As a kid, Charles Bowen was drawn to movies such as “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Inherit the Wind” and although the Savannah lawyer admits he didn’t know he would practice law later in life, it seems as if the thought was never far from his mind.
“I always felt like it was something that I would be good at and that I would enjoy... It resonated with me, and I’ve never regretted doing it,” said Bowen, who celebrated his 20th year of practicing law in late October.
“People always ask me ‘if you weren’t a lawyer what would you do?’ and that’s a very difficult question for me to answer because I feel like I’m doing what I’m meant to do, what I’m good at and what I enjoy.”
After graduating from Georgetown University Law Center Bowen worked for a general practice firm, then managed the Savannah office of an Atlanta-based firm, but when that firm merged with another he decided to go out on his own to focus on commercial and business law, founding The Bowen Law Group in 2012.
“It’s really one of the few areas of law that people can work together and find solutions where everyone is happy. In a divorce or criminal case it’s always one side against the other, but when you’ve got someone forming a new business and trying to make sure it’s successful, everybody has the same goal. It’s not a constant fight,” he said of practicing corporate and business law.
Bowen said a large part of his work is working with new businesses, one of his favorite things to do. And there’s been no shortage of that this year. Bowen estimates he’s worked with more start-up businesses in 2015 than during the last five years combined.
“I like to build that relationship with companies from the very beginning and then you have that level of trust and as they grow so does our business relationship,” he said.
“Some of our biggest clients are people that I helped them start their business 10 or 15 years ago, and it’s very rewarding to have that kind of long term relationship.”
Bowen has worked with numerous companies around Savannah from banks and real estate firms to chemical companies and Tybee Island hotels.
“My representation touches on all areas of corporate practice, from initial formation to intellectual property to mergers and acquisitions to complex litigation,” he said.
Despite his busy schedule, Bowen finds time to give back to the Savannah community by speaking to local civic organizations, volunteers as an executive consultant, mentor and speaker for the Savannah chapter of SCORE and sits on numerous boards, including S Bank, Chatham Area Transit, the Shoestring Theatre, which he helped found in 2014, and he often offers in-person pro bono services along with free resources on his website.
Bowen also practices entertainment law and took his passion for entertainment and helping Savannah’s economy further this year by forming the Savannah Film Alliance, which helps connect local industry professionals.
Georgia ranks third in the nation for filming, but Bowen said Savannah only sees about one percent of that revenue, so he created the alliance to try to bolster not only the film and television work here but partnerships between government, educational and professional entities.
“We’ve already seen the entertainment industry in Savannah exploding and really continuing to grow... I believe while it will never eclipse the port and tourism, the entertainment industry can be right up there with those two in terms of the future success of the Savannah economy,” he said.
For Bowen and his staff the passion runs deeper than their pockets, instilling the value of personal service and excellence not only in his practice but in his clients’ businesses, too.
“To us, it’s never been about ‘let’s bill people and try to make as much money as we can,’” he said.
“My goal is to be the best attorney and counselor I can be, I want to be of service to my clients, and if those are my goals, the other successes will follow. When the goal is to make money, it’s obvious, and it’s off-putting and that’s not how you build a successful business of any kind.”
ABOUT THE SERIES
As 2015 comes to a close, the Savannah Morning News, Business in Savannah and savannahnow.com continue the tradition of profiling companies and organizations that made major contributions to the local business environment during the past year.
The Business in Savannah staff chose the honorees from a list of nominees submitted by local business and community members, utilizing broad criteria — from growth and success to philanthropy and community involvement.
• Thursday: Newcomer of the year
• Friday: Manufacturer of the year
• Today: Business advocate of the year
• Sunday: Entrepreneurial business of the year
• Tuesday: Retail business of the year
• Wednesday: Small business of the year