Current law firm or association: Steptoe & Johnson PLLC
Law School: Wake Forest University School of Law
Undergraduate: Transylvania University
Spouse: Candace Smith, who incidentally is also a member in Steptoe’s Lexington office
Children: Wickliffe, 18 months. We found out we would be having a kid the same day they canceled the SEC tournament in 2020, so the early COVID ride was especially weird for me. Current home town: Lexington, Kentucky
Favorite bar or restaurant in current home city? Why?: I can’t choose just one. I think I can narrow it down to five, though!
- Cole’s 735 Main because they execute everything so well and the bar is so cozy in the winter
- Pearl’s because it’s so playful—who doesn’t want a dozen raw oysters and a truffle pizza?
- Standing Room Only, because the Japanese bar snacks they put together blow my mind every time
- Bar Ona, because the cocktails are phenomenal and the space is great
- ItalX, because I like the lighter, contemporary take on Italian food
EMLF Involvement: I’m currently a trustee at large, and work with the Alternative Energy Task Force.
Where did you grow up? Lexington, Kentucky
What is your area of practice? Commercial Litigation and Corporate Counseling
How did you get involved in that area of law? I knew I wanted to practice commercial litigation coming out of law school, but picked up a transactional/corporate counseling practice in 2015 when a mid-level associate in that group left the firm I was with at the time and I volunteered to learn the work then. I found that I enjoy doing both.
How much of your time is spent representing clients in the coal, oil and gas, or other energy industries? Depending upon the month or year, it varies, but I’ve always worked about 40-65% in various forms of energy from the beginning of my career. I’ve worked in coal, oil & gas, and now alternative energies like solar. I represent utilities as well.
You have spoken at a couple of EMLF events and have been involved in EMLF committees. Has that involvement benefited you? If so, how? The nice thing about EMLF is that both private practice attorneys and industry professionals are involved. Getting to know other practitioners working in these areas has been so helpful because people have been forthcoming, sharing both challenges and successes, as well as outlook. It’s extremely important to get input on issues facing the industry from outside your own firm, as it might challenge the way you see a problem.
Now that some of the COVID-related restrictions on restaurants, gatherings, and travel are ending, is there anything in particular that you have done or look forward to doing soon, that you were not able to do during the shutdowns? While we’ve been open for a bit now in Kentucky, I had to cancel a trip to Europe in the summer of 2020. I’d love to make that happen.
You’re still a young lawyer, but have been practicing for a few years. Looking back, what two or three things have been most helpful to you in developing as a lawyer and as an attorney at your firm? The two most important things for my development have been client access and trust. From my first year, I’ve had the opportunity to deal directly with clients and learn what various clients want, need, and expect. That’s so important to a young lawyer’s development. In addition, I’ve been lucky enough that the firm has trusted me to take the lead on major projects and litigation from a relatively young age, which has been such a great motivator.
Is there any advice you would give to new lawyers and law students who are about to become lawyers? Ultimately, the point of your professional existence is to make sure your client’s business gets done, whatever that may be. Obviously, hard work is a hugely important factor in creating success for yourself in a firm environment. That said, the most important thing for me has been a willingness to take on new issues or types of projects and learn new things so that you can help your clients with whatever they might need. As a young lawyer, don’t be afraid to say “yes” to things that might put you outside of your comfort zone.