Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, March 21, 2014

Scope of the law impresses Morton

Attorney Jamie Morton remembers wishing she’d gone to law school, and then realizing there was no reason she couldn’t. She wasn’t married, she had no children, and although she liked her job, she’d been there eight years and was open to change.

“I knew some people who were lawyers,” she says. “They really liked their jobs, and what they did was different from what people typically think lawyers do. I realized that was something I could do.”

Morton took the LSAT with the intention of letting the results guide her decision. She did well, so she applied to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and the rest is recent history.

Morton entered law school with an interest in employment law. The breadth of options available excited her, though, so she took courses covering a variety of subjects.

Looking back, Morton says law school was a good experience. “That might not be the popular opinion, but I liked being in class and learning the different areas of law, and I enjoyed having discussions about not just what the law is but what it should be,” she says.

Morton worked as a summer clerk for Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz after her second year at law school. The firm interviewed her on campus, then invited her to come to Chattanooga to meet several of the partners, and then extended an offer for her to spend part of her summer working there. Once again, the scope of the law surprised Morton.

“I did a little bit of everything,” she says. “I did a lot of research, some initial drafting, and I tagged along with attorneys at depositions. The firm exposed me to as many things as possible so I could see what it’s like to be an associate.”

As with law school, Morton enjoyed her time as a clerk with the firm. “They had a lot of social events, and they went to a lot of effort to make sure we get to know everyone,” she says.

As summer ended, Baker Donelson offered Morton a job, allowing her to relax and enjoy her third year of law school more than if she’d been concerned about finding work. She first walked through the doors of the firm as an associate in August 2012.

Since then, Morton has been doing “a lot of things that fall under the umbrella of commercial litigation,” a good portion of which has involved financial institution litigation. While she likes the work, she especially enjoys interacting with the different partners. Once again, the depth of their varied experience has broadened Morton’s perceptions and understanding of the law.

“This firm has a lot of talented attorneys, and they all have different approaches to the law, and areas of expertise, and teaching styles,” she says. “Being here gives me a lot of opportunities to learn.”

The partners aren’t holding Morton’s hand but guiding her through the learning process. “Law school teaches you how to see the legal issues in a matter, and how to figure out their strengths and weaknesses,” she says. “But you learn the practical aspects of how to be a lawyer by doing them, so I’m glad Baker Donelson has put me in a position where I have places I can go for help, but I can also make decisions and gain experience on my own.”

Morton tends to see the different dimensions of a situation. For example, she likes the small firm culture at Baker Donelson, but is also impressed with her employer’s legal muscles. “The people here know each other, and like each other, and get along really well,” she says. “But at the same time, we’re a big firm, and we have the resources of a big firm. It’s a good combination.”

Morton also sees growth in the challenges inherent in the practice of the law. “When I’m doing something I haven’t done before – that’s challenging.” she says. “But growth comes from thinking about the ways to do something and figuring out which one is going to work the best.”

Morton has come a long way from her days as a customer service representative at U.S. Cellular. A Bristol, Tenn., native, Morton attended UT as an undergraduate. Although she earned a degree in communications, she worked at U.S. Cellular while she was in school, and by the time she graduated, she was in a leadership role in human resources. She liked the work, so she stuck with it until the idea of attending law school took shape.

Today, Morton is enjoying her new career as well as life itself. She and her husband, whom she married halfway through her first year of law school, have family scattered across the state of Tennessee and friends spread across the country, so they make a lot of weekend trips. When in town, they like eating out, running, hiking, and “experiencing the city.”

Morton is also showing signs of wanting to be involved in her profession and her community. She’s on the board of the Southeast Tennessee Lawyers Association for Women, and is mentoring a student at Howard High. “She’s at the point where she’s starting to think about college, so she needs someone she can talk with about that. I like helping her.”

Morton’s goals at this stage of her career are simple: to serve the partners for whom she works effectively and to become a valuable part of the firm by doing well in her role. Certainly, her ability to see the many dimensions in a matter will be an asset to her as an attorney, as will her interests and pursuits outside of the firm. Each thing she experiences will mold her both as a lawyer and as a person, and someday, Morton could find herself looking across her desk at her younger version of herself, and realizing she has an opportunity to open that person’s eyes to the depth and breadth of the law, much as her mentors are doing now.