Profile: Patrick T. O’Connor, Managing Partner of Oliver Maner
Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014
There are many terms that could accurately describe the managing partner of a century-old law firm that is among the largest in Southeast Georgia: Dedicated. Driven. Passionate. Hard-working. And a heck of a lot of fun.
Patrick T. O’Connor came to Oliver Maner (then Oliver, Maner and Gray) in 1990 to develop his trial and litigation practice. Having practiced for eight years in Savannah already, Pat was ready to dig in his heels and thought that Oliver Maner was the place to do it. He was right.
“It was a good move for me,” Pat says. In 2006, he was elected managing partner of the firm. Though he modestly claims it was “mainly because I was willing to pay attention to some of the administrative responsibilities,” his consummate résumé probably also had something to do with it.
Today, Pat’s lengthy accolades have placed him among The Best Lawyers in America for more than a decade, and he’s been named one of the Top 100 Georgia Super Lawyers by Atlanta Magazine, identified as a member of the Georgia Legal Elite by Georgia Trend Magazine, and listed in the Super Lawyers’ Corporate Counsel Edition. He has also garnered the coveted "AV" rating from Martindale-Hubbell for several years.
At the end of the day, seeking to improve the business side of the law firm as managing partner is something Pat enjoys—and taking pleasure in his work is vital to his success. He sums it up: “I have always said that, at the end of a case, if my client is satisfied that I worked hard and helped him or her make the best decisions possible in the context of the case, if I have acted professionally toward my opponent, and if I have represented my client well before the Court, that the case was concluded successfully.”
Though his practice concentrates on business litigation, civil rights, and legal malpractice, the scope of work Pat finds most rewarding is vast. “I have truly enjoyed representing cities, counties and the employees of both, particularly police officers,” Pat says. “I have also been fortunate enough to help develop a body of law in Georgia favorable to cities and counties in liability cases. Being able to cite cases in which you represented the prevailing party is an affirmation of that effort and can add to the weight of your argument”—not that Pat needs much help backing up his case.
“I also enjoy representing lawyers and people with real life problems, such as the loss of a loved one,” Pat goes on. “You get a sense of reward and satisfaction and realize, oftentimes, that your own issues in life are miniscule in comparison.” That innate understanding of perspective pays off not just in his own life, but in the courtroom as well.
The notable victories Pat has enjoyed on behalf of Oliver Maner are abundant. Through 10 years of appeals to the 11th Circuit, with two certified questions to the Georgia Supreme Court, Pat successfully defended the City of Garden City after a train hit a flat-bed trailer that had ground to a halt at a railroad crossing. “It was a long, arduous journey involving the question of whether my client...had to honor an indemnity agreement with CSX Railroad,” Pat remembers. “In the end, we won and I have been asked to speak at numerous seminars in regard to the case.”
Another case significant to the coastal region involved Bonaventure Cemetery and the little-known tort “interference with a burial.” Pat was instrumental in the legendary ruling. “I successfully argued to the Georgia Supreme Court that the Bonaventure Cemetery was unique in Georgia and was more like a park than a cemetery—a distinction which allowed the City to assert sovereign immunity.”
On a very emotional note, Pat has also helped countless families seeking justice after wrongfully losing those they loved. “I represented the parents of Georgia Southern University professor David Starnes, whose life was taken on Mother’s Day in 2007 when a woman, driving the wrong way, hit his car head-on on Interstate 16 near Savannah,” Pat says. “David— whom I never knew—was a talented artist and poet. He was well loved and I became very close to his elderly parents who fought hard to honor his memory.” Through cases like these and countless others, it’s no wonder Pat is so passionate about what he does.
His devotion to law extends particularly to the firm that Pat calls home: Oliver Maner. “We have lawyers who give back to the community and to the Bar,” he says with pride. “Success breeds success and we seek to find new lawyers who want to be successful.” Though it seems deceptively simple, Pat’s advice to aspiring lawyers—to aspiring anythings, actually— is to “do good work and return your phone calls.” Judging by Pat’s own astral trajectory, the advice is sound.
But there is much to Pat’s life beyond his robust law practice. “Depositions one day, mediation the next, a Bar meeting the next, and then time for Boy Scouts, my church or relaxing,” Pat says, reflecting on his day-to-day routine. He adds in an understatement, “There is never a rut.”
Pat is also on the board of the community financial institution S Bank, serves through Bar leadership at the state level, runs a timber farm, and participates in his fraternity’s national boards in addition to serving on college boards for both Auburn and Georgia Southern. He gladly attends college football games, visits his children and grandchildren, plays golf, goes boating, reads, and writes.
But above all, Pat adds: “Heck, I just have fun.”
For more information on Oliver Maner LLP, visit olivermaner.com.