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Maneuvering with grace: low-profile attorney adeptly handles high-profile bankruptcy cases.

WHEN LITTLE ROCK LAWyer David Grace is asked to pose for a photograph, his face takes on a strained, almost pained look.

The only time Grace willingly steps in front of a camera is when he's shielding his clients from unwanted publicity.

Then, if he's successful, he is likely to flash a devilish grin. But only then.

At age 41, Grace is a low-profile lawyer who has represented high-profile clients like Maumelle developer Jay DeHaven, Little Rock businessman Phillip Lynn Lloyd and troubled developer Charles Basham of Little Rock.

The bulk of Grace's work is in commercial litigation, particularly construction litigation. He also takes bankruptcy cases.

Grace says he is a product of the 1960s when the legal profession had a better reputation than it does today. He remembers having an idealistic attitude that lawyers worked for truth and justice.

So would a young David Grace be disappointed in the man who grew up to guide wheelers and dealers through bankruptcy proceedings?

"I don't consider any of my clients to be dishonest," says Grace, a partner in the Little Rock firm Hardin & Grace. "I've never represented anyone who I thought to be dishonest."

Grace claims to have turned down cases that involved what he considered to be questionable clients.

Most of the people he represents have made a mistake or a series of mistakes, Grace says. But, at the level they are working, the consequences are grave.

"These are not the kind of people who ever in their wildest dreams thought they'd file for bankruptcy," Grace says.

But he wants to help them "because I believe they're entitled to a fresh start."

Land Mine Tour Guide

The first thing David Grace does with a potential client is attempt to talk him out of filing for bankruptcy.

If that doesn't work, Grace knows how to guide clients such as Basham through a land mine while at the same time keeping creditors at bay.

Grace is a negotiator, one who some say knows how to bluff his way through problems. But Grace does his homework. And he knows human nature.

"I would just describe him as being very competent -- perceptive and competent," Charles Darwin "Skip" Davidson says. Davidson is a business law and bankruptcy litigator in Little Rock who has known Grace professionally for more than a decade.

But neither Davidson nor other lawyers will elaborate on Grace.

They say he knows the ins and outs of bankruptcy law better than most.

And, they say he knows how to win.

Davidson also notes that Grace operates in such a way that he does not make enemies.

Three panels of Lichtenstein prints and various pictures of musicians in his office suggest Grace is someone other than just a straight, analytical lawyer.

So does his stylish goatee. Could it be hiding an inner artist dying to surface?

"It doesn't symbolize anything," Grace says.

The only place Grace seems to come alive is in the courtroom.

He has been accused of being too aggressive.

"I tend to go on the attack and stay there," Grace says.

But he may be mellowing.

"Aggressiveness in a trial court is something that can be overdone," Grace says. "Experience is teaching me that ... It's a hard way to earn a living. Sometimes it's satisfying, |but~ I'm not sure it's something you can enjoy a lot."

When business people can't agree, they turn to commercial litigation. Grace describes that as a gray area.

But it's an area in which he is at home.

You might say it fits his personality.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Journal Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:David Grace of Little Rock, Arkansas
Author:Rengers, Carrie
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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