he said, "and I approached law school like a full-time job."
Sam Bartholomew, Class of 1973, recruited Thornton to join Stokes Bartholomew, a predecessor firm to Adams and Reese, during his 1L year. Thornton worked for the firm during law school and joined it permanently after graduation. In the 20 years since, he has become one of the most well-respected government relations practitioners in the state. He has recently been listed in both Business Tennessee's "Power 100" listing of influential people in Tennessee and in the same publication's "2010 Best 150 Lawyers in Tennessee." Thornton's expertise encompasses the public policy gamut, including education, energy, health care, insurance, telecommunications, transportation and public safety, and he serves as legislative counsel for businesses, trade organizations and governmental entities. In addition, he chairs the Executive Committee at Adams and Reese.
As Vanderbilt Law School's Firm Representative at Adams and Reese, Thornton approaches his task with the consummate skill of a seasoned lobbyist. Thanks to his leadership, Adams and Reese has achieved 100 percent participation among lawyers throughout its regional footprint. "I challenge my friends at other regional firms to join us in the '100 Percent Club'!" he said. "Encouraging alumni to give to Vanderbilt Law School isn't a hard sell. Vanderbilt alums are loyal. They have good memories of their law school experience, they appreciate what's happening there now, and they are glad to be a part of it."
One of Thornton's hobbies is running marathons with his two best friends. He stumbled into his hobby when he began to date his future wife, Anna, a fitness buff. "I was approaching 30 and getting fat," he confessed. "I took up running because I fell in love, and then discovered that I loved running, too." He has completed marathons in Boston, New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Nashville, among others. "In a marathon, you reach the point where you just have to will yourself to keep going," he said. "I encourage all alumni to think of giving over a lifetime from the same perspective: Start giving every year, keep giving as the years pass and your career unfolds; and if you're ever tempted to stop, remember your good experiences at Vanderbilt Law School and keep giving."