A periodic Q & A session with a Lewis Thomason (LT) lawyer
LT: When did you decide to become a lawyer?
Cheryl Estes: I always wanted to be a lawyer. My parents were concerned because the job opportunities for female attorneys at that time was not particularly great. This was reinforced when one of the senior partners confided in my mother (he had not made the connection!) that his firm would never hire a girl lawyer. Luckily, he reconsidered.
LT: What has been the highlight of your legal career so far?
Cheryl Estes: There have been three cases that stand out for me and I really cannot decide which case has been more important. First, I have the first reported Title IX case in the 6th Circuit. I had been retained by the client based upon a referral from another lawyer. While I would like to think it was my then expertise in Title IX, the true story is that the lawyer who made the referral had confused Title VII with Title IX.
The second case was a “bet the company” type case – whether a holder of a subordinated debenture had the right to set off his debenture against the company. If we had lost that case, the client would have been bankrupt. Fortunately for us and the client, we were able to obtain summary judgment in favor of our client.
The third case was a six-day trial against the EEOC. The EEOC had sued our client claiming that it had allowed sexual harassment to occur, retaliated against the former employee and was seeking an astronomical amount of damages. Fortunately, for us, our client refused to back down from the EEOC. After a six-day jury trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of our client. After the denial of a motion for a new trial, the government did not appeal.
LT: What do you enjoy most about being a lawyer?
Cheryl Estes: As you can probably tell by the summary of cases I mentioned above, I like the variety that my practice offers. Additionally, I have been fortunate to have some really great clients, many of whom are now close friends.
LT: You’re stranded on a desert island – what music are you listening to?
Cheryl Estes: I am not listening to music – I am frantically trying to find a broadcast of a Cardinal baseball game, Memphis Tiger football game, or Memphis Tiger basketball game.
LT: What is one of the funniest moments in your legal career so far?
Cheryl Estes: I started working at the firm when I was 19 years old as a runner. I had hoped that I could magically become an associate after law school and no one would notice! I left work during my third year of law school to be on the Editorial Board of the Law Review. At that time, members of the Editorial Board were not allowed to have outside employment. Al Harvey was in charge of hiring new associates at that time. I have him my resume. It listed Al Harvey as a reference and described my job duties at the firm. Al called two weeks later and told me to “just come on back”. I never asked about salary, benefits or anything else. I have been here ever since.
LT: What book is on your bedside table?
Cheryl Estes: In deference to the Democrats in the office, I will not disclose the title.
LT: If you could change careers, what would you choose?
Cheryl Estes: I am still waiting to be asked to be the Commissioner of Baseball.
Cheryl Rumage Estes is a shareholder in the Memphis office. She has represented school boards, educators and administrators in a variety of legal matters including, but not limited to, employee and student rights, special education, disability accommodations, civil rights matters, tort liability, and individual teacher liability issues. Additionally, she has worked extensively in representing various superintendents and boards in prosecuting tenured teacher dismissal hearings. Mrs. Estes has served as a hearing officer in dismissal cases. She also has represented universities and insurers of educators.