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January 20, 2021 Did You Know?

“When I Was a New Lawyer”

By Tasha C. Blakney
Tasha C. Blakney

Tasha C. Blakney

via Tasha C. Blakney

What inspired you to become a lawyer? And what did you do before becoming a lawyer?

I was inspired to become a lawyer because I wanted to help people. That sounds like the oldest story in the world, but sometimes old stories stick around because they are true. For me, that was absolutely the case, and I don’t believe I’m unique in that regard. I think a large number of people pursue a career in the law to make a difference in the lives of people and in the communities we call home. I went straight from college to law school, so my entire professional career has been devoted to the practice of law.

How did you become involved with the ABA?

I became involved in the ABA initially through the Young Lawyers Division. My introduction to TIPS came through the extraordinary Leadership Academy, and I am proud to say I am a graduate of the inaugural class. I will always be grateful to the TIPS leaders who had the vision to build the Leadership Academy.

What is the benefit of a new lawyer becoming active with the ABA?

The ABA provides so much to new lawyers. My experience with the ABA began with the YLD, both in the YLD itself and as a member of the ABA House of Delegates. The ABA wisely devotes one delegate spot in the House to a young lawyer, and that experience gave me extraordinary insight into the most pressing issues to the legal community, as well as access to national leadership.

What early career practices led to your success?

Early on, I surrounded myself with people who mentored me and who shared my vision and my commitment. I gravitated to working environments and to friends who also believed in the calling that is the practice of law. I have always worked with people who believed that bar service is important. Now that I have my own firm, we only hire people who feel the same way, and we support them. We expect lawyers in our office to contribute to the profession. I think that early motivation, instilled in me by my mentors, has stuck with me and has served me well.

What is your advice for dealing with difficult partners, colleagues, or counsel?

Trust your instincts. When you hear your inner voice, listen. We don’t always get a strong gut feeling about a person or a case, which means when you do get that strong feeling, you must not ignore it. Every single time I’ve ignored that instinct, I’ve regretted it. There are far too many people out there who will challenge you in positive ways and help you grow personally and professionally to spend your time dealing with people who do not. You don’t need to have a showdown about it either. Just move on.

What is your advice for a new lawyer seeking to acquire, retain, and nurture client relationships?

Communicate regularly and formally. Remember to treat your relationships with clients in a way that sets the tone for professional and courteous dialogue.

What are your future ambitions for the next five to ten years?

I am working to build my mediation practice in addition to continuing my litigation practice. I find it extremely rewarding to use my litigation experience to help parties find common ground. My practice is unique in that I’ve tried cases in state and federal court and both the civil and criminal arenas. I bring that perspective to the mediation process, and I’m enjoying this new area in my practice.

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By Tasha C. Blakney

Member, Eldridge & Blakney, PC, Knoxville, TN