T. Lawrence Hicks’ future was mapped out for him by his son when the boy was just 7. “He told me when he grows up, he wants to be a lawyer and take over for me and put me in a nursery home,” recalls Hicks, a father of five. His son is now 12 and still wants to be a lawyer, but Dad is nowhere near ready for the “nursery” home.

Hicks is a partner with Sutton, Hicks, Lucas, Grayson & Braden in Edgewood. He specializes in personal injury, with a growing emphasis on brain injuries, which has personal meaning to him since his brother suffered through and recovered from one. He says defending individuals from powerful institutional opponents is a particularly gratifying part of his job.

“If I’m representing a customer, it’s usually someone injured who even before the injury may have found themselves in such poor circumstances that they were no match for the company or the insurance company that they’d be put up against,” Hicks says. “I enjoy that role of being able to help when someone is overmatched.”

But what first drew him to the field was the prospect of matching wits with other lawyers. “It was Perry Mason” that inspired his interest in the law, Hicks says. “It was the debate-type environment that appealed to me as a kid. I thought it was a 24-hour debate.”

Debate and intellectual competition actually account for more like 10 percent of the lawyer’s time “although that’s a very important part of it,” Hicks says. “If you perform well, it will be productive. Mostly, it’s dealing with people, meeting clients, learning about their problems and advising them on what to do.”

Having strong interpersonal skills, such as being a good listener and being able to relate to people and truly care for their outcomes are the real requisites for his profession, Hicks says. “The cases right now that tug at your heart most are the worker’s comp cases,” Hicks says, adding that worker’s compensation provides a limited protection to begin with. “You’re usually picking them up from the lowest parts of their life and trying to get them back to where they were.”

“But the legal profession is a tough one right now — litigation is seen as evil,” Hicks adds. “There’s this thought that the honorable thing to do is to handle (injuries) yourself and not see if there is legal help to be had. The problem with that is it’s not just your sacrifice, but the sacrifices of the people who depend on you.”