Jody Aulds: ‘Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained’

by | Jun 2024

THE FAMILY is one of the most important foundations of any community, especially when it comes to caring for the next generation. Not every child begins life with a family, but many people in Lebanon are working hard to ensure that those children find one. One example can be found in attorney and adoptive mother Jody Aulds, who has spent the last 42 years practicing law — most of that time specializing in adoptions. 

While law became her lifelong career, Aulds never dreamed of working for a law firm or becoming a lawyer. The past four decades of work all began with a simple phone call. The legal secretary at a local law firm retired suddenly, and one of the partners, Jere McCulloch, asked Aulds to fill in for a few weeks while the firm searched for a replacement. Aulds had a degree in business education and didn’t know anything about law, but she had many of the necessary skills like typing, shorthand, and phone etiquette. If she needed to know something about law, she could be taught. 

A few months later, McCulloch decided to move out on his own and asked Aulds to join him. They agreed to split whatever McCulloch earned because he couldn’t be sure he could pay her. 

“I said, ‘Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained,’ so I went with him,” Aulds said. “We were together from then on.” 

Her work took her out of the office and to the courthouse, where she searched titles with other attorneys — the sort of thing a paralegal might do today. That continued until she adopted her first child and was legally required to take a year off. 

“Jere just couldn’t handle that,” Aulds said. “He called me one night when I was playing bridge and said, ‘Look, I just talked to the Dean at the Nashville School of Law… they started school six weeks ago, but I told him you would be such a great addition to their school that he should let you come in late.’” 

Aulds had been out of school [and] for 10 years and never planned to go back to school after getting her bachelor’s. Still, she had been doing a lot of work that attorneys usually do, and McCulloch offered to pay her tuition, so she decided to give it a shot. 

“I said, Well, I tell you what. I’ll make you a deal. I’ll go until December, and if it’s something I don’t like or don’t want to do, then I’m out,’” Aulds said. “By the time December got there, I thought I had read and studied so much that it was too late to turn back.” 

She graduated four years later as one of the first two female lawyers in Wilson County. When she arrived to work the day after the bar results were out, the front window read “McCulloch and Aulds, Attorneys at Law.” 

“We were partners right then from the minute that [we] could be,” Aulds said. 

At first, she began with real estate law, the area she was most familiar with, but she soon began branching out into family law. A few years later, she adopted her second child, and Aulds has continued handling adoptions ever since. Her experience as an adoptive mother helped her connect with other parents, making the process go more smoothly. 

“It’s just so important to handle it correctly, and most attorneys do not practice adoption law — it’s more specialized,” Aulds said. “You need to get with somebody who knows what they’re doing because you don’t ever want that adoption to disrupt.” 

Four decades later, Aulds is still working with adoptions, and helping create those families is one of the parts of her job that she is most proud of. 

“To see the smiles on their faces, the rewarding lives that they’ve had as a result of being a part of a family — that’s been my joy,” Aulds said. “That’s the area of the law that’s near and dear to my heart.” 

The McCulloch and Aulds law firm has grown tremendously since it first began with one lawyer, a secretary, and a two-room office. Now, Rochelle, McCulloch, and Aulds employs 13 lawyers and is the largest law firm between Davidson County and Knox County. 

Aulds did the majority of the hiring and training for many years and said she is also proud of her success as a teacher for those she hired. Some of the staff she trained are still a part of the firm decades later. 

“I’m proud of our law firm,” Aulds said. “We grew up together. It wasn’t like your big firms in Nashville, where there is such a wide divide between the upper-echelon attorneys and the secretarial staff. We were more like family and have tried to keep it that way.” 

Since the first day that Aulds worked as a temporary secretary, she has adopted two children, married Dickie Brooks, and become a grandmother to six grandchildren. She has also helped many people in the Lebanon community grow their families and helped many children find their forever homes. All it took was confidence, perseverance, and someone to give her that initial push. What could you do if you just took the leap? After all, as Aulds said, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” GN 

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