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VOL. 126 | NO. 38 | Thursday, February 24, 2011

Former Litigator Winsett Now Helps Lawyers Find Jobs

By Allison Buckley

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Studying law runs in Estelle Winsett’s blood.


(Photo: Lance Murphey)

When she was growing up, Winsett would watch her father, who was a litigator, during his trials. Seeing her father in the courtroom was the reason Winsett was inspired to begin a career in the legal field.

“I knew when I was a little girl that I wanted to litigate,” Winsett said. “Litigation isn’t for everyone … that is what I chose. What I enjoyed about that was the intellectual gymnastics of thinking on your feet … being able to answer the question and being persuasive.”

In 1994, Winsett received her undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University. After moving back to Memphis, she received her juris doctorate from the University of Memphis in 1997.

For seven years, Winsett practiced law in Memphis, specializing in a spectrum of concentrations, including civil litigation defense, insurance defense, medical malpractice defense, and labor and employment defense.

After having her first son, Winsett decided to leave litigation and work for Counsel on Call, a company that places clients with attorneys. For six years, Winsett served in this less intense role in the legal field.

“Every employer that has come on (the U of M) campus to do interviews has just raved about our students and the professionalism. We’ve got some real superstars here.”

– Estelle Winsett

While working for Counsel on Call, Winsett heard about an opening for assistant dean of law career services at the U of M’s Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.

“People kept telling me that I should apply because it was just something that was kind of like the next logical step in my career,” she said. “So, I did and that’s how I ended up here.”

Since Winsett became assistant dean for law career services in 2010, she has been busy bringing the law school into the digital age through a computer program currently 95 percent of colleges are using called Simplicity.

She also mentors students about the many different areas of law and brings in professionals to work with law students on skills training. As part of skills training, law students perform mock interviews, write resumes and cover letters, and partake in special presentations given by industry professionals.

“It’s really been fun being back at my alma mater and working with professors that taught me when I was here,” Winsett said.

Every year, the Memphis Bar Association board leaves a spot open dedicated to a faculty member at the U of M. Recently, Winsett was named to the board in 2011, working as a liaison between the U of M’s law students and the MBA.

Winsett hopes to strengthen communication so there is less of a disconnect between the law school and the profession. So far, Winsett’s plan has been successful.

“Every employer that has come on campus to do interviews has just raved about our students and the professionalism,” she said. “We’ve got some real superstars here.”

As an MBA board member, Winsett strives to promote students to potential employers. She said this is a big reason she enjoys her role at the university, especially when a student lands a job.

Implementing programs into the law school such as “A Day In the Life ...” is another way Winsett is able to connect the law students to law professionals. The plan is to bring in a board member to speak about his or her career, giving students a real-world, one-on-one opportunity to catch a glimpse into the career they may pursue after graduation.

The program also gives students the opportunities to ask questions and network with practicing lawyers.

It would be fair to say that Winsett never gets a break from law, not that she’s asking for it. At home, Winsett’s husband, Byron B. Winsett III, is an assistant district attorney for Shelby County.

For their two boys, Winsett said she never pressures them to pursue law. Still, they have shown some interest.

“It’s funny,” she said. “My son had said he wanted to be a lawyer. We found that interesting.”

And although Winsett enjoys her job at the university, she has not closed the door to returning to her litigation roots.

“I say, ‘never say never,’” she said.

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