Tell us a little bit about your career.
I was honored to be the first female attorney hired by a major law firm in Chattanooga who did not have a family relationship with the firm. A fellow female attorney asked me who my father was, what business I brought to the firm, and a few similar questions. She could not understand why I had been hired. All I had was my law school record, academic honors, and my passion to become an exceptional lawyer.
My firm was committed to my development as a lawyer in all aspects, including client contact. In my early days of practice, I focused on estate planning and estate administration, corporate, construction law, and real property. The firm wanted me to be trained as a litigator, and I ultimately tried many cases. I believe this training was important for my development as a lawyer. This improved my drafting of legal documents. It is humbling and educational to litigate a document you drafted.
My first firm and partners are a significant a part of the lawyer, leader, and person I am today. They fully supported my commitment to bar and community service.
My practice has evolved through the years to include writing real estate title, securities offerings, banking, and elder law. Twenty years ago, I moved to Knoxville and became a solo practitioner. Certain areas of practice were eliminated to maintain a high standard of competence. Presently, my focus is estate planning and estate administration, real property, elder law, and problem-solving.
After all these years I still love the practice of law, my colleagues, and my clients. Some of my clients just drop in to see me and visit. It is important to me to make a difference in their lives.
Is it what you had planned when you started law school?
I truly loved law school. So many choices, and so little time. I worked 20-30 hours per week to put myself through law school. It was well worth the effort.
I considered obtaining a master’s degree and teach in law school (and perhaps become a dean). Little did I know, the practice of law would be so wonderfully challenging and fulfilling. It remains so to this day.
What has been the highlight of your career?
The highlight of my career has been the ability to make a difference in my practice and with my life, particularly with the ABA. I have written a section for West’s Tennessee Practice on estate planning, lectured for bar association and law school CLE programs, and was both elected and appointed to various offices and positions.
The opportunity to learn and grow every day has been the highlight of my career. My ability to make a difference to my clients, my profession, and my community has inspired me. It is most important for me to make a difference. Friends say that I change lives. I thrive on a challenge and think outside of the box. We can accomplish all that we can envision and more.
If you could go back to the beginning of your legal career, would you have done anything differently?
I would have spent more time with my daughter and been less of a workaholic.
What advice would you give to someone considering law school today?
Law school prepares a person for many careers other than the practice of law. The practice of law has been very important in my life.
It is important not to go to law school with the primary goal of becoming wealthy. The practice of law enriches you in many ways. The monetary gain cannot and should not be first and foremost.
Lawyers are blessed, and we have an obligation to give back to our profession and our communities.
What were the biggest changes you saw in the legal profession over the course of your career?
Technology has made the most difference. If my mother had not insisted I take typing in high school, I would be sunk today! As one young employee said, “You are really good with computers, for your age!”
More seriously, I fear that lawyers have become less prepared, less able to set aside conflict, and more driven to tell clients what they want to hear, rather than what they need to know.
When did you first become a member of the ABA and why did you decide to join?
I joined the ABA out of law school. It never occurred to me not to join. The ABA stands for the best in our profession. It is an honor to belong and to participate. Members of my first firm were all ABA members.
What has been the highlight of your work with the ABA?
Every position has been a learning experience. Becoming the second woman and third youngest President of the National Conference of Bar Presidents was a great honor.
I love the House of Delegates and the process of negotiating, debating, and adopting resolutions. It is wonderful that such talented lawyers come together to bring important resolutions and to resolve their differences. I am always learning and growing.
If you had not become a lawyer, what do you think you would have done?
Probably become a veterinarian or a college professor. I love animals, enjoy students, and have a flair for teaching. I approach the practice of law by educating my clients on their options and on the advantages and disadvantages of each. They make their decisions from an informed perspective.