With his unique background in law, business, and construction, Courtney Little serves an invaluable role as owner, president, and general counsel of ACE Glass Construction.
With his experience in construction and real estate law, Little, a graduate of the UA Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law, said he has become a “source of information for construction people who need legal help.” He enjoys serving his community and is the current president of the American Subcontractors Association, a former member of the UA Little Rock Foundation Board, and a former member of the Dean’s Advisory Council at Bowen.
“People need advice, and I have the unique skill set of being a contractor and a lawyer as well,” he said. “I often do 10 or 12 public engagements a year, and the reason they like me to speak is because I am a normal business guy who knows the law. It’s easier to follow my thought process.”
Little considers himself a bit of a nomad when it comes to schools, citing the 17 different schools he attended growing up, including four colleges and law school, as evidence of his travels. While earning his bachelor’s degree, Little attended four schools in four years, including more than a year as a student at UA Little Rock.
Little graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1995 with a Bachelor of Science in business management with a focus on finance. Even though his friends encouraged him to go to law school, Little said his head just wasn’t into law school at the time. He went on to have a successful career. He worked as the liaison between inside sales and architectural sales for U.S. Aluminum in Texas before returning to ACE in 1997. He then opened the Northwest Arkansas branch for ACE in 1998.
Little made the decision to pursue law school after a near brush with tragedy in his family.
“After 9/11, I said life is short,” he said. “My brother was supposed to have lunch in the area of the World Trade Center on that day, but everything happened that morning so instead, he was in a nearby building where he could see it all. We talked and asked ourselves, ‘What have you not done that you regret?’ I always wanted to attend law school, but my head wasn’t into it right after college. The more I thought about it and prayed about it, I knew it was time.”
He enrolled at Bowen in 2002, where he earned a Juris Doctor with Honors in 2004.
“Part of my decision to attend Bowen was location,” Little said. “We had just moved back to Little Rock, and I was still running the northwest office for ACE. It was better for our family to stay in Little Rock, and I also liked the practical focus of Bowen.”
Attending law school in Little Rock also gave Little the opportunity to gain clerkships that would be valuable to his future law career.
“I would say something that I would definitely recommend to others is the local clerking opportunities,” he said. “I got to clerk at four of the largest law firms in the state because I was in Little Rock. I had the criteria they wanted, and was local and available. That was a huge bonus for me. It still pays off today getting to know all the people I did during my clerkships.”
In addition to the relationships he made as a law clerk, Little also credits the teaching style of Bowen professors for allowing him to make good long-term relationships with his professors and fellow students in law school.
“I had great relationships with the professors,” Little said. “There is a unique camaraderie between the students and professors. It is more like a colleague educating you on the law. It felt more like job training and I really enjoy that kind of atmosphere. I still have a lot of really great friendships and business relationships from school. I considered everyone on campus a friend, from the librarians all the way up to the dean. It is a very relationship-driven school. It’s like going to school with friends and family.”
After graduating from Bowen, Little opened a private practice. A unique opportunity became available when a deal to buy his family’s company, ACE, fell through.
“Right before closing, there was a dispute over some key items, and they terminated the deal,” Little said. “I asked my dad, ‘What is plan B?’ When I was watching that transaction, I saw that it was a great business opportunity. I wanted to improve on the foundation my dad had already built.”
Little closed his private practice in 2008 when he purchased ACE and was named president and general counsel. His parents started the business in 1986. While originally just a construction company, ACE is now three companies with the addition of ACE Glass Manufacturing and ACE Glass Recycling. Under Little’s leadership, the company continues to improve and look for the latest technological innovations on the horizon.
“We are already the largest glass company in the state. Now, we are moving more into manufacturing and automated processes,” Little said. “New team members are hard to find in the current job market. We are partnering with prison ministries for citizens who are trying to return to the workforce. We are also creating some new ways to recover glass, and our long-term goal is to make products out of that glass in the state. We will solve a problem and create new jobs and revenues at the same time. In the next few years, we will also be bringing some new technologies to the market. People bring us interesting glass technologies and problems that need solving, so we will get the opportunity to launch some new glass technologies in the next few years, and that is pretty cool.”
Little credits his law education with teaching him the skills necessary to handle any situation.
“Being a lawyer teaches you what questions to ask, what to learn, and how to figure things out,” Little said. “The law covers everything. It guides my personal and business decisions. The law explains life. When you walk into a meeting knowing what the rules are, it gives you a different level of confidence. You have the confidence to say, ‘This is the issue, and this is what we need to do.’ I learned a lot of that in law school. Whatever you do as a business owner or employee, a law school education is very diverse and gives you a foundation to do whatever you want to do and works well with whatever skills you already have.”
Little and his wife Erika live in Little Rock with their son, Reagan, and daughter, Ella.
In the upper right photo, Bowen Law School graduate Courtney Little, owner, president, and general counsel of ACE Glass in Little Rock, stands in a two-acre solar array that supplies power to the business. Photo of Ben Krain.