Margaret L. Behm has earned a reputation as the go-to person in over 30 years of representing clients and forging coalitions for change.
After beginning her legal career in 1976 at Legal Services of Middle Tennessee, Inc., Behm and Marietta Shipley in 1980 founded Shipley and Behm, the city’s first all-woman law firm.
“Back then, women just weren’t taken seriously as business owners or lawyers,” Behm says. “I wanted to run my own business and demonstrate that women could not only run a law firm, but also be good lawyers.”
Behm’s advocacy has been lauded locally and nationally. In 2001, she received the John C. Tune Public Service Award, the highest honor given by the Nashville Bar Association. She has been honored with the YWCA Women of Achievement Award, the Athena Award and the CABLE Promote Women Award. Behm has also received the prestigious Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award, given nationally to five lawyers a year by the American Bar Association. In 2011, Tennessee State University named her one of its Women of Merit and Legend. In 2012, the she received the David C. Rutherford Award from the Nashville Bar Foundation, recognizing the highest standards of professionalism, charitable contribution in the legal field and community as a whole. She was also named to the 2013 Class of the Tennessee Women’s Hall of Fame, an honor given to women who have made outstanding, unique and lasting contributions to the economic, political, and cultural well-being of Tennessee.
Currently, Behm is general counsel for the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency in Nashville and the Metropolitan Transit Authority. From 1996 to 2002, she served on the board of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati, which serves banks and thrifts in Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio, and chaired the Audit and Budget Committees. In 1994, Behm was appointed by the Speaker of the House to the Tennessee Judicial Selection Commission. She was the Commission’s first chair and served as a member for ten years.
In April 2009, Behm was appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court for a three-year term as Chair of the newly created Access to Justice Commission to help address the growing civil legal needs crisis in Tennessee. In 2006, she was one of three finalists for appointment by the Tennessee Supreme Court as state Attorney General.
Behm was named by Mayor Bill Purcell as co-chairman of Celebrate Nashville, Nashville’s year-long celebration of its 200th birthday in 2006. She has been a key advisor to numerous political candidates and is particularly known for her encouragement of, and support for, women candidates.
A big basketball fan, Behm co-chaired with Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors the city’s successful effort to host the Women’s Final Four in 2014. She chaired the Nashville Sports Council’s sponsorship of the 2002 S.E.C. Women’s Basketball tournament and served as legal counsel for the Nashville Sports Council. Currently, she is a board member of the Metropolitan Sports Authority, which oversees the professional sports facilities in Nashville.
Behm now serves on the board and executive committee of the YWCA. For many years, Behm has been involved with scouting as a Girl Scout leader and member of the board and executive committee of Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee, Inc. From 1999 to 2008, Behm served as a member of the Board of Health for the Metropolitan Health Department.
Behm’s practice concentrates on employment, business law, bankruptcy, estate planning, elder law, land use and general litigation. She has taught legal writing, trial advocacy, and clinic at Vanderbilt University Law School for more than a decade and currently teaches Professionalism and Practice. She has been selected by her peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America in the field of labor & employment law each year since 2001, and she was named the 2013 Best Lawyers’ Nashville Lawyer of the Year for Labor and Employment Litigation. For the 2014 edition of the publication, she has been selected for inclusion in six practice areas: corporate law, employment law (for both employees and management), municipal law, labor & employment litigation, and commercial litigation
Behm received her B.A. and J.D. degrees from the University of Tennessee. She is married to her law partner Harlan Dodson. The couple has two children.