How many of us can actually say we know the law? Do you know your basic rights? With everything going on in the media we should all protect ourselves with some basic knowledge of our local and constitutional rights. In addition, being observant of your surroundings and the individuals you surround yourself with because being with the wrong crowd can actually change your life. One “at the wrong place at the wrong time” could change your career path, freedom, and other aspects of your life. Also for those mentees looking to major in Pre-Law, take the LSAT, become a lawyer, and/or have their own practice I consulted with another one of my talented Line Sisters to get her first-hand perspective. Below is a Q & A with attorney Kortney D. Simmons.
What is your background (education and career)?
I graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in 2007 with a Bachelors in International Relations with a Spanish and Business Law double minor. I graduated undergrad a semester early I took an 8-month break before I started law school. I graduated law school from University of Mississippi School of Law (Ole Miss) in May 2011. Immediate after graduating I took the Bar Exam in July and began working at Divorce Incorporated in August 2011 as an associate attorney. I passed the bar exam on the first try and got sworn into the Tennessee bar in October 2011. In 2015 my 2 partners and I dissolved Divorce Incorporated and started Casey, Simmons and Bryant, PLLC.
What is your location? What is your area of expertise?
I am licensed to practice in Tennessee. I have offices in Jackson, Memphis, and Clarksville, Tennessee. I mainly practice across West Tennessee. My main areas of practice are criminal defense and family law.
What is the best advice for taking the LSAT and the Bar Exam?
Best advice for both tests is to study, study, study!! The LSAT tests your ability to think critically, while the bar exam tests your legal knowledge and ability to apply it to hypothetical situations. They are very different tests that you have to prepare for differently. I would strongly advise taking prep courses.
How was the journey to becoming a partner at your firm?
It was actually a fairly quick journey. Most people have to be with a firm several years before becoming an equity partner. I was blessed to be able to do it after only 4 years.
What basic laws do you think everyone should know? What are the most common unknown laws?
Everyone should know that a person can still be charged and convicted of a crime if they were with people that did it even if they didn't do the actual act. That's because of the doctrine of criminal responsibility. That means that you are criminally responsible for the actions of another if you were with them, you knew what was going on and don't do anything to stop it or separate yourself from them.
Another law that people should know is that the Tennessee theft statute includes actually stealing something or simply possessing stolen property regardless of you stole it or not.
What is the best advice to get through law school?
The best advice I could give would be to study hard, manage your time wisely and enjoy yourself. Law school is hard but it's not impossible, so as long as you do your work you can have fun and enjoy yourself. Just remember, this will be the last time you'll be in a school setting before you enter the "real" world, so have fun!
How do you prepare for a case where you may think your client is guilty or they have told you they are guilty?
I prepare the exact same way for every case. I defend people based upon the law, not necessarily on guilt or innocence. I have to make sure that my clients are treated fairly under the law and get a fair outcome regardless of guilt or innocence.
What is the most rewarding part of your career?
The most rewarding part of my career is getting to help those who can't help themselves and see the positive impact I have on their lives.
What is the least favorite part of your career?
I hate having to tell people that they are going to jail and I also hate seeing families torn apart due to divorce or custody battles.
What advice would you give mentees looking to start a law career and becoming a partner at a firm?
My best advice would be to find a mentor in the area you are interested in and try to get some hands on experience. While in law school do as many internships and externships as you can because law firms prefer to hire people with real world experience. Also, start making professional connections because that will open the door to several opportunities. And if you want to be a partner attorney, work hard and forge a good relationship with the current partners. They will notice your good work ethic and quality work and it will be rewarded in the long run. And if all else fails... Start your own firm and be your own boss!
Ladies I definitely learned something about the law through this Q & A. Make sure to protect your rights and your surroundings. Be in the know when it comes to basic laws. And to those menses on this career path I wish you the very best.