James Michael Tanner was born and raised in Tuscumbia, Alabama. He attended Tuscumbia public schools, graduating from Deshler High School in 1972.
Mike then attended Auburn University, graduating with high honors in 1976, and Cumberland School of Law at Samford University, graduating magna cum laude in 1979.
While at Cumberland, Mike served on the Law Review and Moot Court Board.
Mike began his legal career with the Memphis, Tennessee, law firm of Farris, Hancock, Gilman, Brannon & Lanier.
He then served as a law clerk for Judge Orma Smith in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi. In July of 1981 Mike returned to his hometown of Tuscumbia, Alabama, to practice with the firm of Almon, McAlister, Ashe, Baccus & Smith.
Mike remained with that firm or a derivative of that firm until 2004, when he joined with Rick Hall to form Hall | Tanner | Hargett | P.C.
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