Attorney Anne Mead is not in Kansas anymore. Recently named partner with the firm of Butler Sevier Hinsley & Reid PLLC, a family law practice, she said, “We have some pretty incredible people working for us, I’m really, really lucky.”
The Kansas native attended Washburn University there and moved to Memphis to attend the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphries School of Law after she and husband, Jay, considered living in other places such as Georgia, South Carolina and Kansas. Her family had moved to Memphis during her time in college, though, and it just felt right to be near them again.
Though she’s ended up in the legal profession, her undergraduate degree is in English literature. She says she thought at the time that she wanted to work in the media but, “realized pretty quickly that I probably wouldn’t be satisfied either simply writing an article for a newspaper or being on a television broadcast or something like that.”
She began thinking realistically about her career options, about how to continue writing yet pay the bills, when a friend suggested she explore the moot court and mock trial team. “I absolutely loved it, loved every single part of it,” she said. “To this day I love litigation and I love trial. When I’m litigating something, it’s the only time that I ever forget I am something other than a lawyer.”
She took the LSAT, what she calls a “horribly scary experience,” and then took two years to make sure the decision was the right one. During that time, Mead traveled across the country managing different chapters of her sorority to help them improve, and worked for a law firm as a legal assistant.
She graduated from law school in 2004, was awarded an internship with the Department of Justice and clerked in Division 7 for Judge Robert Lanier. After his retirement, she clerked for several different judges in that division.
“It was such a wonderful experience to get to see how each judge handled their cases differently,” she said. “As a lawyer, you will never ever get to see what goes on in chambers and the thought process a judge goes through unless you clerk for a judge.”
Eventually the governor appointed Judge Donna Fields to Division 7 and it was a prescient remark by her that would set Mead on the course she’s been on ever since. Fields suggested family law, but Mead balked saying, “I don’t know if I could do that, to see people divorcing and the impact that would have on children. It would probably be really upsetting and I don’t know if I could live with that on a day-to-day basis. She (Fields) said, ‘Well that’s really why you should do it then.’”
By her estimation, Mead says she sent resumes out to just about everyone in the Memphis Bar Association directory, finally going to work with the firm of Pounders Coleman.
“I couldn’t have asked for better teachers than Ms. Pounders and her partner, Ms. Coleman,” Mead said.
She worked for the firm for five years before going out on her own for the flexibility that it offered. With new daughter, Madeline, she says, “I didn’t want to miss any more of her life.”
Mead shared office space with attorneys Bill Burns and Frank Watson, but working on her own presented challenges in itself, from handling the billing to cultivating her own client base.
“It’s really interesting when you think about where your clients come from and how you portray yourself to just about everyone you deal with,” Mead said, “people at my daughter’s school, friends of friends, my dentist, my eye doctor, because as long as they all know what you do, and they like you, they’ll refer clients to you. That was honestly how I got a lot of my referrals in the beginning.”
In 2011, after a year-and-a-half of this and wanting to spend more time on clients’ cases instead of paperwork, she accepted a position with Butler Sevier. It was the same year she completed training to be a Rule 31 Listed Family Mediator, of which the firm has seven in house.
Though she still searches for the time to write just for herself, Mead doesn’t feel she’s left anything behind and, just as Fields predicted, she loves the work she does despite the heartache.
The reward is “to know that you potentially had a hand in making sure that child is better off despite their circumstances. I am not the architect of the facts, but I can help create a different situation, and a different reality for my clients, going forward.”