Love of public service drives Caldwell to law school role

Law Talk profile for The Memphis Daily News

May 23, 2013

In 2008, the Tennessee Supreme Court laid out a strategic plan to get attorneys more involved in pro bono work.

Though it isn’t required of the state’s professionals, there is an inspirational goal of 50 hours per year of public service that is heavily encouraged by the justices.

At the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, however, students are required to complete 40 hours of pro bono during their school career.

Callie Caldwell, public interest law counselor for the school, said that approach will benefit students when they leave school to practice.

“We wanted our students to get in there, dig in while they’re in law school, learn those skills and be very comfortable doing pro bono work so that when they graduate they’ll be able to quickly transition and be used to doing the kind of work that comes along with what’s typically considered as pro bono,” she said.

In that capacity, Caldwell’s work is two-fold as the director of the pro bono program: monitoring students and creating placement within their interests in a field with working lawyers of the community. With career services, she counsels and guides students that want to work in the world of public interest.

Students can’t start working until they’ve had at least 15 hours of coursework completed, usually in their second semester. They work with attorneys on projects such as the law school’s monthly pro se divorce clinic or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, working to allow the children of immigrants to stay in the country for up to two years and obtain a driver’s license, work, go to college or join the military … (read more)


Word finds passion with Vaco, Women’s Alliance

Memphis Standout profile for The Memphis Daily News

May 17, 2013

In her six years as a CPA, Ginna Word has seen the industry from both sides of a spreadsheet, as an auditor for Deloitte & Touche, and as a corporate, in-house accountant for The ServiceMaster Co.

The disparate views, she said, have given her a distinct advantage in her current position as recruiter for the Memphis office of Vaco, an upper-level placement and consulting firm.

The Clarksdale, Miss., native and University of Mississippi graduate came to Memphis after receiving a master’s in accounting from Ole Miss to work for Deloitte & Touche, where she’d interned during college.

“I tell people all the time that, graduating from accounting, there is no better way to start a career; you get exposure to so many things,” she said of her tenure at Deloitte & Touche. “What other job can you say that within a year you can be sitting down in the office of a CFO of a public company interviewing them and asking them about their processes and talking with them about their financial statements?”

Word worked at Deloitte & Touche for four years before leaving for ServiceMaster, where she spent a year. When an opening became available at Vaco, she jumped, and it was there that she said she had an epiphany.

“I realized after six years in accounting that, it’s not that I didn’t enjoy it – and I learned a lot from it and I wouldn’t trade the experience I had – but I just didn’t love it,” she said. “I wanted that feeling of really having a passion for what I do every day.”

That passion was found at Vaco where, at first, she was “scared to death,” she said, working in the people business to “match very talented people with great companies.”

There has been a shift in the past few years in the recruitment and staffing game. First, as people were laid off in the recession and frantic for work, and now, as things have calmed and evened out, more people are beginning to look around, not for just anything that might come along, but for a career advancement or change … (read more)


Medlock takes talents from soccer field to courtroom

Law Talk profile for The Memphis Daily News

May 16, 2013

After graduating from Germantown High School, Steven Medlock left Memphis for the bluegrass of Western Kentucky University.

With a full-ride scholarship for soccer, his goal became to play in the big leagues. After graduating college in 2006, he played midfield center for the semi-pro New Orleans Shell Shockers. Though it was an exciting time, Medlock said, it was a long eight months spent living in a hotel room on Canal Street when not on the road.

“I made the decision after that one season to hang up the cleats, I didn’t really have a future in that,” he said. “It was awesome and I had a fantastic time, but I couldn’t survive on $250 a week for life.”

Medlock used his time in New Orleans to study for the GRE and entered the graduate program at the University of Memphis for a master’s degree in political communication and rhetoric. During that time, he kept his foot on the pitch by coaching soccer at Germantown High School and Memphis University School, and in a club league in Collierville.

His intention was to go on and earn a doctorate, but he found he wasn’t interested in a life of academia. The legal profession, in contrast, would be “promises of golden riches,” he laughs now. He was always interested in the law and looked up to friends and mentors, Nick Tansey and assistant district attorney Chris Lareau. He met both through a local men’s soccer league … (read more)


Family’s values led Bradshaw to life’s mission

Memphis Standout profile for The Memphis Daily News

May 10, 2013

Fittingly, Kenya Bradshaw can trace her life’s mission back to her childhood and a family that valued public service.

As the executive director of the Memphis chapter of Stand for Children Tennessee, it is just such a background that bolsters her in the day-to-day struggle to make education available to everyone as early as possible.

“I feel like, if Memphis is ever to reach its fullest potential, the greatest vehicle through which we can get there is by investing in our children through early childhood education, early home visitation and in also having a strong K-12 public education system,” Bradshaw said.

The Whitehaven High School alum was born in Miami but moved to Memphis at a young age. For college, she went east to the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga where she received an undergraduate degree in marketing and international business. The goal, clearly, was to make her mark in the corporate world of products and finance.

“My life’s ambition was to design the next Coca-Cola product or work for FedEx,” she said. “When I went to college I knew that I was going to work in marketing.”

While in school, Bradshaw participated in the program Student Support Services, which helped her to be able to finish school. Once she graduated, she was given the opportunity to work for the program and quickly moved into management.

“It still is one of the greatest experiences of my life because I could directly see the work that I did translated into changing the lives of my students,” she said.

Though she cherishes the education she received at Whitehaven, she felt she was unprepared to be competitive in college and saw the same situation for incoming students at UT … (read more)


I want a second chance to be a band geek

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

May 9, 2013

Wanted: a second chance to be a band geek

The story was all over my social media feeds last week. The principal of a low-performing school in Roxbury, Mass., let his security staff go to help pay for more arts teachers. It was another of those stories I ignored at the time, knowing that if I found I was interested in reading it later, then it would be there; stories have a way of circling around and coming back to us. And this one did just that as I sat in the audience twice in the past week for my sons’ band concerts at White Station Middle and High Schools. It’s the type of setting where a story on the importance of funding arts programs in schools might be set to the music of Gershwin.

If you’ve never been to a concert at that level, it is nothing less than extraordinary. I wasn’t in the band in high school. Band geeks, that’s who was in the band. It turns out there is no shame in that. Just the opposite: It’s a moniker worn with pride. There may be no other instance of students working so closely together with their teachers than in a school auditorium as they give a performance everything they’ve got. They all have a stake in it. They’re all trying to make this thing — this arrangement — sound as whole and as perfect as possible. To do such a thing takes more than mere talent: It takes teamwork.

Many of the professional musicians I know all came to their instruments through their secondary schools’ band programs. How many adults today do you know who can show a direct line from middle school to their careers? The conductors on stage this past week — Mr. Wright, Mr. Guinn and Mr. Scott — are the Pied Pipers of our children, leading them into something that, even if they don’t make a job of it, they will use in some way or other their entire lives.

In a recent conversation, Dru Davison, performing arts coordinator with Memphis City Schools, hit on the ability of music to facilitate all learning when he spoke of the many jazz ensembles in the schools and the art of improvisation.

“You can recite someone else’s piece of music, or you can take everything you know about music and create your own, and that kind of creativity and innovation is really what employers are looking for,” Davison told me. “It’s about being college- and career-ready, and if you have kids in a jazz band, you know that they’re showing up on time for every rehearsal or else they can’t perform.”

That school in Roxbury, Orchard Gardens Elementary, has shown a vast improvement in its test scores, in its morale and in its security issues even without the aid of a police force. They’re working as a team now — students, teachers, administration — to make their arrangement the best that it can be.

If I had it all to do over again, would I be a band geek? You bet I would. I would be awful, mind you, but I would try my hand at the saxophone or the clarinet or maybe even the tuba. In lieu of talent, I sit in the audience as a music lover.

I’m a proud parent of public schoolchildren, and I’m with the band.

Permanent link to The Commercial Appeal


Path to law career began early for McLaughlin

Law Talk profile for The Memphis Daily News

May 9, 2013

Julie McLaughlin has worked her way up the legal ladder for much her life.

Beginning with a degree in paralegal studies from Hinds Community College in Raymond, Miss., and then a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Memphis, the final rung was earning a law degree from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 2001.

The Pickens, Miss., native said she knew she wanted to be an attorney as early as the eighth grade.

“My uncle is an attorney in Jackson, Miss., and I just became fascinated with the law,” McLaughlin said. “I don’t know why at that age, but I did and I never changed my mind.”

During her time in law school, McLaughlin says she was “always very impressed with the professors” she had there and was lucky enough to have several mentors to look up to, especially Ernest Lidge, who helped her get an externship with the Labor Board.

McLaughlin worked with Magistrate Judge Diane Vescovo, who mentored her on the practical application of the law as an extern as well.

“Everything in law school is book, book, book, and then when you get out it’s a whole new world, so having those kinds of experiences to fall back on really helps,” she said.

McLaughlin has been with the Kiesewetter Law Firm PLLC since late last year, and has focused her practice over the years on labor and employment law, employee benefits and corporate law. It’s an area she was introduced to during her second year of law school as a clerk for Weintraub, Stock, Bennett & Grisham, now The Weintraub Firm PC … (read more)


Barbecue Bible

Centerpiece feature for The Memphis Daily News

May 6, 2013

Memphis institution Corky’s publishes cookbook

For 29 years, Corky’s Ribs & Bar-B-Q has been serving up pulled pork and ribs with a side of beans, slaw and innovation.

In 1984, founder Don Pelts, who owned The Public Eye in Midtown at the time, was waiting patiently for the location at 5259 Poplar Ave. in East Memphis to come available. When it finally did, he found himself surrounded by fast food joints, so he added his own drive-thru.

When devotees in other states called clamoring for the smoked pork in their own kitchens, he shipped it to them via FedEx.

When Pelts thought not enough food lovers knew the name, he began selling his wares on QVC.

Another milestone in the Corky’s empire happened last week when the cookbook “Cookin’ With Corky’s” went on sale.

“He would tell you right now, all he was hoping for was that he would make enough money to pay his bills; he is a pessimist by nature,” Barry Pelts said of his father, who has retired and passed the business down to his son and son-in-law, Andy Woodman.

The 240-page book, with 165 recipes and 200 photos that include vintage pictures from the Corky’s collection and new from local photographer Jay Adkins, is published by Favorite Recipes Press of Nashville. The publisher works with nonprofits, companies and individuals, and has published 1,500 cookbook titles since 1961.

The local representative for Favorite Recipes Press, Sheila Thomas, has worked on specialty cookbooks for the Junior League of Memphis and the Women’s Exchange, and has sold cookbooks on QVC for years. It was in the green room at the station one day that she sold the idea of a Corky’s cookbook to Jimmy Stovall, purveyor of barbecue on the home shopping channel.

“He really saw the vision for it,” Thomas said.

Stovall has worked for Corky’s for 15 years, beginning in the drive-thru line and working his way up the ladder. He now manages the Cordova restaurant as well as spending about 100 days per year in West Chester, Pa., working on-air with QVC.

Stovall’s longevity with the restaurant is not a fluke; Barry Pelts said the average employee has been with the company for 18 years. It’s a family, and that is the primary theme of the book, which took about a year to put together … (read more)


Harper finds newest adventure at Community Foundation

Memphis Standout profile for The Memphis Daily News

May 3, 2013

When Memphis native Ashley Harper graduated from Central High School and left town, it was for the mountains.

First, for Fort Collins and Colorado State University nestled in the Rocky Mountains where she majored in English and entertained lofty plans of working with metaphors, imagery and language.

Upon her return to Memphis, she did just that working for Burke’s Bookstore for seven years.

When she left Memphis a second time, Harper once again found herself atop a mountain. This time, though, it was Machu Picchu. She, husband, Dan, and their two small children, Flannery and Gus, 5 and 1 at time, respectively, moved to Lima, Peru, in 2000. The couple taught English at a private bilingual school.

She describes the experience of living in a foreign country as “excellent” and “phenomenal.”

“We miss it every day,” she says and would recommend such an adventure to anyone who has the opportunity. “I’m not a traveler, I’ve never done much traveling, but being somewhere and learning to fit in, that’s what I like.”

Back in Memphis in 2004, Harper volunteered at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as an interpreter. Responsibility loomed and the need for paying work led her to Hands On Memphis where she was the “last man standing” before that entity’s merger with Volunteer Memphis … (read more)


Coupé works to protect city’s most vulnerable

Law Talk profile for The Memphis Daily News

May 2, 2013

As supervising attorney over both the Judge’s Action Center and the Office of Advocate for Noncustodial Parents at Memphis-Shelby County Juvenile Court, Tom Coupé works to ensure that the most vulnerable members of society are being fairly and equally represented.

“The Judge’s Action Center started as an outreach to the public to assist them with any questions or concerns they have about the court,” Coupé said.

The Memphis native graduated from the University of Memphis in 1995 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science. After graduating, he worked in the restaurant industry at varying capacities, saying, “While I enjoyed it, it wasn’t a good long-term plan for me.”

At the age of 29, he re-evaluated his goals and left town for the first time with a scholarship to the Southern Illinois School of Law. While in school, he planned to join the district attorney’s office and become a prosecutor, but a lack of opportunity at the time led him instead to the Shelby County Department of Children Services in 2004, where he began his legal career.

“I just kind of fell into that line of work,” Coupé said. “I never thought I was going to be a child welfare attorney, but here it is 10 years later and I’m certified as a child welfare law specialist and this is what I do and this is what I love.”

From Shelby County, he moved to Middle Tennessee to work with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services in Williamson County. The Judge’s Action Center was put into place in 2007, the year Coupé first began working with Juvenile Court. Prior to that he had traveled around the state as a court improvement attorney with the Administrative Office of Courts, training judges, lawyers and court personnel on best practices in child welfare law … (read more)


Commitment to Memphis shows in Wolowicz’s work

Memphis Standout profile for The Memphis Daily News

April 27, 2013

Melissa Wolowicz is up with the chickens every morning, working to make Memphis a better place.

The new vice president of development for BRIDGES has been raising chickens in her backyard since she, husband Shawn and son Grayson moved into Midtown and a house shaded by a canopy of trees.

Before the chickens and BRIDGES, however, Wolowicz was vice president of grants and initiatives for The Community Foundation of Greater Memphis.

The Frayser native and White Station High School graduate attended the University of Memphis for a bachelor’s degree in social work and the University of Tennessee College of Social Work for her master’s degree. As part of her master’s curriculum, she became an intern for The Community Foundation.

“I knew I wanted to help people,” said Wolowicz, who originally began in the psychology program at the U of M. “I quickly figured out that working one-on-one with people was too heavy for me.”

Jenny Koltnow, executive director of the Memphis Grizzlies Charitable Foundation, has worked with Wolowicz over the years and attests to her commitment to the city and the nonprofit community, saying she is “persistent, professional and widely admired.”

Wolowicz’s foray into social work came with an internship for Traveler’s Aid, an organization that assists individuals and families who are in transition, or crisis, and disconnected from their support systems … (read more)