A periodic Q & A session with a Lewis Thomason (LT) lawyer
LT: When did you decide to become a lawyer?
Hayes: By the time I graduated from college, I had narrowed down my career choices to lawyer, accountant or professor. I went to law school, assuming a law degree would help in any of those fields. When I got to law school, everyone else seemed to be planning to be a lawyer: (And I was prone to follow the crowd.) My fate was sealed when a wise, old adjunct named Larry Giordano suggested I should join his firm and give lawyering a whirl.
LT: What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Janet Hayes: Working with the “Blue Ridge Defense Team” has been one of my career highlights. It was a unique experience where the client was willing to pay a group of lawyers to each offer his/her strengths and creative ideas to defend a multi-million dollar “unwinnable” class action claim against a North Carolina paper mill. With our unique approach, we obtained summary judgment. Watching the magic that happens when lawyers are able to exercise unbridled creativity and excellence was both intriguing and fun.
LT: What is one thing on your bucket list and why?
Janet Hayes: I want to visit the Holy Land. I also want to endow a scholarship for someone who wants to go to college. Reasons for both are fairly obvious.
LT: What has been your greatest challenge as an attorney?
Janet Hayes: There is no doubt that balancing the demands of being an attorney with my desire to be a good mom has been my greatest challenge.
LT: What do you do in your spare time?
Janet Hayes: Spare time?? Although I can’t play golf, I spectate on a professional level. When the weather is good, I am usually walking a golf course watching my son chase a white ball. I also spend hours at the gym watching my daughter play basketball and at the pool watching her swim. I teach a small group at my church and lead a parenting class on the weekends (although I am totally unqualified to teach parenting). I am currently chairing the Board of Trustees at Carson-Newman University and, when my family is not cheering on the Big Orange, we are at CNU, cheering for the Little Orange. Tubing, waterskiing and other lake activities are staples for our family in the summer. I have raised chickens for the last six years but am now retiring from the chicken business, allowing raccoons and other varmints to claim victory. I live on a small farm and am helping my husband develop or own little apple orchard. Believe it or not, I know how to can fruits and vegetables, and I love to can apple butter. I also love to read and watch historical documentaries with my husband. (It is a sick way to have a date-night, but we are nerds at heart.)
LT: What famous person do you admire and why?
Janet Hayes: Corrie Ten Boom. A woman who demonstrated incredible courage, amazing wisdom, and the ultimate joyful spirit. She risked everything to help Jews escape Nazi invasion. Despite her detention in a concentration camp where she watched her father and sister die, she insisted on complete forgiveness and lived a life filled with joy. I have always been taken by her story (On a lighter note, I also admire all of the members of The Eagles because I think they are insanely talented.)
LT: What is your favorite thing to do in Memphis/Nashville/Knoxville?
Janet Hayes: I love to attend Broadway musicals at the Tennessee Theater.
LT: Describe your most memorable moment in a deposition or trial?
Janet Hayes: The “Dirty Words Deposition:” It was the deposition of a female Plaintiff who claimed she had been sexually harassed by several different male co-workers. The Plaintiff had her own history of making sexually suggestive statements and telling crude jokes (no way she really felt harassed). There were five male lawyers who questioned her before me, but, to my amazement, none of them would ask her about her own crude behavior. I began my questioning with a list of “dirty words” and sexually explicit stories the Plaintiff had told in the workplace. Every man in the room (which was everyone except the Plaintiff and me) turned red and began to fidget. The case was settled in the lobby after my questioning and Robert Watson, one of the more senior lawyers for a different defendant said: “Gentlemen, the little Baptist girl just taught us all how to man up.” I was so proud.
Janet Hayes, a Shareholder in the Knoxville office, is an advocate for employers and businesses across the state. Her practice is focused on employment and appellate law.
Ms. Hayes has successfully defended all types of employment claims including sexual harassment, retaliatory discharge, discrimination, workers’ compensation, invasion of privacy, wage/hour claims, and denial of benefits.