Columbus - once a Creek Indian village and then a frontier trading post - is a border town just across the Chattahoochee River from Phenix City, Ala. Lawyers in downtown Columbus can walk to work at courthouses in two states. Many are licensed to practice in both Georgia and Alabama.
They share a spirit of independence, a collegial legal community and court calendars that move fast like the nearby white-water rapids, enjoying freedom from the burdens of heavy population growth and urban sprawl.
"Columbus is an incredible place to practice law," says Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, who was elected in 2010 with 68 percent of the vote, becoming the city's first woman mayor. Before that, she was the first woman partner with the Columbus plaintiffs' firm Pope, McGlamry, Kilpatrick, Morrison & Norwood.
She and her husband, Pope partner Trip Tomlinson, started with Pope's Atlanta office and then moved to Columbus.
As a border city, Columbus has retained a "lingering frontier spirit," the mayor says during a conversation in her office at the government center, a boxy structure that replaced the historic courthouse building in 1969.
Lawyers in Columbus do a high volume of plaintiffs personal injury work as well as business law on a different scale. The city is home to two full-service law firms and two of the most successful plaintiffs' firms in the state.
Chartered in 1828, Columbus first boomed as a cotton trading center, then a textile mill town, using its location by the river for power and transportation. The city marks the Chattahoochee's northernmost navigable connection to the Gulf of Mexico.
In this millennium, the city has rescued the river from its industrial heritage, rediscovering the Chattahoochee's beauty for tourism, recreation and real estate. Miles of paved and bricked walkways show it off.
The old mill buildings are lofts. Two of the leading law firmsPage Scrantom Sprouse Tucker Ford and Pope McGlamry, the mayor's old firmhave offices overlooking the river in the Synovus Bank headquarters, designed to match the red brick of the adjacent old mill buildings.