VOL. 128 | NO. 16 | Thursday, January 24, 2013
Memphis Law Talk
Johnson Blends Law, Love of Writing at QP Legal
By RICHARD J. ALLEY
As a student at Central High School and the University of Miami, Tiffany Johnson enjoyed writing more than anything.
It was this passion, and not necessarily one for the law itself, that took her to Georgetown University Law School.
“I went to law school because I loved writing and I wasn’t quite ready to get a job,” she said. “Some lawyers that I knew always talked about how much writing you do in law school, so I did that because I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do for a living yet.”
She graduated a year early from Miami with a degree in English.
“It’s a myth that the best preparation is to do political science or something like that, doing as much writing as you can is the best preparation for law school and for practice,” she said.
Law may not have been her first choice for a profession, but she grew up with a profound respect for the legal system from her late father, General Sessions Criminal Court Judge Anthony Johnson, who passed away in 2009. Johnson was caught unaware when she found she would graduate early and hadn’t applied anywhere. It was her father, and his belief in his daughter and the legal profession, that ushered her to law school.
“All of the application deadlines had passed, so I had to pay a boatload of money in late application fees and I had to go groveling to my dad for that money,” she said. “He gladly gave it to me for Georgetown, and when I got accepted he was thrilled, he was so excited. We had different motivations, but we were on the same page.”
After graduation from Georgetown, Johnson returned to Memphis and taught for a semester at Westwood High School.
“I got the teaching bug a little bit, but I missed Miami so I moved back and taught English there,” she said.
When her dad became suddenly sick in 2005, she “dropped everything and came back on a dime” and landed a job as a paralegal at The Cochran Firm. The lawyers there noticed that she could write and that, coupled with her law degree, brought about a change of heart. With the help and encouragement of fellow attorney Bryan Smith, Johnson passed the bar and began practicing law.
Writing, however, would remain her strong suit and her passion, and the job evolved into her handling much of the writing for the firm. She took some time off after her father’s death and re-emerged with a new outlook, one that included freelance writing in the form of a new business, QP Legal.
QP Legal, founded in 2009, can handle “anything in the litigation sphere,” Johnson says, including pleadings, complaints, motions, appellate briefs and mediation statements; anything an attorney might have to write. Though technically a ghostwriter, with her legal background, she says, the work can be as collaborative as the client wishes it to be. In addition to this work, she teaches continuing legal education classes and has taught writing workshops for students matriculating at Vanderbilt and Belmont universities in Nashville. She currently teaches an undergraduate course as an adjunct for the paralegal studies department at the University of Memphis.
Becoming a sole proprietor, working from home and having to be more self-motivated and disciplined, was a switch from working with the national Cochran Firm, but, she says, “I’ve never really fallen into pre-determined roles very easily in the past, so the freedom of working for myself actually suits my personality better, it’s a trade-off.”
With her background and connections, she had clients from day one and many now include firms of all sizes. She is available to work in any jurisdiction, and has done so in Washington, D.C., Florida and Georgia.
Johnson’s love of writing and teaching, and her history with the law have blended to make the perfect marriage of a career as owner of QP Legal.
“I really love the law, the study of it, but don’t care for the tedium of law practice,” she says, “and obviously I love writing, so it allows me to do the mental bench press of working through the substantive part of the law, and exercising my writing skills.”