Joann Coston-Holloway, an associate with Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC, is Shelby County’s district representative for the Tennessee Bar Association.
One of her roles is helping plan the Young Lawyers Division’s upcoming Wills for Heroes event, where attorneys will provide basic wills, living wills, and health care and financial powers of attorney to first responders and their spouses or partners.
Volunteers will be available for assistance on Oct. 12 at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library.
“The volunteers come away with more than, I think, the heroes because you get to hear about their stories, different situations that they’ve been involved in and you just really, really feel good being a part of knowing you’re making a difference for them because they’re out every day putting their life on the line to make a difference for you,” Coston-Holloway said.
Originally from New Orleans, she saw first responders in action during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 while a student at Xavier University of Louisiana studying political science. Coston-Holloway had her heart set on becoming a lawyer but wavered during her third year and dabbled in some other interests.
The pull, however, was too strong.
“I found myself realizing this is exactly what I want to do and I can’t run from it,” she said, “so I changed it back to political science.”
Coston-Holloway was inspired by things she saw as she was growing up that she wanted to speak out about, and it was a law degree that she knew would give her that opportunity. She graduated from Xavier cum laude and entered Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, La., graduating in 2008. While still in law school and looking to “spread her wings,” she interned for Baker Donelson during the summer after her second year.
For a year after law school, Coston-Holloway clerked for Judge Ivan L. R. Lemelle of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. It was an invaluable experience, yet she was eager to return to Memphis and Baker Donelson.
“I loved it and came back after I graduated,” she said.
One thing she’s enjoyed about working with the firm is that a new attorney is given the opportunity to work in every field for three years before making an informed decision on which area to focus.
Coston-Holloway worked her way through medical malpractice, business litigation and others.
“I found myself just really loving labor and employment more,” she said, choosing it as her focus at the beginning of her fourth year. “It’s interesting getting to be involved on a deep level with what goes on on an every day basis in different people’s jobs.”
She has had occasion to appreciate the firm’s support as well after a car accident just after her start left her in a wheelchair with a broken femur, progressing to a walker and then a cane.
“There wasn’t, but had there been any doubt, I think all that would have been wiped away when I saw the tremendous level of support that the firm gave me throughout that experience,” she said.
As an example of getting to know clients and their products, Coston-Holloway said she was familiar with the titanium rod now in her leg due to a case she’d worked on prior to the accident.
As a high school student in New Orleans, she sought out her high school dance coach’s neighbor, an attorney who was impressed that a teenage girl would show up at her office to ask for a job and guidance on the path to the legal profession.
Coston-Holloway worked for the New Orleans attorney, Rosalind Larkins, for three years.
“She showed me a lot,” Coston-Holloway said. “We’re still in contact now, she’s definitely someone I’ve looked up to business-wise and as a friend, and in life; she’s been a great inspiration to me.”
Because of the attention given her early on, and in addition to Wills for Heroes, her service to the community includes sitting on the board of Girl Scouts Heart of the South and Brown Girl Dreams (previously Girl Talk Memphis), an organization begun by Lori Spicer Robertson to mentor at-risk teenage girls.
With her husband, Terrance Holloway, a financial adviser with Merrill Lynch, she’s enjoyed getting to know her adopted hometown. With Baker Donelson and work on various boards and with groups like the Young Lawyers Division of the Tennessee Bar Association, she appreciates the opportunity to give back to this community.