Jake Dickerson, associate with Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC, is the incoming 2014 president for the Young Lawyers Division of the Memphis Bar Association.
The division arranges and hosts continuing legal education seminars, networking events, pro bono opportunities and fundraisers such as the annual golf tournament benefiting the Porter Goodwill Branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis. MBA members 36 years or younger, or within their first three years of practice, are automatically members of the division.
Dickerson grew up in Memphis and received a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from the University of Mississippi. He worked as an admissions recruiter for the school for a year after graduation before entering the law school there.
The idea of a career in law came early in elementary school and was influenced by his grandfather, Tucker Dickerson, an attorney and general sessions judge in Coffee County, Tenn.
“I remember playing with his gavel from when he was a judge when I would go to his house, so I think it was because of him that this was always the career path,” Dickerson said.
After graduation in 2007, he clerked for Judge Jon McCalla, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. He had worked as a summer associate with Baker Donelson during law school and, after finishing his clerkship in August 2008, signed on with the firm.
What area of law to focus on “was a great mystery,” he said. “I knew getting to law school was always in the plan, but beyond that I was pretty ignorant about the options.”
He came to enjoy the general business side of law, and his focus now is on business litigation, representing financial institutions and medical malpractice defense.
“There is certainly a learning curve, and that was the beauty of a federal clerkship – that I got to train under one of the best judicial minds in Memphis under Judge McCalla and see the ins and outs of things,” he said. “So that experience was invaluable.”
He makes a point, as well, to mention mentors such as Buck Lewis, Emily Landry and Christine Roberts in the firm.
“They’ve got a really well-developed mentoring and both formal and informal training,” he said.
As an “outsider” who didn’t graduate from the local law school at the University of Memphis, Dickerson credits the Young Lawyers Division with helping to connect on a social and professional level.
“I don’t know that I would know how to be involved with these things without the Memphis Bar or the YLD. It’s just a great network to learn about these events,” he said of such programs as Memphis Area Legal Services’ free clinics, and monthly clinics put on at a Veterans Administration facility. Through the YLD, attorneys have the opportunity to work with high school mock trial teams, mentor and participate in a basketball league.
He looks forward to carrying the tradition of service forward as president and helping other young attorneys become acclimated to the work and life.
“Just talking to friends in other cities, I don’t feel like other bar associations are quite as active as us,” he said.
He has enjoyed his time with Baker Donelson, noting that the firm is very supportive of the professional life, but also of his work in the community, and they promote a balance between work and life. This is important to Dickerson who, at the end of his federal clerkship, married wife, Anna, director of Volunteer Northwest Mississippi. The two met in law school and now have a daughter, Laney, born in November, only days before he was named president of the YLD.
On Dickerson’s desk rests a law school graduation gift from his grandfather – an enormous Black’s Law Dictionary. Out of date, it is a source of strength and inspiration. It has paired well with his education and mentoring through school and in practice with Baker Donelson where, he says, “They’re willing to let you swim in as deep of waters as you’re comfortable with early on.”