1. Tell us about yourself.
I’m a 39 year-old professional musician, presently pivoting to a career in law.
I grew up in Northern Louisiana. For context, my hometown was the location for the filming of the reality television show “Duck Dynasty.” It’s a long drive from New Orleans, but I’m still very proud of my gumbo recipes.
I moved to Dallas in 2002 to pursue my bachelor’s degree in Jazz Studies at the University of North Texas. I play the double bass & piano in various jazz, bluegrass, rock, and classical ensembles, and have been performing all over the world as a full-time freelance musician for over a decade—to date, I’ve been to over two dozen countries across the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Australia.
Prior to being accepted to study law at SMU, one of my most interesting roles was Musical Director and pianist for The Polyphonic Spree, an internationally-acclaimed rock band. In 2016, we were honored to take part in an all-star tribute to David Bowie at Radio City Music Hall in New York. I’m also a founding member of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Bluegrass Band. You can catch us most years performing on the Main Stage at the Texas State Fair.
2. Why did you decide to come to SMU Law?
I got married last year. Finding the person I wanted to spend my life with has also made me grow up a little—it’s not just about me anymore. While my musical career has been exciting and fulfilling, it has been anything but stable over the years. For freelancers, the economic cycles of “feast and famine” perpetuate a scarcity-based pattern of life decisions that are often not conducive to building a secure foundation upon which to start a family. I have enjoyed a happy life using my musical talents in service to others. But in coming to law school, I want to develop my other latent abilities (while keeping a service-oriented focus) in the hopes of creating a financially secure future for my family.
My decision to attend SMU was greatly influenced by my interactions with SMU alumni. I have had the privilege of working with many talented individuals, but among my many colleagues, the SMU alumni stand out. Several of my mentors are alumni of the SMU Dedman School of Law. Whether graduates of law, business, music, or divinity, SMU alumni are all distinguished by the caliber of their work and the integrity of their character. It is my desire to one day count myself among them and contribute my own passion, creativity, and excellence to the SMU legacy.
Additionally (and practically), the prospect of living and working in the city of Dallas was a major factor in deciding to apply here. In all my travels, I have yet to discover a better “total-package economy.” With its affordable cost of living, high wages, and ease of travel, this city is hard to beat.
3. What has been your favorite class and why?
I admit I may be experiencing “present-bias,” but I feel particularly lucky to find myself immersed in an area of law in which I intend to practice: bankruptcy. I am concurrently enrolled in Creditor’s Rights, and participating in a Federal Judicial Externship in the Northern District of Texas Bankruptcy Court. I see bankruptcy law as an attractive avenue of service, and I am thoroughly invested and engaged in becoming conversant in its many complexities.
4. When you are not in school or studying, what do you do for fun?
These days, self-care is paramount. I try to engage in enjoyable activities that support my physical and mental health, as well as feed my soul. I maintain a yoga practice, go for runs a few times a week, and take part in Sunday morning worship at Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church. It has been my cherished privilege, especially during the pandemic, to regularly inhabit this inspired space at the intersection of music and spirit.
5. What extracurricular activities have you enjoyed most and why? (SBA, moot court, etc.)
This summer, I took part in the SMU COVID-19 Legal Helpline, in conjunction with the Association for Public Interest Law, the SMU Legal Clinics, and a host of community partners. My role began as an operator/interviewer, fielding calls and working with attorney supervisors to provide the North Texas area with much-needed legal help. My role evolved into a junior leadership position, and I continue to provide support to the Helpline. It has been an incredible learning experience which has developed my lawyering skills, while providing me with an opportunity to offer meaningful help to real people with real problems.
6. How has law school challenged you most?
Harkening back to my freelance days, I thought I knew time management. But it turns out, I was just busy going from deadline to deadline. I got plenty of work done, but it was often “one-offs,” sprinting from gig to gig. Now that I’m in law school, I have long expanses of time upon which I must impose structure. And without effective time management techniques, responsibilities snowball, leading to stress. Especially in my first semester, I lost a lot of sleep (and missed out on quality time with loved ones) because of this.
7. What has been your most memorable law school moment so far?
I have performed on countless stages in front of thousands of people, and thought I had long banished any vestige of stage fright—that was, until my first cold-call in Professor Rogers’ 1L Contracts class. It wasn’t until I opened my mouth to answer his question that I realized how nervous I was! Maybe it was the fact that I was surrounded by brilliant minds, dissecting my every word. Or maybe it was because I had watched “The Paper Chase” the night before. Anyway, looking back, I am grateful for that nervous feeling. It was a mile marker on a journey of growth which has led me to a new level of confidence in public speaking.
8. What do you plan to do post-graduation?
I aspire to serve as a Term Clerk in the bankruptcy court after graduation. From my vantage point, I have observed the important work clerks do, and the excellent training they receive. By all accounts, this training is also a powerful career springboard.
9. Have you had any important mentors during law school? If so, who?
I have had the benefit of a few mentorships before and during law school. Interestingly, two of my attorney-mentors are musicians as well! Alan Tompkins (Vice President, General Counsel, & Trustee - Unity Hunt / Hunt Capital Group / Hunt Sports Group) & Robert Hough (IP & Advertising Attorney at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP). They gave me so much time, attention, and advice (and never let me pick up the check!). I hope to pay their generosity forward someday.
10. Where do you see yourself in 5 and 10 years?
This summer, I worked at a small bankruptcy firm, primarily under the direction of an attorney who was in his fifth year of practice. The ingenuity and creativity of his advocacy was truly inspiring. And more than that, he just seemed happy. In five years, I want feel like I am making strides towards a similar practice, while still having time to be present for my growing family.
In ten years? I only wish for more of the same: I want to carve out and master my skill set, providing valuable services to my clients, and doing so with no regrets.