VOL. 126 | NO. 136 | Thursday, July 14, 2011
Memphis Law Talk
Joiner Leaves Trucking To Become Attorney
By Houston Cofield
After working as a long-haul truck driver to French provinces outside Montreal and Quebec City, Canada, for almost four years, Michael Joiner decided he wanted to become a lawyer for Rainey, Kizer, Reviere & Bell PLC instead.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)
But Joiner wasn’t always destined for law, having been a French teacher, athletic director and truck driver beforehand.
Joiner, now an associate at Rainey Kizer, received a scholarship to play baseball at the University of Florida during high school, but after transferring from Florida to Alcorn State, where he also played baseball, he finally landed at Lemoyne-Owen College, where he completed his undergraduate degree.
He then held a job as a French teacher at Frayser High School while he worked toward his master’s degree in education leadership at the University of Mississippi.
He graduated from Ole Miss with a 4.0 grade point average. Then Joiner’s background in baseball and teaching took him to Washington state where he worked as an athletic director.
After years of coaching and teaching, Joiner decided he wanted a change of pace. When Unimark Truck Transport offered Joiner the opportunity to travel around the U.S. and Canada, meet a variety of interesting people and use his French-speaking skills, he took it.
“One day a guy came into work and asked us if we wanted to drive an actual tractor trailer and, to my surprise, I guess, there was that alter ego that made me want to, and I found my hand raised and I was like, ‘What am I doing?’” Joiner said.
“I remember thinking when I was in Indianapolis for truck-driving school, ‘Am I going to go ahead and start driving a truck, or am I going to turn around and go back to teaching?’ and I said to myself, ‘Let’s give it a try,’” Joiner said.
One of the things that attracted Joiner to the trucking industry was the chance to meet a wide range of people of diverse backgrounds.
“In some ways, I say that being a long-haul truck driver is somewhat like people moving to Alaska, where it’s rare that you find someone who was born in Alaska, but people come here for a host of reasons,” Joiner said.
Joiner said his coworkers didn’t want to drive to Canada and certainly didn’t want to go to the largely French-speaking province of Quebec.
“I would not call myself fluent in French, but I certainly knew enough to be able to travel to smaller towns outside of Montreal,” Joiner said.
While working in the trucking industry, Joiner realized he had an interest in settling arguments between some of his coworkers and the management in Unimark Truck Transport. Some of Joiner’s coworkers asked him if he had ever considered going into law, and Joiner eventually decided he would try it out.
After four years of driving trucks 10 hours a day, Joiner took an interest in law and began attending the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. He joined Rainey Kizer in August 2009 and began working in the areas of litigation, employment law, insurance coverage and general insurance defense. Joiner said one of his main practices is insurance coverage and defense. With the bad state of the economy, he said he has seen some reoccurring issues in that practice area.
“With the economy being what it is, there is a substantial increase in what would be called ‘questionable claims,’ which doesn’t mean they are not legitimate,” Joiner said. “It does mean that the number of claims tends to increase more during this time than when times are going well.”
Joiner said insurance companies tend to expend many of their resources to determine which claims are considered credible. Joiner’s role is to review claims individuals submit to the insurance company to determine whether they are insurable.
“In this economy, you are seeing a lot of claims that fall into a gray area, and it is hard to determine whether they are legitimate or illegitimate,” Joiner said.
Two things that Joiner said drew him to Rainey Kizer are the people they employ and the way they approach law work.
“The firm originated in Jackson, Tenn., so it has a small-town approach to law, but in the Memphis office, they practice like a big-town law firm,” Joiner said.
He said it has been exciting getting to learn from people who graduated top in their class and who he considers some of the masters in the industry.
Rusty Reviere, Erin Shea and Michael Mansfield are among the people Joiner said have taught him invaluable skills in the field of law.
When Joiner is not in court or reviewing insurance claims, he is usually spending as much time as he can with his 11-year-old daughter, Jamya. He also enjoys being active on the regional board of directors for his fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi.