With just more than a month under his belt as a practicing attorney, Brandon Pettes believes he is in the best place possible to begin his career and learn on the job with Glankler Brown PLLC.
“I feel blessed to have a lot of partners in this firm who have taken an interest in me and feed me work so it’s allowed me to gain some skills,” he said.
Pettes grew up in Memphis and attended White Station High School where, in the 10th grade, he was asked by a history teacher to memorize and recite a speech by constitutional lawyer Daniel Webster.
“They say there are very few people who have always known what they wanted to do, I like to think of myself as the exception to that,” Pettes said. “I was just so impressed with the power of (Webster’s) rhetoric that I was interested in perhaps studying the law. And here I am.”
Upon graduation from high school, Pettes followed in Webster’s footsteps and entered Dartmouth College. The cold New England winters would prove to be too much, however, and after two years he transferred to the University of Memphis to get his undergraduate degree in history before going off to the University of Tennessee College of Law.
Pettes, 29, graduated this year and was chosen by fellow students, professors and administrators to be the commencement speaker for his class.
“That was something that I was just completely taken aback by … to have them think so highly of me and to think that they thought I had something worthwhile to say, I’m really glad that I had the opportunity,” he said.
As a second-year law student, opportunity led him to the Knox County District Attorney General’s Office where he worked as a clerk leading to an externship with the office the following year. He was sworn in as a special prosecutor and was able to try – and win – his first case.
“It was a great opportunity to get some real experience doing what lawyers do,” Pettes said.
His work with the district attorney’s office and criminal law where “no two cases are the same and every day in court was a different experience” piqued his interest enough to make him consider it as a profession.
He was offered a position in the office but the lure of home for him and his wife, Jesyca Westbrook, also an attorney, proved too great.
“We decided that we wanted to establish our roots closer to home, so when I received the opportunity from Glankler Brown, I knew that this was where I wanted to be,” Pettes said.
The worlds of criminal law and his current work as a business and commercial litigator could not be further apart, and there has been a learning curve, though it has been smoothed over by the enormous amount of help and advice he’s received from veterans in the office. His fellow attorneys, he said, have an open-door policy and are always receptive to questions and ready with answers.
“Not having that experience gives me a fresh outlook on things so when I get assignments that maybe associates who had worked for bigger firms over the course of their summers or through law school, they may have seen them as mundane,” he said. “It’s all new to me and I look at it every day as a learning experience.”
He is quick to point out mentors such as fellow Glankler Brown attorney Andre Mathis and professor Steve Oberman and trial team coach Carl Eshbaugh in Knoxville.
Young and in the process of earning his stripes, Pettes is in the beginning of what promises to be a long career. And yet he is already looking to the future when experience and knowledge is on his side and he is able to give back and mentor young attorneys just as those around him are helping him along.
“I can’t say that I’ve gotten to where I am on my own,” Pettes said. “There are lots of people who offered moral support, lots of people who have listened when I needed that and who have given of their time and their resources to help me get to where I am, so I can definitely see myself reaching out to other students when I’m in that position.”