For more than 50 years, Harlan Dodson has been helping people and businesses solve problems and plan for the future. Clients seeking general business advice, estate planning services, or problem solving and advice generally count on his vast experience and track record of getting the job done.
Dodson provides hands-on guidance for his clients, whether working with them to launch a business, structure a complex real estate deal, or draft a will. He learned this dedication from his attorney father. As he puts it, “My father understood that the profession of law is about helping people. Watching him, I learned that clients need someone who can not only draw up papers but who also can give practical advice on solving problems and preparing for the future.”
Harlan Dodson has served as instructor of Estate Planning at Nashville School of Law since 1975. He is the author of the only comprehensive and annually-updated text on the subject written specifically to apply Tennessee and federal law, and it
Dodson went to college at Duke University and then came home to Nashville to study law at Vanderbilt. During law school, he served as associate editor of the Vanderbilt Law Review and as a member of the National Moot Court Team. Upon graduation, he joined his father’s firm, Hooker, Keeble, Dodson & Harris. In 1985, he founded Dodson & Associates, and the firm merged with Shipley & Behm in 1988.
He has personally been involved in starting and building a number of businesses over the years and credits those experiences – good and bad – for his practical advice in guiding business clients. He enjoys helping businesses start small and grow. He has been there and has experienced the issues they will face.
Dodson was named the Best Lawyers® 2022 Nashville Commercial Transactions/UCC Law “Lawyer of the Year,” and, for the 2024 edition of the publication Best Lawyers in America©, he is listed in the fields of Commercial Transactions/UCC Law, Corporate Law, Trust and Estates Litigation, Real Estate Law and Non-Profit/Charities Law. Dodson was also named the Best Lawyers® 2021 “Lawyer of the Year” in Non-Profit/Charities Law in Nashvillle.
In addition to providing counsel to businesses large and small, some of his other favorite projects include assisting non-profits in crafting innovative responses to the special issues they face, assisting a telecommunications company secure land for cell towers throughout the state, and serving as counsel to a municipal agency in structuring a multi-million dollar transaction to acquire a former manufacturing facility and transform it into a LEED-certified property for joint use by governmental entities.
Dodson is a frequent speaker and writer on business entities, and especially limited liability companies, as well as on wills and estate planning. He has taught Estate Planning at the Nashville School of Law since 1975, where he was presented with the Distinguished Faculty Award in 2007. Dodson has also served as Adjunct Professor of Law at Vanderbilt University.
Dodson wrote and co-authors Introduction to Estate Planning and Administration in Tennessee, the definitive textbook on the subject matter and an indispensable source of reference for attorneys throughout the state. Each year, Dodson revises the text to reflect developments in the law, particularly in the area of tax consequences. The book is yet another example of Dodson’s commitment to common-sense problem solving. It is the only work of its kind designed to serve as a single authoritative source for both students and practitioners in Tennessee.
He was also the editor to the West Publishing Company’s Tennessee Practice Series volumes on business formation and estate planning. Additionally, for many years he was a lecturer for the bar review company BAR-BRI on wills and estates, which means that virtually every applicant to the Tennessee bar for more than two decades has relied upon his knowledge. Thousands of attorneys in this state have benefited from his innovative methods—such as using 1990s dance-craze “The Macarena” to teach intestate succession.
A long-time leader in the Nashville community, he has assisted a large number of successful candidates for public office, and he has also been active in policy-making and civic organizations over the years, with organizations such as the Metropolitan Charter Revision Committee, the Tennessee Judicial Council, the Council of Community Services, Oasis Center and the Tennessee Justice Center.
Dodson has been frequently recognized for his work with business entities, wills, trusts and estate planning, with appearances on lists such as Nashville Business Journal‘s “Best of the Bar” and the Nashville Post‘s “In Charge” list. He is a member of the Nashville Bar Association, the Tennessee Bar Association, the Nashville Bar Foundation, and the Tennessee Bar Foundation.
Dodson is married to his law partner, Margaret Behm. They have two children.