Leigh-Taylor White, an attorney with Shea Moskovitz & McGhee, didn’t always know she wanted to be a lawyer.
She credits a high school English teacher, though, with opening her eyes to the possibility.
Her peers might mention family members with legal careers who influence a decision, or representations of the law in popular culture – such as on TV shows or via “To Kill a Mockingbird” – as inspirations.
But White, who moved to Shea Moskovitz from Glankler Brown PLLC earlier this year, discovered her professional passion in an unexpected way.
“It really started in high school, and I had a wonderful English teacher who really kind of gave me the first idea of becoming an attorney,” said White, a Batesville, Miss., native, who concentrates her practice primarily around family law. “I was in AP English. We wrote a lot of papers, we had debates in class, and she told me one day, you really should think about going to law school.
“I hadn’t thought about it really before that, that that might be something I’d want to do. But then I majored in philosophy at Rhodes, and that just pushed me even further toward the law.”
She took that practical career route after deciding she enjoyed reading, writing, making arguments and trying to communicate effectively.
And she ended up in one of the most emotional and personal aspects of the profession, which can involve attorneys in some of the most intimate details of the lives of family members. Via her family law work, White handles divorce cases, child custody, adoptions, child support and more.
“It’s been an interesting journey,” White said. “I still do some other areas of law. I have some business clients I’ve had for a long time, and I still do some securities work.
“Really, family law is what got me into the courtroom as a very young attorney. It was exciting, and as it turns out I really liked that kind of client contact and helping people on that personal level.”
White got a degree in philosophy from Rhodes in 2002, then her law degree from the University of Mississippi in 2005.
She’s a member of the Memphis, Tennessee and Mississippi Bar Associations. And she’s currently the 2011-2012 president of the Memphis Bar Association’s family law section.
After graduating from law school, White clerked for Judge David Ishee of the Mississippi Court of Appeals.
White was among a group from Glankler that included Jim Arthur and Aubrey Brown who moved earlier this year over to Shea Moskovitz.
White said a “unique constitution” is required for the kind of work she does.
“I’ve noticed this in my relationships with people and my friends over the years, that the role I always sort of played in those relationships was being the rational friend everybody called for advice,” she said. “Your clients are going through usually the most tragic and personal thing that has happened in their lives, especially when you’re talking about divorce, losing custody of children, things like that.
“It’s some of the most personal things you can go through, and what you don’t need is someone that’s going to cater to every whim and get riled up with you. You need someone who’s going to advise you calmly.”
She recommends young attorneys disabuse themselves of any shyness about asking questions.
“For the young lawyer starting out, if you’re lucky enough to be able to surround yourself with good people that you work with, try to learn from them,” White said. “That was a big thing for me. I was never shy about going in and talking to the other partners and asking questions. Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions.”