TB Profile: Meet Attorney J.K. Simms

When did you know you wanted to be an attorney?

While it was somewhat in the family because my grandfather was a tax attorney, I did not really know that I wanted to be an attorney until about a year after graduating from high school.

I absolutely hated high school and took a year off when I graduated because I did not know what I wanted to do, but I knew I did not want to go in to 13th grade. The time off was great and really helped me. I worked, read a lot and met a lot of people, some of whom loved their careers and others who were still trying to figure what they wanted to do.

It was during this year “off” that I knew I wanted to be an attorney. When I went to college the next year, I treated it like a job and prepared myself for law school. I knew what it would take for me to get in to law school and was steadfastly focused in college on getting there.

Years later, here I am doing something I absolutely love.

How did you choose employment law?

Two things sparked my interest.

I wrote for the Tennessee Law Review while in law school. The case note I wrote to make it on to the Law Review was an employment law case.  I found the facts of that case and the applicable law to be interesting.

Then I worked on employment-law cases my first week as a clerk at a Nashville law firm. I knew by the end of that week that I wanted this to be my area of focus. I was fortunate that the leader of the employment law practice at the firm where I began my practice attorney was a great mentor and in addition to learning from her, she really made the practice of law fun for me.

What do you enjoy most about employment law?

I am fascinated by the interpersonal dynamics and relationships at play in this area of law. So many employment law cases, at some level, are about the breakdown of a relationship or a breakdown in communications.  Each case teaches a lesson that I can pass on to my clients so that they do not find themselves in litigation.

My clients are most often the companies that want to avoid lawsuits, or at least minimize the risk of litigation, in a tricky area of the law. It’s satisfying to help my clients avoid issues or minimize risk where could have made a major mistake even though they did not intend do.  I can never guarantee my clients that they will not be sued, but I am passionate about helping them navigate this terrain so that, if they are sued, they have effectively minimized their risk and have a strong defense in litigation if it arises.

I also enjoy litigation defense.  I love taking depositions and being in court, whether it be at the trial court or appellate court level.

So my practice is a mixture of preventative medicine and triage work.

What makes a successful client engagement?

A client who trusts you.

For example, one of the worst things attorneys sometimes experience is learning something about a client for the first time in a deposition or when he or she is on the witness stand.  I want my clients to be honest about everything from the beginning. I can’t change the facts in a case, but if I know all of them I can help the client manage the situation in a way that minimizes the risk or the damage.

It is up to me to set the tone in the attorney – client relationship where the client trusts me as their advisor and counselor throughout the relationship.

What do you do when you’re not practicing law?

I have three children: a sophomore in college, a junior in high school and a fifth grader.  They are in very different life stages but my wife and I adore our kids and love spending time with them.  We love to travel and cherish those experiences with our kids.

Also, my wife and I love going to concerts. We were young parents with our first being born when I was only 22, so we’re doing later in life what most people do in their 20s. Most of the concerts we go to have a lot of people in their 20s and 30s, but we are that age at heart I guess.

In the fall, I’ll be at every University of Tennessee home football game. Go Vols!