VOL. 128 | NO. 12 | Thursday, January 17, 2013
Memphis Law Talk
Christoff Aims to Empower Young Lawyers in Bar Role
By RICHARD J. ALLEY
Annie Christoff of Bass, Berry & Sims PLC is the new president of the Young Lawyers Division of the Memphis Bar Association for 2013.
The Young Lawyers Division is comprised of lawyers under the age of 36 or within their first three years of practice. The division sponsors monthly continuing legal education (CLE) seminars, networking functions and fundraising for organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Memphis.
Christoff hopes to continue the group’s focus on the mentoring of young lawyers by those more experienced especially for those who recently passed the bar and may have had trouble finding work in a down economy, or who hung out their own shingle straight out of law school.
“They may be missing out on some of those mentoring opportunities that hasn’t really been an issue in the past because you get that from your firm, usually,” Christoff said. “So we’re always looking for ways to reach out to those young lawyers and let them know that they have resources in the Memphis Bar Association to help them develop, especially in those critical first few years.”
The Hutchison School graduate went to Tulane University for an undergraduate degree in economics. The daughter of parents in the medical field was also a pre-med student, and after graduating, she moved back to Memphis to teach high school math and chemistry at Hutchison.
“It was a great job out of college because it was a setting I was very comfortable with … and it helped me learn, not only all the skills that come along with teaching, but the skills needed to be a professional and be in a career,” Christoff said.
She knew she wanted to go back to school for something, and both her brother and fiancé at the time were in law school. Teaching, as well, helped her appreciate being a student again and to better manage her time at the Georgetown University Law School, which she entered in 2004.
The law school isn’t in Georgetown but on Capitol Hill and easily accessible to the cradle of law itself with the Supreme Court and Congress nearby.
“I actually loved law school more than most people I know. I had just a phenomenal experience,” she said. “There were all kinds of events going on all the time, there were all kinds of internship opportunities and we had Supreme Court justices come to speak on campus monthly it seemed like.”
Though she went with an open mind regarding where to make a life and career, after graduation in 2007 she and her husband, Mike Christoff, an attorney with Memphis Title Co., came back to Memphis.
“We both love this city so much,” she said. “We had a great time in D.C., but we really couldn’t wait to come home.”
Christoff had a yearlong clerkship with U.S. District Court Judge Jon P. McCalla.
“He’s obviously an excellent jurist and a brilliant lawyer, but he was also a wonderful mentor, and continues to be for me,” Christoff said.
At Bass, Berry & Sims, Christoff concentrates on business and securities litigation.
“We get wonderful, sophisticated clients that have intriguing issues and needs that arise, and getting to solve those problems every day is more than I could ask for,” she said.
In addition to her leadership role with the Memphis Bar Association, Christoff also works with local nonprofits Church Health Center and the American Cancer Society. It’s a labor of love that she hopes to parlay into her coming year as president with the Young Lawyers Division and a project near to her heart focusing on pro bono work.
“I want to do a program of a series of intensive, practical CLEs that are geared towards giving young lawyers in particular, but really any lawyer, the tools and the substantive knowledge that come up when handling common issues in pro bono cases,” she said. “One of the biggest barriers to doing pro bono work is just a feeling of a lack of expertise in that particular area because it’s not what we do every day, so my goal is to give people the tools … to have the confidence to take those cases.”