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Arkla's accuser.

Arkla's Accuser

Questioning the credentials and motivations of an attorney willing to take on a financial behemoth like Arkla Gas Co. is to be expected. Paranoid cranks and gunslingers seeking a quick settlement are the rule.

But Springdale attorney Thomas A. Mars, 32, who has filed a $80 million class action suit against Arkla, has a legal resume that passes any reasonable test. Mars graduated first in his law school class from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, made the highest score on the Arkansas bar exam and was editor-in-chief of the law review.

Mars frankly admits that his primary goal in suing Arkla for $80 million is financial. "When I first saw this case I thought it was a slam dunk," he says. "My motivation is money." He hopes to receives from 10 percent to 30 percent of the total judgment.

Mars was part of a team of attorneys that won a $15.2 million settlement in a class-action suit against Edward D. Jones & Co. of St. Louis, Mo., that involved oil and gas securities. Mars' share of the $1.8 million in attorneys' fees was over $400,000.

Raised in Washington, D.C., Mars attended Arkansas State University in 1976 after his father moved there to teach. Hoping to become a criminal investigator, Mars graduated with a B.A. in criminology from ASU, a 3.3 GPA and went to Lynchburg, Va., to work in the police department.

"I originally wanted to be a policeman," Mars says. But after a few years on the beat, he decided his future was limited and went to law school. Mars entered law school at the U of A in 1982. With his wife supporting him, Mars worked in earnest, ranking top in the class from the first semester to the last. After law school, Mars worked for one year at the prestigious position of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Mars next joined the Rose Firm in Little Rock in 1986 in their litigation section. The big city and the large firm weren't his style, so he moved to Stanley Harrington & Mars in Springdale in the summer of 1986. Besides his private practice, he is an adjunct professor at the law school.

Mars' most striking personal characteristic is his eyes. Though friendly, the small mahogany-colored eyes have a predatory quality. Combined with his swept-back hairstyle, a lean face and a tendency to stoop his shoulders, Mars' overall appearance is that of a hawk seeking prey. Right now that prey is Arkla as he devotes nearly all his time to winning his case.

PHOTO : TOM MARS: Taking on Arkla.
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Title Annotation:Thomas A. Mars, attorney in suit against Arkla Inc.
Author:Walker, Wythe, Jr.; Kern, David F.
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Biography
Date:Apr 9, 1990
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Next Article:Minority mission: Arkansas native returns to help with bootstrap venture company.

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