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VOL. 121 | NO. 241 | Thursday, December 14, 2006

New '07 MBA Vice President Plans Collaboration with U of M Law School

By Amy O. Williams

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"We need our society to understand why the third branch of government, the judicial, is so important to our democracy and to respect those who work each day to instill the ideals of our forefathers."
- Amy Amundsen
Name: Amy Amundsen
Position: Partner
Company: Rice Amundsen
& Caperton PLLC
Basics: Amundsen, who concentrates her practice in family law, recently moved from treasurer to vice president of the Memphis Bar Association.

Amy Amundsen has been named the 2007 vice president of the Memphis Bar Association (MBA). Prior to that, she served as treasurer.

Amundsen is a partner at the law firm of Rice Amundsen & Caperton PLLC, and focuses her practice primarily on domestic law. Amundsen recently worked with the SCALES (Supreme Court Advancing Legal Education for Students) Project, which was held in Memphis last month. It allowed several hundred Shelby County high school students to see cases argued before the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Q: What made you want to study law?

A: I have always enjoyed arguing with my older brothers and trying to prove them wrong.

Q: Was it something you always wanted to do?

A: Yes, in high school I wrote an article for our local paper on why women needed to be on our Supreme Court. After it was published, [then-U.S. Supreme Court Justice] Sandra Day O'Connor was chosen by President Ronald Reagan to be one of the first females on the court and was heading to her confirmation hearings before the Senate. I sent the article to her as she was then a Court of Appeals judge and she responded, stating that my article was timely. Justice O'Connor has been one of my heroes of our profession.      

Q: Are you from Memphis?

A: No, I am from Pennsylvania. I moved to Memphis because family friends moved here from Sharon, Pa., and my family would visit frequently. Memphis was a wonderful city where my sister and I could both attend post-graduate schools.

Q: Where did you go to college and law school?

A: I went to a liberal arts school in Pennsylvania, called Dickinson College. I planned on attending their law school, Dickinson Law School, but spent my third year of college studying in Bologna, Italy. Because of the wonderful climate in Italy, I decided that I would attend a post graduate school in the South. I applied to Memphis and attended the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.

Q: What attracted you to domestic law?

A: I started as a law clerk at the firm of Pierce Rice. I had exposure to several types of law. When I was interviewed, I was told that I could practice any type of law I wanted to. I enjoyed domestic law because I believed that I had the greatest ability to impact people. I believe that I can make my clients healthier while going through a divorce. Instead of agreeing with my clients that they do not have any problems, I take a larger view of the situation, and attempt to assist my clients into understanding their areas of possible improvement. I also enjoy drafting legislation which impacts the lives of our citizens and their children.

Q: What is the best part about your job?

A: Since I have been practicing for 19 years, I am afforded the privilege to choose those cases that are complex and challenging which allow me to continue to grow as a person and a lawyer. Through the years, I recognize that the clients I enjoy working with most are the ones that have similar personality traits like me, who are open to hear criticism and desire to improve, and who are as interested in their case as I am. I tell potential clients that I do not "sugar coat" the situation. I also enjoy the amount of freedom my job affords me so that I can devote time to be active on committees, boards and in schools.

Q: As the new MBA vice president, what plans do you have for the organization in 2007?

A: I will assist David Cook [the new MBA president] in whatever way I can; however, I plan to explore joint opportunities for the MBA and the University of Memphis Law School to interact with each other. Currently, I serve as president of the University of Memphis Law Alumni Chapter and I am working with the alumni chapter, Dean Jim Smoot and the law school faculty in planning for the law school's move Downtown [in 2009 to the old U.S. Customs House and post office on Front Street].

Q: What are you most proud of, personally and professionally?

A: Professionally, I am most proud of a course I spearheaded titled "Building Healthy Relations" that is taught to 9th graders in high school. The course was taught last year with the help of the Young Lawyers Division (YLD) of the Tennessee Bar Association throughout the state of Tennessee. At the ABA Annual Meeting last August, the YLD received a national award for this project, which teaches high school students how to build healthy relationships, how to recognize signs of domestic violence, how to budget appropriately and what to do when a relationship goes bad.

Personally, I am most proud of the fact that I can still teach dancing after all these years. The past two years, I have choreographed and taught the dancers who performed in Entertaining Motions, the talent revue to raise money for the Memphis Bar Foundation to assist the Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS) and the Community Legal Center (CLC). I am very proud of my dancers.

Q: What are your goals for the future?

A: My goal for the immediate future is to improve the image of lawyers. We live in a democratic society and rely on the workings of three branches of government: legislative, executive and judicial. We need our society to understand why the third branch of government, the judicial, is so important to our democracy and to respect those who work each day to instill the ideals of our forefathers. I am offended by jokes about lawyers, because many of my colleagues are giving countless hours of their time to help those less fortunate, serving on boards or educating our youth. Typically, lawyers are problem-solvers, not problem-makers. They protect our freedom and rights. We need to do a better job of getting the word out to the public about all the time and work that lawyers and judges give to improve the community.

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