James William Burns

Email MeJames William Burns

Brentwood, Tennessee

Will joined Fidelis Law Firm in 2016. He has been licensed to practice law in Tennessee since 1984. The majority of his career has involved legal positions with the state of Tennessee, mostly related to higher education.

His longest held position was with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, where, among other things, he was responsible for the oversight of the proprietary postsecondary institutions operating in Tennessee. Additionally, he served as the chief legislative liaison for both the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and Office of Tennessee Secretary of State during his tenure in those respective offices.

Will earned his Juris Doctorate degree from the Nashville School of Law. While in law school, he had the opportunity to work in the Davidson County Chancery Court and Clerk and Master's Office under the tutelage of the late-Chancellor C. Allen High. Prior to law school Will earned a Masters in Public Administration and Bachelors degree in history, both from Middle Tennessee State University.

Will and his wife, Maribeth, have two married daughters and three grandchildren. Their heart for missions has resulted in short-term missions opportunities both here and abroad. This also led them to two extended relocations to New York City where they helped support church planting activity. They have recently returned from their second stint after three years in Brooklyn.

Will is also active in local ministries and has served on the boards of several non-profit organizations based in middle Tennessee. He is involved in Compassionate Counsel and assisted in a Brooklyn-based pro bono legal ministry.

In addition to spending time with his family, Will enjoys running and has completed four half-marathons.

Areas of Practice

  • Government Advocacy and Public Policy
  • Non-profit and tax exempt organizations
  • Estate Planning and Probate
  • Business formation and planning

Bar Admissions

  • Tennessee, 1984
  • U.S. District Court Middle District of Tennessee, 1984


  • Nashville School of Law, Nashville, Tennessee
    • J.D. - 1983
  • Middle Tennessee State University
    • M.P.A. - 1978
  • Middle Tennessee State University
    • B.S. - 1976
    • Major: History

Professional Associations and Memberships

  • Christian Legal Society
  • Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Colson Fellow and Commissioned Centurion

Past Employment Positions

  • Tennessee Higher Education Commission, Associate Executive Director for Legal and Regulatory Affairs, 1995 - 2012
  • Office of Tennessee Secretary of State, Coordinator of Elections, 1990 - 1995
  • Tennessee Board of Regents, Assistant General Counsel, 1987 - 1990
  • Tennessee Health Care Association, Assistant Director of Government Relations, 1985 - 1986

Pro Bono Activities

  • Compassionate Counsel
  • Graffiti Legal Ministries-Brooklyn