Darker’s diverse background translates into right career

The Memphis Daily News/The Memphis News

Nov. 21, 2013

Legalese is the formal language of the law that comes across as gibberish to those without a juris doctorate. For attorney Tatine Darker, though, it’s just one more etymological arrow in her quiver of languages.

Darker and Robert Amann have teamed together to open the Amann-Darker Law Firm in Midtown Memphis. Within the firm’s general practice areas of federal criminal and state criminal, immigration, divorce and personal injury cases, Darker plans to focus more on criminal and immigration law, her areas of expertise.

Born and raised in France to a French mother and American father who was a CBS correspondent, Darker moved around to places such as Russia and the Middle East as a child. Most of her time, though, was spent in the south of France and with a grandmother who had emigrated from Spain.

This multilingual upbringing has been an asset in her immigration practice and is much of the reason why she practices law in the first place. A freelance courtroom interpreter certified for French and Spanish in immigration court, Darker began to take notice of the proceedings and the players in the room.

“I thought, ‘You know what, I really want to be a lawyer. I don’t want to be just an interpreter,’” she said.

She received an undergraduate in languages and literature in France and began work as a teacher while there. A high unemployment rate among young college graduates was among the reasons she moved from the southern region of France to the southern region of the United States permanently in her early 20s. “I didn’t really like teaching that much, and I wanted to change careers and also make more money, so I came over here for the summer first to see how it went and one thing led to another and I stayed.”

She landed in Conway, Ark., her father’s hometown, teaching French at Hendrix College. After only a short time, she moved to Memphis as vice president of sales for the Hispanic newspaper La Prensa Latina.

Upon her judicial epiphany, she attended the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. After graduating with honors in 2008, she went to work for the federal public defender’s office as an appellate writer and researcher, which, she says, “was actually great training out of law school.”

Darker was promoted to assistant federal defender and, though she enjoyed the research, stepping out from behind the books and into the courtroom was an exciting change . . . (read more)


Family roots keep Lipscomb & Pitts on path

The Memphis Daily News/The Memphis News

Nov. 16, 2013

Lipscomb & Pitts was founded on Oct. 1, 1954, by Mathew Lipscomb Jr. and John Pitts, both veterans of World War II who had come home to become the top two sales leaders in the southeast for Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.

“I remember both of them working at night, working on the phones calling people, I’m talking about religiously every night for two hours a night,” Johnny Pitts, chief manager, said of his father and Lipscomb. “It was just a standard thing at our homes that both of them were very disciplined in their approach. They were committed to this business.”

Credibility in those days meant roots.

“You had to have your name on the building,” said Pitts – and the partners put down roots in 1956 by building their company’s home at 651 S. Cooper St., just north of Central Avenue. The building was more than they needed at the time, and the unused space was strategically rented to an accountant who would recommend clients to them, a claims adjusting firm to handle their claims, and an attorney. The insurance business grew to fill the building, which eventually had to be doubled in size.

Mat Lipscomb III and Johnny Pitts continue the legacy their fathers built when they opened Lipscomb & Pitts in 1954.

(Photo: Andrew J. Breig)

Lipscomb & Pitts began venturing into the world of commercial insurance in the early 1960s, with the hiring of the first salesman and fellow veteran Jack Gates. In 1979, Mat Lipscomb III went to work in the firm, followed two years later by Johnny Pitts, both hired to sell commercial insurance. Nothing was given to the sons. They worked in the business beginning as teenagers in the filing room, and, later, each worked for other insurance companies along the way.

“In ’89, they came to us and said, ‘We worked an arrangement where you guys are going to start managing the company,’” Pitts said. “Everything was real slow. From ’89 to ’92, we managed the company.”

The new partners agreed on a philosophical decision of how to improve the company, developing different and particular disciplines, such as divisions focused on commercial and personal lines, and developing an employee benefits division . . . (read more)


Howell handles tax burdens for small businesses

The Memphis Daily News/The Memphis News

Nov. 16, 2013

Imagine having to calculate the sales tax for your product sold across every state in the country.

Within those states, sales tax rates may vary from county to county, so imagine figuring that in as well. Most people don’t have the laser-like focus to comprehend such formulas.

This is where Anna Howell, director of state and local tax for CBIZ Memphis comes in. CBIZ is one of the largest tax, accounting and consulting providers in Memphis. Howell is a certified public accountant and a specialist in sales tax compliance and personal property tax.

Things are about to get a whole lot busier for Howell if the Marketplace Fairness Act, already passed in the U.S. Senate, is approved by the House of Representatives. The act, sometimes referred to as the “Internet tax bill,” will require online and catalog retailers to collect sales tax from consumers regardless of where they are, provided the company has sales of more than $1 million.

Simply put, under the current law, a supplier in Memphis shipping its product via common carrier to Arkansas is not required to collect sales tax from the customer. This will change with the Marketplace Fairness Act, and that supplier will be compelled to register and collect tax from that customer. It’s a heady, complex proposition for small businesses and large corporations alike.

“That’s why people would call me,” Howell said. “Because I have a practice that can prepare sales tax returns for every jurisdiction in the country, we do that for our clients. So a small business that doesn’t have a tax department or even know what the rates are – and especially can’t handle filing all of those returns – it’s a big burden.”

Howell grew up in nearby New Albany, Miss., and, coming from a family of Rebels, attended the University of Mississippi herself. She went with the intention of a medical career with sights set on pharmacy school, but a single class in accounting was enough to switch her from a life as pill counter to one as bean counter . . . (read more)


Daush takes love of teaching to association leadership role

The Memphis Daily News/The Memphis News

Nov. 15, 2013

Barbara Daush, president of St. Agnes Academy and St. Dominic School, has recently been named chairwoman of the Southern Association of Independent Schools.

Daush was raised in Wilmette, Ill., on the north shore of Chicago, moving to Memphis with her family in the eighth grade and eventually graduating from Wooddale High School. Because of a dedicated and passionate high school teacher, Daush went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in classics and Latin from the University of Mississippi.

“The discipline of that language, it’s so structured that if one can be successful in Latin, then one will be more than likely successful in any other romance language because it’s the root of all of those,” she said.

At the University of Memphis, she received master’s degrees in guidance and counseling, and art and teaching with an emphasis on English and secondary education.

It was the love for a language that would lead Daush into the universe of independent schools.

“Most of the private schools taught Latin and not many of the public schools did, and the ones that did had a longstanding Latin teacher like Wooddale did,” she said. “So the only option for me at the time was in independent schools, and once I got on that path, I just stayed there.”

She taught for three years at Lausanne Collegiate School when it was an all-girls boarding school before moving to Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal School to teach Latin. Her favorite age range to teach would become seventh and eighth grades.

“I absolutely love teaching junior high,” she said. “I just find that age group so enticing. They’re still trying to please, yet they’re trying to find their independence. So it’s a lot of challenge but so rewarding to help them find their way.”

She became the school’s guidance counselor then its assistant head, and then served as interim head. After 12 years, she moved to head of the lower school at Hutchison School for four years before accepting her current position, where she celebrates her 20th anniversary this year . . . (read more)


Kelly garners accolade for pro bono work

Law Talk profile for The Memphis Daily News

Nov. 14, 2013

To wrap up October as Pro Bono Month, Pamela Williams Kelly of the Law Offices of Pamela Kelly was presented with the Celebrate Pro Bono Award from the Memphis Bar Association Access to Justice Committee and the Memphis Area Legal Services Pro Bono Project.

Kelly received the award for working on extended cases on behalf of indigent clients through the clinics offered by MALS.

“They said I had accepted the greatest number of cases, that’s either by volunteering my time for those clinics and just answering questions from people,” she said, adding, “I was just doing my part. … I was so surprised and so grateful.”

Kelly grew up about two hours from Memphis in North Carrollton, Miss., going to nearby Mississippi State University for a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations. While what to do after college wasn’t necessarily in the forefront of her mind, doing something creative was in the back.

She eventually found her calling in radio and wound up in Memphis working on promotions for FM-101 Jams. When the station was purchased by Clear Channel Communications, she took another path that would lead her to the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. It was a challenge undertaken as a divorced mother of four children, all under the age of 7.

“I was just really wiped out,” she said of the period following graduation in 1999. “When I was interviewing for jobs at that time, it was very much about billable hours, and I knew that I could not take care of my family and work a firm job.”

Instead, she delved into another passion – teaching. She taught physics and American government at Westwood High School. It was an experience, she says, that was “one of the best lessons I ever received. Those children are honest. If you’re slacking off as a teacher, they’ll tell you. It was a real awakening to me about what the educational system can feel like for teachers. … It’s a real struggle sometimes.”

She would go on to teach online legal classes for Strayer University and Axia College at the University of Phoenix, as well as onsite at Remington College . . . (read more)


Edwards finds green niche that makes a difference

Small Business Spotlight for The Memphis Daily News

Nov. 11, 2013

When Madeleine Edwards considered returning to the workforce in 2008 following time as a stay-at-home mom, she said she wanted to do “something that I felt like made a difference.” She was looking for a “green job.”

What she ended up doing would satisfy her environmental soft spot as well as the first rule of entrepreneurship – she found a niche and filled it.

It was a niche she didn’t even know existed. In her spare time she had been helping her brother-in-law collect plastic water bottles from Presbyterian Day School, where he worked, and hauling them to a recycling center. He suggested the school might be able to pay her for her time.

Madeleine Edwards of Get Green Recycling has a list of clients that include restaurants, bars, schools, offices, churches and retailers.

(Photo: Andrew J. Breig)

From these altruistic beginnings grew Get Green Recycleworks. Edwards has a list of clients that include restaurants, bars, schools, offices, churches and retailers who contract with her to pick up and haul away recyclable items. The city of Memphis does not provide such services to businesses and the larger waste management firms won’t typically accommodate the smaller organizations that Edwards counts as customers.

The business foundation was built after reading an article on Margot McNeeley and her nonprofit startup Project Green Fork, which helps restaurants reduce their environmental impact.

“At the end of the interview I put a plea out there and I said, ‘If there is anyone out there that wants to start a recycling business, that’s the missing piece to making this whole Project Green Fork thing happen,’” McNeeley said.

Edwards responded and the two women came together with McNeeley helping Edwards formulate a business plan.

“All along the way, we’ve grown together and kind of been unofficial partners,” Edwards said.

People tend to confuse her operation with Project Green Fork, or think the two entities are intertwined. They are not.

Get Green’s collection trailer is wrapped in the Project Green Fork logo because McNeeley won a grant to buy the trailer, which Edwards leases from her. It’s a win-win, providing McNeeley’s nonprofit with regular income and Edwards with a large enough conveyance to handle her workload . . . (read more)


Kelley shares Memphis stories as Public Defender assistant

Memphis Standout profile for The Memphis Daily News

Nov. 8, 2013

Lurene Kelley loves to tell a good story. These days she’s sharing some important stories that often go unheard in her role as special assistant for organizational communications in the law offices of the Shelby County Public Defender.

She is involved with organizational and external communications for the office, as well as internal planning on special projects and public outreach.

One of those recent projects is Street Court for those with outstanding court debts to have them forgiven. It’s a second chance for them to get on with their lives and become productive citizens.

“It seems like a small thing,” Kelley said. “They can pile up into the tens of thousands, and the people that we’re helping are indigent. … It holds these people back.”

Kelley grew up in Butte, Mont., and went to Gonzaga University to study television journalism. As a reporter and anchor back in Montana, she met her future husband, Chris – then a minor league baseball player – and moved to Knoxville, where he was a student at the University of Tennessee. In 1995, when it came time for another move, she looked for work in four Southern cities. Memphis was the first to call.

“We came on the first day of Memphis in May,” she said. “It was the most fun time to move to Memphis, the weather was great and all the stuff going on. So we just kind of immediately fell in love, and we’ve been watching Memphis continue to change and evolve in a lot of ways.”

She went to work for WREG-TV as an on-air journalist. When the late-night police beat became too much, she began looking elsewhere for work and had to make the decision between a similar beat in a different city or returning to school.

She went to the University of Memphis and earned a doctorate in organizational communications. Teaching journalism at that level is a highly competitive field, and there was only one such position in Memphis at the time.

As her luck would have it, her professor – the holder of that one job – was retiring. She learned of the opening as she waited to walk at graduation . . . (read more)


Just call this dad appointment secretary

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

Nov. 7, 2013

How can we help our kids learn to enjoy the moment?

It’s a weekend morning and my kids are waking up. My weekend is over. The first words out of my daughter’s mouth: “What are we doing today?”

She needs her itinerary dictated to her as though she were a head of state. In some ways she is, though more dictator than elected official.

I tell her that we’re going to eat breakfast and drink coffee, read for a while, have some lunch and maybe lie around some more after that. It’s been a long week full of work, appointments, after-school activities and going, going, going. A bit of rest is well-deserved.

This isn’t going to fly. Things need to happen, playdates are to be arranged, a trip to the zoo, perhaps a little money spent on a movie. You could clean your room, I offer. Or the living room or kitchen. The conversation is momentarily halted due to laughter.

It wouldn’t be so bad, I don’t mind activity, it’s just that these kids need their out-of-school days mapped out for them. I punched “Saturday” into the Google Maps app on my phone for a little technological advice and one of the first options the search returned was “Saturday Night Live, 30 Rockefeller Center.”

I suppose that will work. “We’ll have breakfast, then watch SNL in 14 hours,” I tell her. She is not amused. Not even a 7-year-old finds “Saturday Night Live” amusing any more.

My other suggestion, that she run outside on a beautiful fall morning and see where the day leads, is met with just as much skepticism. When I was a kid (my daughter may spend the rest of the day rolling her eyes), we made up games, explored the neighborhood, rode our bikes and knocked on friends’ doors.

Nobody knocks on doors these days. We text or Facebook or make a phone call. All to plan a specific amount of play at an appointed time in a predetermined location for our children.

The other problem — I’ve planned my own day around complaining about this, so bear with me — is that as soon as they’re involved in an activity, they want to know what we’re doing next. It’s a lose-lose situation for parents. Just enjoy what we’re doing now, I implore them. “But you’re just drinking coffee and reading a book,” they say. Let’s just enjoy that.

Living in the moment is what it’s all about. It’s something to be taught at an early age. But how? It’s an idea more than a lesson plan. It’s something you learn by doing rather than as a classroom course. There is no textbook, but scattershot notes left in the margins of favorite books.

What are we going to do today? We’re going to seize the day. We’ll explore, we’ll wander, we’ll end up wherever the wind takes us and do whatever it is the natives there do.

“But what are we going to do next?”

They never appreciate that answer. That answer will always involve cleaning their rooms, washing dishes, picking up the living room or putting away laundry. Me? I’m going to seize a cup of coffee and a good book.

Permanent link to The Commercial Appeal


Box’s law career spurred by helping community

Law Talk profile for The Memphis Daily News

Nov. 7, 2013

Brad Box, a partner at Rainey, Kizer, Reviere & Bell PLC, has been named the 2013-2014 president of the Tennessee Defense Lawyers Association. The association is the state arm of the national Defense Research Institute, an organization committed to the exchange of ideas, technique and information.

“It’s a great honor,” Box said. “It’s just a great association for building skill and integrity … and having a voice for ourselves and our clients on issues that are important to the folks that are generally on the defense side of cases.”

Rainey Kizer has offices in Jackson, Tenn., and Memphis. Box, who lives in Jackson, has embraced the commute – with the majority of his work being Shelby County, state and federal cases.

“I consider myself as a Memphis lawyer,” he said.

Box is a civil trial attorney representing national and regional corporations in business, tort and insurance litigation, mainly on the defense side. It isn’t the area he thought he would focus on as he was working toward a bachelor’s degree in economics at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. “I thought I would do transactional work, and I never have.”

He grew up on the Tennessee River in Decatur County, Tenn., and may have been set on his path early in life when his father told him his name – Bradford David Box – “sounded like a lawyer.”

Whether the seed was planted then or not, he graduated from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 1994, having interned with Rainey Kizer between his second and third years of school. He told the firm during his internship exit interview, “Look, I’m coming to Jackson and y’all can hire me if you’re willing, but either way, I’m coming to your town.”

A firm believer in the importance of family and community, Box seeks such characteristics, not only in his private life but professionally as well. This is a key reason why he’s stayed with Rainey Kizer since the beginning . . . (read more)


Crosstown developers eye project’s ‘magic in the mix’

Small Business Spotlight for The Memphis Daily News

Nov. 2, 2013

It would seem the only thing that might hold up the locomotive that is the Sears Crosstown $180 million renovation at this point is a much-needed $15 million from the city of Memphis.

A lot of money, but not enough to worry project developers Todd Richardson and McLean Wilson, whose analogy – and attitude – is more pedal power than steam driven.

“You’re just kind of looking over your shoulder, making sure that everybody else is right there with you,” Richardson said.

Sears Crosstown developers McLean Wilson and Todd Richardson say the “magic is in the mix” for the massive project that aims to unite the community.

(Photo: Andrew J. Breig)

“The goal is to be in the finish line together,” Wilson added. “If there are any laggards who can’t keep pace with everyone else, that becomes a problem. We’re within an arm’s reach of everyone.”

It’s an idea that began as just that – an idea, a concept – a plan rooted in altruism and community. These are hardly the ideals that come to mind with multimillion-dollar development deals. The act of acquiring land and buildings to develop into something else is rarely based on ideals at all, but profit instead.

And yet, when Richardson and Chris Miner began discussing the idea, in 2009, of a contemporary art center and collaborative artist space with ongoing programming and a little retail thrown in, it was just these ideals that they had in mind. Community, collectives, synergy – it was all underneath an umbrella without a name, much less a home.

It wasn’t until the neighborhood – Crosstown – presented itself that the notion of Crosstown Arts became something concrete. And still there was no concrete. The idea expanded as other entities showed interest. There was the Memphis Teacher Residency Program and the Gestalt charter high school.

“How great would it be to have teachers and high school students and artists all under one roof?” Richardson mused. And further: “What if we did all this in the Sears building?”

It was a capricious thought, one brought up, Richardson said, “Not as an effort to take up space – even now, Crosstown Arts’ footprint is 45,000 square feet – but just simply as a way to rethink what could happen and to kind of reignite the conversation.”

The Sears building at Cleveland Street and North Parkway had been purchased in 2007 by Memphis-based investor group Crosstown LLC. Built in 1927 as a distribution center, and vacated in 1993, the building was left to deteriorate and haunt the neighborhood like a ghost of Christmas catalogs past.

After more than two years of work, including a year-long feasibility study, Richardson sat down with Scott Morris, founder of the Church Health Center, in May 2012, to talk about the possibility of a small satellite office in the building . . . (read more)