For Edd Peyton, the path to the legal profession was anything but traditional.
Raised in Yazoo City, Mississippi, Peyton’s parents always urged him to become a lawyer, but he instead opted to attend the Naval Academy.
Peyton graduated in 1993 and received a Master’s of Business Administration from Jacksonville University in 1999, but it wasn’t until almost 10 years after graduating from the Naval Academy that he reconsidered his parents’ longtime advice.
“In 2002, my father passed,” Peyton says. “I thought about how you don’t have infinite time, so I decided right then and there to go to law school.”
Peyton officially began his journey to the law profession in 2003 when he enrolled at the University of Mississippi School of Law and made the transition back to student life.
“The hardest thing about it was going from making money and already being out in the real world to being a student,” Peyton says.
He graduated with his juris doctor in 2006 and started his career working in employment law.
After a year, he decided he wanted to find a firm that not only had a reputation for trying a lot of cases but successfully trying them. That pursuit led him to the Lewis Thomason office in Memphis.
“If you are going to go somewhere and learn, go somewhere they are actually doing it. That’s how I ended up at Lewis Thomason,” Peyton says.
Peyton’s primary practice areas at the firm are medical malpractice, product liability and employment.
For a military man turned attorney, the obvious question might be, why did Peyton choose the private sector over Judge Advocate General (JAG).
Peyton says he talked to JAG representatives during his third year of law school but decided against it when he was told his rank would drop two notches from Lieutenant Commander to Lieutenant Junior Grade.
“If I was to come in wearing Lieutenant Commander bars just starting to try JAG cases, I may be trying a case before a guy who’s a judge of an equivalent rank,” Peyton says. “It kind of messes up the scheme. I wouldn’t lose credit for my years, but I would lose rank credit.”
He also did not want to be placed back on active duty.
“I missed a whole bunch of family things being gone,” Peyton says. “Like my brother’s graduation from high school, people getting married, people die and you can’t come home for the funeral. So it’s good to be close.”
In addition to his full-time law career, Peyton is still a commander in the Navy Reserve. He does regular monthly training and was recalled to active duty in 2013 and deployed to the Helmand Province of Afghanistan for a NATO Rule of Law Field Support Mission.
For nine months, Peyton and a group of fellow lawyers acted as advisors in local villages and explained how the legal system worked and guided individuals through the process of evidence, chain of custody and prosecuting cases.
The mission was intended to get people away from tribal judiciary customs and toward a statutory rule of law.
“The State Department was really responsible for civil law, the military was responsible for criminal,” Peyton says. “To show legitimacy of the legal system in general you needed to work on that civil piece, but the State Department didn’t have the resources to go out in these remote areas. So, they sent people like me.”
Whether an engineering officer aboard a destroyer, a weapons officer aboard a guided missile frigate or a Memphis attorney in a courtroom, Peyton continues to be a steward of the law.
See full story by Meagan Nichols in the Memphis Business Journal