TB Profile: Cathy Speers Johnson

When did you know you wanted to be an attorney?

I thought I wanted to be a school teacher. Then, my smart mom, who was a fabulous, dedicated school teacher, said, “Honey, why don’t you go to law school?” So I did.  My mom was discouraged about the pay for teachers for the hard work that they do.

In law school, I gravitated toward family law. I have a huge love for children and a desire to protect them. Being a divorce attorney, I do a lot of direct and indirect child advocacy.  I guide my clients to think about how their actions and statements in the midst of their divorce can help or hurt their kids.

I have loved my career. In my type of work, much of what I do is counseling people going through very difficult situations. I like being able to help them navigate through the tough times they are facing.  I have been divorced, so I truly can tell my clients that I know how gut wrenching it is.

How did you choose your specialty?

I started in Atlanta for three years doing both family and employment law. From the beginning, family law was my favorite.

That said, employment law was enticing because the facts were juicy and the cases can be complicated.  Sexual harassment cases and hostile work environment cases show a lot of human nature in them.

In 2001, I moved to Stites & Harbison in Nashville and focused almost exclusively on family law.

Why did you choose Thompson Burton?

I really enjoyed my time at Stites and loved my team there. At the same time, I had three kids and needed more flexibility in my professional schedule. I wanted the option of working from home some days without feeling like I was letting others down in some way.  I have an awesome home office that allows me all I need to work a full day…while doing a few loads of laundry.

Ronn Steen joined Thompson Burton in February 2014 and reached out to me a few months later.  I liked what I heard about the firm, and I liked the folks I met.

The firm had the right business model for someone like me. It’s very flexible – adjusting to fit how and from where you want to work.

What makes a successful client relationship?

Communication is the most important factor in family law relationships. There is a lot of emotion and commotion.  I am grateful for my undergraduate minors in psychology and family and child development. I use them both a lot.

The divorce process usually takes six to nine months, so I have to stay in touch with our clients regularly. My paralegal, Jackie Dusek, also does a ton of communicating with our clients.  They reach out to her when I am tied up, and she is remarkable.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I spend a lot of time with my husband and children.

For fun, I love to travel. It’s one of the biggest line items in our family budget.  Memories being made that I will never forget.  It is good to get away from work, too.  Clears my head.  My husband works super hard, too, so we need breaks to unwind and catch up.

We went to the British Virgin Islands last September. I’m looking forward to a trip Italy in July.

And we have two Florida family trips already on the books for this year. Good times!