Geoffrey S. Mitchell, who will become managing partner of th law firm of Semmes, Bowen & Semmes March 1, comes to the post with a long list of accomplishments on his resume. But he seems most proud of an accomplishment that happened long before he earned honors as a lawyer.
For a year after he graduated from Virginia Military Institute in 1962, Mr. Mitchell, a native of Middlesboro, Ky., taught English grammar and literature to high school students in a tiny school in the poor, tobacco-farming region of Lincoln County, Kentucky.
"Those kids came to school barefoot, but they knew the King James version of the Bible by heart," Mr. Mitchell said recently, leaning back in his chair in an office cluttered with mementos from clients and certificates testifying to his community activities.
"At the end of the year I had a kid whose poems were good enough to get her a scholarship to the University of Kentucky. I was really pleased with that," he added with a grin.
Mr. Mitchell's commitment to the social, as well as the business, good of his community continued after he spent two years in the Army, graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1968 and joined Semmes, one of Baltimore's most prestigious law firms, the same year.
In addition to being active in the American Bar Association, the 51-year-old lawyer is chairman of the international trade and commerce subcommittee of the economic and development council of the Greater Baltimore Committee.
He is also active in the World Trade Center Institute, the International Visitors Center, the Baltimore City Life Museums and the Society for the Preservation of Federal Hill and Fells Point.
As managing partner, Mr. Mitchell says he plans to emphasize Semmes' expertise in Federal Communications Commission and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission work in the firm's Washington office; the banking and litigation expertise of the firm's Wilmington, Del., office, which was opened last summer; and the international and trial expertise in its Baltimore office.
"I want our firm to continue its regional expansion." Does that mean that a merger with another law firm is on the horizon? He smiled. "I wouldn't say I've got merger on my mind any more than I have the hiring of good people on my mind. But we'll keep our eyes open for both."
Two years ago, Mr. Mitchell became active in the Maryland/Kanagawa Prefecture Sister State Program, an effort initiated by Gov. William Donald Schaefer to broaden business contacts between Maryland and Japan. As chairman of the business subcommittee, Mr. Mitchell says his job is to help introduce Maryland businesses to Japanese firms so that "a relationship that is primarily social and cultural can grow."
"Maryland businesses have got to go global, and they've got to be internationally aware, and the reason is that everybody else is," he said. "Self-preservation should be the primary factor here. If you don't learn to do business internationally, you'll eventually be closed out."