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Editorial


Front Page - Friday, February 27, 2015

Hitting that sweet spot early in life




Attorney Justin Faith is a third-year associate at Gearhiser, Peters, Elliot & Cannon, where he has a general civil litigation practice. He’s an active board member of the Young Lawyers Division of the Chattanooga Bar Association. - (Photo by David Laprad)

By any measure, attorney Justin Faith has hit the sweet spot early in life. This can be illustrated with a simple inventory of the things going well for him.

The 29-year-old’s career is a good place to start. Faith is a third year associate employed at Gearhiser, Peters, Elliot & Cannon, a small and highly respected law firm in Chattanooga. The firm is a good fit for Faith, who’s in the embryonic stages of developing a general civil litigation practice. Rather than being shoehorned into one area of the law and given a narrow set of functions to perform, Faith has already handled every aspect of litigation through several types of cases, including commercial litigation, construction disputes, business matters, employment law, insurance claims, property matters, and appeals. This is more than he imagined doing this early in his career.

“Small firms throw you into the mix early on,” he says. “I like that.”

Faith also likes the firm in general. Although it’s a cold February morning, the walls are warm with the history of the place. The late Charles Gearhiser smiles at people from within a frame hung in a hallway. The inestimable Wayne Peters is in his office doing what he’s been doing since 1968 – practicing law. And Wade Cannon, with whom Faith handled a big construction trial in December and January, is in the copy room making copies.

“I clerked at a big firm, and I have friends at big firms, but that wouldn’t be the right fit for me,” he says. “This firm is large enough to handle the same types of major litigation as any sized firm in town, but also small enough to allow me to get to know all of the attorneys I work with on a personal basis.”

The work Faith has been doing has suited him well, too, as his personality lends itself to litigation. “I’m very analytical. I like to sit down, learn every aspect of the case on which I’m working, and then look at all of my options” he says. “I don’t make  rash decisions.”

One thing Faith was quick to do was commit himself to serving his community and his profession beyond the scope of his practice. As a member of the board of the Chattanooga Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division (YLD), Faith participates in the high school mock trials, writes wills for policemen, firemen, and EMTs during the annual Wills for Heroes event, and contributes to the YLD’s efforts to touch young lives through special projects that benefit CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates).

Through the local YLD, Faith also participates in free legal clinics throughout the year. “We’re devoting one week to Access to Justice in May,” he says. “We’ll be providing free legal clinics for the low-income, the elderly, and others who need help but might otherwise not go to a lawyer for legal advice because of cost or fear of the unknown.”

Faith is also on the board of the Tennessee Bar Association’s YLD, which has provided him with valuable leadership experience. For example, as publications committee chair, he’s in charge of covering events from Memphis to the Tri-Cities. “We send a monthly e-newsletter to every YLD member in the state called E-DICT, which features information about upcoming YLD events and ways to get involved. Through this, I’ve gained insight on YLD chapters across Tennessee, which has been helpful to improving the Chattanooga YLD,” he says.

If one thing has helped Faith hit than sweet spot early in life more than his work, it would be his fiancée, Brittany Thomas. As a fellow attorney, she understands the demands and rigors of the legal profession, and as his partner in life, she’s his perfect foil.

“She’s the exact opposite of me,” he says, smiling. “Whereas I’m reserved, she’s more in your face.”

Faith and Thomas are planning to get married in September, which means Faith is busy planning his bachelor party, wedding, and honeymoon. Although he’s going to make the most of all three, he expands on only the bachelor party. “It’s going to be in Las Vegas,” he says, his smile growing. “It won’t be my first bachelor party in Las Vegas, either, but I’m going to leave the details of that experience off the record.”

Faith does go on the record as saying he’s looking forward to life moving forward. He and Thomas purchased a house in Red Bank last year, where they “got a lot of house for the money,” and where they’ll both have easy access to work.

So, it seems all of the pieces of a good life have fallen in place for Faith. He has a promising career, a solid relationship, and a place to call home. Although some might say he’s lucky, he’s actually spent the last decade working toward this point.

Faith originally hails from Calvert City, Ky., a small town notable only for its proximity to Paducah. He was known for being a math whiz, though, and was considering a career in engineering or architecture when he shadowed a few attorneys during his senior year in high school.

While seeing first-hand what attorneys do got Faith thinking about the law, his undergraduate experience at the University of Louisville solidified his intent to go to law school. While there, he served as president of the Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society, vice president of the Harlan Scholar Pre-Law Program, and senator of the Student Government Association. Faith, who received a full tuition scholarship to attend Louisville, also earned several awards and distinctions, including the 2007 Joseph Mancini Leadership Award. Faith graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree, magna cum laude, in political science in 2008.

Faith then received his law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law, where he gained civil and criminal litigation experience by serving as a student-attorney in the U.T. Legal Clinic, at the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee, and at the Knoxville District Attorney General’s Office. While in law school, Faith also worked as a graduate research assistant, served on the Executive Board on the Student Bar Association, and served as a Research Editor on Transactions: The Tennessee Journal of Business Law.

Prior to joining Gearhiser, Faith served as the judicial law clerk for Judges Frank Brown and Jeffrey Atherton of the Hamilton County Chancery Court. He says he learned more during his time with the chancellors than he did in law school. “If you want to be a litigator, work for a state trial judge,” he says. “I was behind the scenes with two amazing judges for more than a year. It was a great experience.”

When Faith isn’t working, volunteering, or planning his wedding, he does other things he enjoys, like follow the University of Louisville Cardinals basketball team. His love for the Cards run so deep, he’s travelled to New Orleans and Atlanta to watch them win a national championship. “Through the help of a friend, and some creativity and luck, I was able to watch the second half the 2013 national championship game in Atlanta from courtside, about 20 rows up from Louisville’s bench. Those were probably four thousand dollar seats with a much better view than my nosebleed seats in the Georgia Dome.”

Faith also enjoys staying in shape and “binge watching crappy TV.”

So, yes, Faith has hit a sweet spot early in life. But that doesn’t mean he’s ready to settle into a groove. He says he took the job with Gearhiser because he wants a career, not a job, so a lot of hard work lies ahead of him.

The attorneys with which Faith works have carved out remarkable legacies over the decades. But it’s hard for him to think that far ahead. At this point, all Faith is hoping for is to someday be thought of not as a great attorney but a good person. Following in the wake of his fellow lawyers at Gearhiser can only help.

Next up, though, is the bachelor party, and like any wise attorney, Faith knows better than to talk about that.