» Subscribe Today!
More of what you want to know.
The Daily News

Forgot your password?
TDN Services
Research millions of people and properties [+]
Monitor any person, property or company [+]

Skip Navigation LinksHome >
VOL. 124 | NO. 228 | Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wiggins Ready To Grab YLD Baton

By Rebekah Hearn

Print | Front Page | Email this story | Email reporter | Comments ()
NEW BLOOD: Kyle M. Wiggins, an associate at the Memphis office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC, is taking the helm of the Memphis Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division tonight at the YLD’s annual meeting and elections. -- PHOTO BY REBEKAH HEARN

Kyle M. Wiggins is ready to get behind the wheel.

Today at the Memphis Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division Annual Meeting and Elections, current YLD president Freeman Foster, an attorney for the Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County, will pass the gavel to Wiggins.

Wiggins, an associate in the Memphis office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC, said he’s honored to take the position, which will allow him to work on rolling out a YLD public service project and continuing his and the division’s work with local mock trial competitions.

In addition to Wiggins’ taking over as president, YLD members will vote on the 2010 board members and the recipient of the Charles A. Rond Memorial Award for Outstanding Judge of the Year.

The meeting will be held from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and the election results will be announced after the 6:30 voting.

In the beginning …

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in political science from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark. (where he graduated cum laude), Wiggins took a few years off and moved back to his hometown of Paris, Tenn.

“(I wanted) to try to figure out what I wanted to do, and after about six years, I decided to move to Memphis and make a go at law school,” Wiggins said.

From 2000 to 2004, Wiggins attended the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, where he was a member of the University of Memphis Law Review, the Environmental Law Council and Phi Delta Phi Honor Fraternity. He received the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award and the University of Memphis School of Law CALI Excellence Award.

The Dean’s service award honors students who have completed a minimum of 15 hours of pro bono or volunteer work during the school year. The CALI (Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction) award recognizes the student with the highest grade in a particular class.

Wiggins received the CALI award for academic excellence in Contracts II, Natural Resources Law, Commercial Paper and Nonprofit Organizations. He also received the Dean’s Award for Excellence for the “Best Brief in Legal Methods II.”

Several people in Wiggins’ family were in the legal business – his grandmother and great-aunt were legal secretaries, and his grandfather served as the sheriff of Henry County.

“But, as far as I know, I’m the first lawyer (in the family),” Wiggins said. “Most of my ancestors were farmers, I think.”

Wiggins interned at the Tennessee Supreme Court during law school, a difficult position to get.

“That was a very good opportunity that I stumbled into,” he said. “I think they take 14 law students a summer over two sessions, and generally all of them are from Vanderbilt, except usually there’s one U of M student per session. And the Vanderbilt students get credit for it; Memphis does not, and it’s an unpaid position. So I took the summer and went up to Nashville, and it was a very rewarding experience.”

He then was an extern for Judge David S. Kennedy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Tennessee in spring 2004. After graduating law school, Wiggins clerked for a year under Judge Alan E. Glenn on the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.

Wiggins credits his wife, Andrea, with unfailing support as he transitioned from college to law school and kicked off his career.

“(She) helped see me through law school and supported me and has been by my side through the journey, from day one,” he said.

Moving forward, upward

Wiggins first worked at Thomason Hendrix Harvey Johnson & Mitchell PLLC for four years before moving to Baker Donelson, where he now practices primarily in medical malpractice and personal injury law, with some bankruptcy and insurance work thrown in for good measure.

Wiggins said his interest in bankruptcy law stemmed from his externship under Judge Kennedy, but he practices mostly in malpractice and personal injury defense.

“It runs the gamut,” Wiggins said of his malpractice/injury work. “We’ll do whatever our clients need.”

He said “traditionally, about 10 percent of my practice has been bankruptcy, representing creditors, generally.”

In 2007, Wiggins joined the MBA YLD’s board of directors, and he was elected vice president/president-elect in 2008. During the past year, he’s had some time to consider how he’d like to use his position to help young Memphis lawyers.

Wiggins said he attended this year’s American Bar Association’s YLD Fall Conference in Birmingham, Ala., where the idea for a YLD public service project was discussed.

“(The project) focuses on the young leaders and participants in the Civil Rights Movements of the ’50s and ’60s, and that curriculum, or that program, is geared toward 11th- and 12th-grade students in high school. And we, as a local bar, have decided that’s going to be the big public service project we institute locally this year, and we’re still working on how we’re going to do that,” Wiggins said.

“In addition to all the great programs we as a YLD board have done and will continue to do, such as our mock trial (program) in the spring and legal lines and partnering with the Boys and Girls Club (of Greater Memphis), we’re going to institute this (service project) over the next year and see if we can’t do that successfully here in Memphis. It looks like a really exciting program.”

Wiggins said he’s keeping his eye on closer collaboration with the ABA as president of the local Young Lawyers Division, noting the individual boards often decide to what degree they participate in or collaborate with ABA programs.

“Maybe this next year we’ll be more closely working with them than perhaps in the immediate past,” Wiggins said. “I’m excited about … partnering with the ABA any way we can.”

Don’t forget the niceties

Wiggins serves as mock trial coach for the Memphis City Schools. He worked for two years as a coach at Craigmont High School, and this year will be his third coaching at Ridgeway High.

Also, Wiggins serves on the MBA’s Leadership Forum Steering Committee. He graduated from the program in 2007, and Wiggins said the forum’s former chairwoman, Judge Diane Vescovo, asked him to be on the steering committee. (See the Aug. 20 and Sept. 24 editions of The Daily News for more on the Leadership Forum, www.memphisdailynews.com.)

Part of the committee works on the forum’s monthly programs or the graduation ceremonies, which Wiggins helped with in the past.

“But this year, Lisa Overall (of McDonald Kuhn LLC) and I are planning the April 2010 program, which we’re hoping to conduct at Shelby Farms, and focus on environmental and conservation efforts in Memphis and Shelby County and how that might interact with the law and the involvement by young lawyers,” Wiggins said.

Forum participants must be in their third to eighth year of practice, so interacting with lawyers from the local YLD is a practical choice.

Overall, Wiggins seeks to welcome a wide variety of practitioners, expand and continue the YLD’s interaction with local organizations and programs and, most of all, focus on treating other attorneys with respect.

“You know, the legal system is an adversarial system, and it’s a great system we’ve developed for resolving disputes so that we could have a civil society, but one thing I’ve learned is that life is so much better when the lawyers on both sides of the case treat each other civilly,” Wiggins said. “One of the main things is keeping your eye on the big picture and treating each other with civility and respect.

“You have to be a zealous advocate, but you can do it collegially, and realize it’s a two-way street. And, you’ll regret it eventually if you treat someone poorly.”

PROPERTY SALES 56 94 12,852
MORTGAGES 23 50 8,053
BUILDING PERMITS 285 422 30,356
BANKRUPTCIES 23 67 6,131