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VOL. 125 | NO. 253 | Thursday, December 30, 2010

Johnson Looks to New Year for Young Lawyers Division

RICHARD J. ALLEY | Special to The Daily News

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At 35, Shon Johnson slips in just under the wire of age acceptance into the Young Lawyers Division of the Memphis Bar Association. Yet he’s done more than slip in, he’s been elected president of the organization for 2011.

(Photo: Lance Murphey)

The Young Lawyers Division – whose cutoff is 36 – has the functions of bringing together the group and working to make the profession better by creating a congeniality among its members, providing a social outlet and improving the community through fundraising and volunteering. The division already plans to host the high school mock trial event in 2011 and host a golf tournament to benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Downtown.

“There are plenty of lawyers that come into the market every year and the law is an area where you learn on the job, so to speak,” Johnson said. “So this provides a place where young lawyers can get advice from other lawyers who have been practicing from one to six to 10 years to help them learn about the profession and what’s expected.”

Johnson was born in Memphis but grew up in the northwest part of the state and attended the University of Tennessee at Martin, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1998. He worked as an accountant for Trammell Crow in Memphis and then as an internal auditor for FedEx, a job that had him traveling around the world, improving operations and helping him learn about different cultures.

It was this eagerness to learn and experience new things that led him to school for his MBA at the University of Memphis and make an even larger change by attending law school at the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, graduating in 2004.

“I’d always thought about going, but never had the money,” he said. “After I worked for a while being an accountant, I got in a position where I could afford it and I thought if I didn’t go and try it, I would never do it, and if it didn’t work out I could go right back to doing the career I already had.”

It did work out, and while a student, Johnson clerked for the Arkansas firm of Rieves, Rubens & Mayton. Offered a job there after graduation, he took and passed the Arkansas bar, practicing insurance defense and litigation work for the firm.

From there, he took the Tennessee bar exam and went to work for the small firm of Domico Kyle in Memphis, continuing his practice of insurance defense and adding medical malpractice to his resume.

Currently, Johnson works for Black McLaren Jones Ryland & Griffee PC in East Memphis, and touches on many aspects of law save for bankruptcy and criminal defense. He sees his previous experience as an accountant as a boon to a well-rounded career and how legal decisions can and will affect a business.

“With most lawyers, there’s a disconnect to the financial part where they just don’t understand that much about it,” he said. “So when I’m representing a client in an insurance case, or any type of company, really, to them it’s not just about a case, but that case will affect their business and their finances. So I understand the full picture of how they’re trying to make the decision of whether or not to settle or go to trial.”

In addition to his work with the Young Lawyers Division, Johnson is a mentor with the MBA’s Leadership Forum, on the board of the Tennessee Bar Association and a member of the Leo Bearman American Inn of Court.

He and his wife, Carie, an oncology nurse with Saint Francis Hospital-Bartlett, are also active with the local golden retriever rescue group.

Johnson’s career path has been long and winding, even at his young age, and he hopes to use his experiences to guide up-and-coming professionals to be productive and giving members of the legal society.

“I want to continue to do good work and I want to continue to grow,” he said. “I like something to always be changing as far as learning new things. … I want to be continually learning about something.”

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