Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, February 18, 2022

Lawyer’s lessons learned at Figgy’s

Working with dad in shop laid footing for success

Vincent Jackson is an attorney with Wagner & Wagner, although he’s better known in the legal community as the one of the faces behind the counter at Figgy’s, the Chestnut Street sandwich shop his father, Lawrence Jackson, owns. - Photo by David Laprad | Hamilton County Herald

Freshman attorney Vincent Jackson says two experiences had the greatest impact on his early development as a legal professional.

One was his participation in moot court at Lincoln Memorial University Duncan School of Law in Knoxville.

As Jackson wrote briefs for a case centered on qualified immunity and then stood his ground before a panel of judges, he gained confidence in his ability to fashion a well-reasoned argument and then successfully defend it in a live forum.

“I learned that my job as a lawyer is to take the law and my client’s facts and devise the best possible legal argument,” says Jackson, 28.

The second experience was less academic but no less instrumental in shaping Jackson as an attorney: Working at Figgy’s, the Chestnut Street sandwich shop owned by his father, Lawrence Jackson.

While making the daily special for the people who labored in the nearby office buildings – including more than a few attorneys – the younger Jackson noted how hard his father worked and saw that he always followed through on his word to someone.

“My dad has been the biggest inspiration in my life,” Jackson says. “He taught me everything I’ve learned about not quitting and doing what I said I would do.”

Jackson worked at Figgy’s until he graduated from law school and accepted a position with Wagner & Wagner in Chattanooga. There, he’s beginning the process of turning his legal education into a working practice.

While Jackson has not yet had to apply the kinds of academic deliberations he did in law school to a case, he says he’s learning how even the everyday work he does as an attorney can make a difference.

To date, Jackson has primarily helped the firm’s other attorneys with tasks for their clients, whether it’s writing or amending a lease for a landlord or combing through medical records to verify a doctor’s statement in a workers’ compensation case.

Jackson says he enjoys having a hand in helping someone to resolve even a small dilemma.

“I like finding the answer to a client’s problem,” he says. “It makes me feel as though I’m doing something valuable. I can’t imagine anything makes people more anxious than an upcoming court case, and I enjoy helping someone understand that things are going to be OK.”

As Jackson gets his feet wet helping other attorneys, he’s laying the foundation for his own practice. He’s registered with the Chattanooga Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service, for starters, and has a few small cases in the early stages.

Through this and other work, Jackson has developed a fledgling interest in business law. While he doubts it would make great cocktail party chatter, he says the field has grabbed his interest in a big way.

“One of the things I enjoyed learning in law school was the Four Corners Doctrine, which involves taking a huge agreement with multiple parties and shrinking it down to the four corners of a page,” Jackson explains. “So, I get excited when someone comes in with a contract and I have to figure out what it means.

“It’s a rabbit hole because you could apply countless court decisions and laws to the many different angles from which you could look at a contract, but I like going down it.”

Musing on the rabbit hole into which attorneys must often disappear reminds Jackson that there was a time when he “didn’t know how much ... [he] didn’t know.”

But even when Jackson was unaware of the vastness of the legal field, his sights were set on it. While he was earning his undergraduate degree at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, this interest manifest itself as a desire to work for a law enforcement agency such as the TBI.

Later, it revealed itself in a desire to become an attorney and work as a prosecutor.

Eventually, it spilled onto the pages of an essay he composed while in law school as part of a successful effort to secure Wagner & Wagner’s annual Civil Justice Scholarship.

“Holding negligent parties accountable for their actions fosters confidence in the public in its ability to freely participate in society,” Jackson wrote, suggesting that law school was already molding him into a legal thinker. “One can imagine the hypothetical alternative – that our society does not protect the rights of the injured plaintiff against negligent parties.

“It’s easy to imagine ... that the public’s confidence in its ability to freely participate in society would be dramatically low. The imposition of a duty on all to not place others at a foreseeable and unreasonable risk of harm balances the interests of all members of society.”

Moot court set Jackson’s feet on the path he’s now walking. “I realized I wanted to help people navigate the legal system,” he says.

When Wagner & Wagner presented Jackson with the opportunity to practice at the firm, he readily accepted.

The offer not only opened the door to the legal profession but also brought Jackson close to his childhood home of Hixson – the town to which he intends to someday return.

“I never questioned coming back to the Chattanooga area,” he says. “I love this city and hope I can help the people who live here and need my assistance.”

Part of Jackson’s love of the Scenic City region is rooted in its outdoor amenities. Chief among these is kayaking. When the weather permits, Jackson can be found paddling across Chickamauga Lake, the Tennessee River, or any of the city’s other navigable waterways.

“Chattanooga is a great city for kayaking because everything is connected. You could make a loop around the city. It’s a great was to relieve stress.”

Jackson also relieves pressure by playing guitar or piano, although he classifies himself as only “kind of a musician.”

He also occasionally returns to Figgy’s – as a customer. This hasn’t stopped his father from putting him to use, though.

“When I went there for lunch today, he had me get change at the bank,” Jackson laughs. “I charged him a sandwich.”

But even in these moments, Jackson’s thoughts are never far from his next dive down the rabbit hole.

“I like surveying the way people are affected by our laws because some things were not tailored to fit the needs of the individuals who are subject to them,” he muses. “You can read what a law says, but what gave rise to it? What made our legislature believe we needed it to be a law? What went into turning it into a law?

“There are all kinds of ways to screw things up. And that’s why attorneys are important.”