Julie McLaughlin has worked her way up the legal ladder for much her life.
Beginning with a degree in paralegal studies from Hinds Community College in Raymond, Miss., and then a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Memphis, the final rung was earning a law degree from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 2001.
The Pickens, Miss., native said she knew she wanted to be an attorney as early as the eighth grade.
“My uncle is an attorney in Jackson, Miss., and I just became fascinated with the law,” McLaughlin said. “I don’t know why at that age, but I did and I never changed my mind.”
During her time in law school, McLaughlin says she was “always very impressed with the professors” she had there and was lucky enough to have several mentors to look up to, especially Ernest Lidge, who helped her get an externship with the Labor Board.
McLaughlin worked with Magistrate Judge Diane Vescovo, who mentored her on the practical application of the law as an extern as well.
“Everything in law school is book, book, book, and then when you get out it’s a whole new world, so having those kinds of experiences to fall back on really helps,” she said.
McLaughlin has been with the Kiesewetter Law Firm PLLC since late last year, and has focused her practice over the years on labor and employment law, employee benefits and corporate law. It’s an area she was introduced to during her second year of law school as a clerk for Weintraub, Stock, Bennett & Grisham, now The Weintraub Firm PC.
“Before that time I honestly did not know anything about labor and employment law, but after working there over that summer I just really enjoyed it and decided from then on that that’s what I wanted to go into and focus on,” McLaughlin said.
She ended up working for Weintraub Stock as her first job right out of law school and a year later took an offer from Ford & Harrison LLP, a national labor and employment firm with an office in Memphis.
“You always have to find out something new, so you’re always learning, and I think that’s what keeps it interesting.”
Local labor and employment firms around that time were in a state of flux, with many expanding, contracting and merging. Employment law as well is constantly changing, one of the things that has kept the subject interesting for McLaughlin.
“Your core laws like Title VII, sexual harassment, race discrimination, those kinds of claims stay the same,” she said. “Then you have FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act), ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), that’s really what you deal with a lot.”
In 2003, McLaughlin moved to Lawrence & Russell PLC, where she researched, counseled and litigated ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) subrogation, among other responsibilities. She moved to part time during her tenure at the firm for the opportunity to devote more time to raising two young children.
When she returned to full time last year, it was with Kiesewetter, a boutique firm of four attorneys focusing on employee benefits, health care regulatory compliance and corporate law. McLaughlin has been challenged by the overlap of work she’s accustomed to as well as new subjects, and learning new areas.
She has enjoyed the flexibility that comes with a smaller firm, adding that everything outside of work for her and her husband, Jim, revolves around their children: Chandler, 10, and Chelsea, 4.
There are pros and cons she has found in working with a larger national firm such as Ford & Harrison, and her latest work with Kiesewetter, saying it all “balances out” and she appreciates the extra responsibility and challenges that have come with fewer attorneys in the office.
“It’s always fascinating, there’s always a different twist to everything that comes in,” she said. “You always have to find out something new, so you’re always learning and I think that’s what keeps it interesting.”
McLaughlin has been admitted to the Tennessee Supreme Court, Arkansas Supreme Court, U.S. District Courts for the Western and Middle Districts of Tennessee, the U.S. District Courts for the Western and Eastern Districts of Arkansas, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court. She is a member of the Memphis and Tennessee bar associations.