Alumni Profiles

Joanna Robinson, Class of 2011

First recipient of the Anthony Mansfield Litigation Skills Scholarship
Joanna Robinson

Litigation is Joanna Robinson's passion. After graduating in May, Robinson, a native of Jamaica who also holds both U.S. and British citizenship, will take both the Tennessee and the Florida bar examinations before moving to London, where she will pursue an LL.M. in international commercial litigation at Queen Mary University. "I want to be prepared for the complexity of international litigation," Robinson said.

In 2010, Robinson became the first recipient of the Anthony Mansfield Litigation Skills Scholarship, a new scholarship specifically earmarked for third-year students who plan to pursue a career in litigation. Robinson was a prime candidate thanks to her focus on preparing for a career as a litigator throughout law school as well as her successes in Vanderbilt's 2010 Moot Court competition, in which she and partner Cherrelle Hooper were finalists, and in the Domestic Violence Clinic, where she represented clients in Nashville courts. "It was such an honor to receive recognition from the school in this way," Robinson said, "and it was such a practical help for me. I met with Mrs. Mansfield, whose husband this scholarship honors, and I really just thanked her for being willing to think about students who were already attending law school when this scholarship was created."

The Mansfield Scholarship will be awarded annually to a student who has excelled in litigation, who is nominated by Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs Susan Kay. Criteria for the scholarship are outstanding participation in the Moot Court program; excellent academic performance in litigation-related subjects such as evidence, civil procedure and criminal procedure; and positive involvement in litigation-related skills such as trial advocacy, negotiation, externships and clinical courses. Robinson spent both summers during law school working for the Miami-Dade Office of the State Attorney in Florida, and she appreciated the fact that "This award actually recognizes your ability and drive and passion for litigation."

The scholarship was established beginning in 2003 by James H. Hancock '66, M. William Munno and John E. Tavss '79, all of whom were friends and colleague of Anthony Mansfield '68, to honor Mansfield's memory. "So often in law school, you're only recognized for exams," Robinson said. "Litigation is my niche; it's what I love. The fact that the school recognized my passion for litigation really means a great deal. Knowing that donors endowed this scholarship to benefit people like me inspires me to want to give back to this community when I'm able."

Return on Investment

Planned Giving through a Charitable Remainder Trust works for Steve Peters '76 and for Vanderbilt Law School.
Pat and Steve Peters '76

Pat and Steve Peters '76

Steve Peters credits his solid grounding in tax and contract law at Vanderbilt with setting him on course for a successful 31-year career at Lehman Brothers and Barclays Capital. Peters had applied to law school while stationed at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, where he served his final two years of a five-year active-duty tour in the Air Force, which he had joined immediately after graduating from Trinity College in Connecticut in June 1968. He was also based in Texas, Alabama, Mississippi and California before being deployed to Turkey as the air traffic control officer on a large NATO base.

Peters took the LSAT while serving at Incirlik and applied to Vanderbilt Law School based on the strength of an information session he attended as a senior at Trinity in 1967. "John Beasley was leading the discussion," he recalled. "Two people in my graduating class at Trinity went to Vanderbilt the next year. So five years later, I applied to Vanderbilt sight unseen. My wife and I made our first trip to Nashville when we moved there with our one-year-old son so I could start law school in August 1973."

After earning his law degree in 1976, Peters joined the trust department of Commerce Union Bank, where John Beasley had hired him to work during both summers while he was in law school. Commerce Union served as trustee on bond issues throughout the country, and Peters, who specialized in bond work, traveled often. Over the course of several trips to New York, he met representatives from Lehman Brothers; in 1980, Peters was involved in a bond closing in Manhattan when Lehman offered him a job. "Lehman wanted someone who understood the underpinnings and the documentation of bond offerings," he said. "The area I was in was driven by the tax code, and I had a very good grounding in tax law, starting with my courses from James O'Hare at Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt was also very strong in contracts, which related to bond indentures and financing agreements; I really enjoyed Paul Hartman's class in contracts. Herman Trautman taught me trust and estate law, and I had written my senior thesis for him. Vanderbilt also had very good coverage of securities law, particularly the 1933 and 1934 Acts, and I felt very prepared to deal with the issues that came up."

Peters spent the next 28 years working in Lehman's bond department both on financings and by meeting with potential clients to discuss the firm's underwriting services. "I was on the road in the U.S. about 40 weeks a year," Peters said. One perk of that arrangement was that Peters, who at various times was based in Lehman's offices in New York, Boston and Los Angeles, was able to settle permanently in Lenox, Massachusetts, his great-grandfather's hometown. Peters' legal background and his understanding of the inner workings of bond offerings gave him a solid rapport with the prospective clients he visited. "Back then, only a few people transitioned from legal positions into banking," Peters said. "My law degree was incredibly helpful. It enabled me to communicate more easily with prospective clients, with Lehman's and Barclays Capital's internal counsel, and with outside counsel, and I also ended up with a number of special assignments on issues such as auction rate bonds." Peters stayed on after Lehman's North American operations were acquired by Barclays Capital in September 2008. He left the firm in April 2011.

Despite Peters' grueling travel schedule, he served on the law school's National Council, now the Board of Advisors, for 10 years, from 1992-95 and from 2000-06, including two years as president from 2003-05. He was motivated to serve on the law school's board and support the law school financially because he believed Vanderbilt had given him a chance to succeed. "I had very solid scores on the law school boards, but my undergraduate GPA was something else," Peters said. "I was surprised Vanderbilt took me; they did me a huge favor. The very first week of law school, I saw Bob Covington in Blackacre, and I asked him how I had gotten in. Very candidly, he said, 'We keep a couple of spots open for special cases each year.' There was something about my application he must have liked. I got an excellent legal education at Vanderbilt and made several lifelong friends."

Peters connected with classmate Keith Simmons '76 because "we were both older than most other students, had both been in the Air Force, and we were both married." He particularly enjoyed his courses with Professors Tom McCoy, Don Hall and James O'Hare. "You knew you had to be prepared in Tom McCoy's Constitutional Law class, because if you were called on, you were going to be grilled," he recalled, "but I received one of my highest grades in law school in his course. Like all of my Vanderbilt professors, Tom raised the expectations of what you were supposed to accomplish, and you worked hard to prepare for his class."

A steadfast and generous supporter of Vanderbilt Law School throughout his career, Peters chose to make his most recent gift through the Planned Giving Program in the form of a charitable remainder trust. "I receive 5 percent of the principle amount as my draw each year, while it is invested in the Vanderbilt endowment," he said. "I funded the trust with a low-basis stock, which worked well for Vanderbilt and for me. When my wife and I pass on, hopefully many years from now, Vanderbilt Law School will get the principle. I did this because I really believe in Vanderbilt, and I want to continue giving. But as I approach retirement, the Planned Giving program offered a way for me to retain the income while benefiting the law school in the long term."

Law & Business Program Profile: David Barnes, Class of 2011

"In the Law and Business Program, you learn to read financial statements and... graduate with an understanding of the issues that are important to CEOs."
David Barnes

When David Barnes moves to Washington, D.C., this summer to start a clerkship with Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, he will be spending his second short-term stint in Washington. In 2005, after earning his undergraduate degree at Sewanee (the University of the South), Barnes served a six-month internship in the White House Office of the Public Liaison. "I had written a paper for an environmental science class that I presented at an academic conference," he said. "A fellow Sewanee graduate working in the White House read the paper and invited me to interview for an internship." As a White House intern, Barnes not only gained invaluable insights into the formation and promotion of public policy, but he also met and impressed Pete Delay, CEO of Nashville-based Sherman-Dixie Concrete Industries. When the internship ended, Delay offered Barnes a permanent job with Sherman-Dixie in Nashville.

Barnes spent four years performing due diligence work to support mergers and acquisitions for Sherman-Dixie, a job for which he had an aptitude. He had planned to attend law school after gaining some work experience, and the work he was doing at Sherman-Dixie not only confirmed his interest in studying law, but was also an ideal preparation for legal studies. Barnes was debating the merits of pursuing a J.D. or a four-year J.D./MBA program when Vanderbilt's Law and Business Program caught his eye. "The Law and Business Program offers non-legal core classes in accounting and finance," he said. "You learn how to read financial statements. And when you combine that with the courses in corporations, securities law and secured lending, you graduate with an understanding of the issues that are important to CEOs." The program also had the advantage of allowing Barnes, who had majored in religion and environmental science as an undergraduate, to gain a solid understanding of basic accounting and financing principles while earning his law degree without extending his studies past three years.

Barnes particularly enjoyed the Law and Business Seminar taught by Professors Randall Thomas and Paul Edelman, during which students are required to write five scholarly papers based on current research presented to the class by corporate law scholars from around the world. "It's a fantastic seminar—very writing-intense," he says. Barnes also had the opportunity to work with Professor Thomas as a research assistant on two major papers, and took short courses from Judge Kent Jordan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Wilmington, Delaware, and from Chancellor William Chandler and Vice-Chancellor Leo Strine of the Delaware Court of Chancery. "When I was developing my Law Review note, which focused on the officers and directors of partially government-owned corporations, I talked with Chancellor Chandler for over an hour about my ideas," Barnes said. "I sent him a copy of the draft, and he and his law clerks commented on it and sent it back. Their feedback was really invaluable, and the fact that I had access to them was amazing."

As the Law Review's symposium editor, Barnes worked with authors of papers presented at the Law and Business Program's 2010 symposium on executive compensation, including the keynote speaker, Kenneth Feinberg, who was then serving as the Obama administration's Special Master for TARP Executive Compensation, charged with setting the salaries of executives at companies rescued by the federal government after the 2008 financial meltdown.

During two summers working at law firms as an associate, Barnes discovered his business acumen attracted favorable attention. "When senior attorneys realize you can read a financial statement and have a business background, they seek you out, because when you look at the facts of the case, you may have a business problem with a legal solution or a legal problem with a business solution," he said. Barnes, who won the 2011 Founders Medal, will join King & Spalding in Atlanta as an associate after his clerkship on the D.C. Circuit.

Beth Cruz, Class of 2010

Education Attorney, Public Defender's Office, Nashville
Beth Cruz

Beth Cruz developed an interest in law while serving as a campus minister at Rochester Institute of Technology. "I was very interested in issues of social justice, and I led a group of students on several mission trips," she said. During a 2004 trip to South Africa to work at an orphanage housing children infected with HIV and AIDS, Cruz attended a conference. "I was captured by the ways in which lawyers were responsible for positive transformation in South Africa," she said. "That idea really grabbed me." When Cruz moved with her husband and daughter to Nashville to start law school at Vanderbilt, her goal was a career in public interest law. "One factor that helped me decide which law schools to apply to was which schools had Loan Repayment Assistance Programs," she said. "I chose Vanderbilt for many reasons— its reputation, congenial atmosphere and the International Legal Studies Program—but the LRAP was very important to me."

Cruz accepted a grant-funded position with the Public Defender's Office in Nashville soon after graduating in 2010. She advocates for juveniles whose troubles with the law result from mental health issues or other disabilities. "The idea is to intercept students earlier and make sure they get the educational and counseling services they need to stay in school," she said. "At least half of the students with delinquencies have some sort of mental health diagnosis or a disability; you'll find signs of that disability early on in their school records. By the time these students reached middle school, they start ending up in juvenile court."

Cruz is paired with a part-time social worker who is a graduate student at Vanderbilt's Peabody College, and their joint goal is to keep children whose problems are fixable in school and out of the juvenile justice system. "I can keep a child in school by helping them appeal an expulsion, but that's not going to help if we don't solve the root problem, which might be that the child doesn't have school uniforms, doesn't have transportation or has significant mental health issues," Cruz said.

Cruz scored a recent victory when Nashville Mayor Karl Dean '81 added her new program to his proposed Metro budget. "We've had good success," Cruz said. "We're keeping students who are at risk of expulsion in school and helping them get the services they need to keep learning and stay out of trouble. But this is a tough economic climate. It meant a lot that Mayor Dean recognized the value of this program."

Cruz is also grateful for the Loan Repayment Assistance she receives. "I'm extremely passionate about social justice and I wanted to be directly involved on the ground," she said. "The LRAP makes that possible for me."

Ainka Sanders Jackson, Class of 2007

Nashville Public Defender's Office, Juvenile Division
Ainka Sanders Jackson

Ainka Sanders Jackson originally came to Nashville to start graduate school at Peabody College, intending to pursue a career in education. Within a short time, she recalls, "I realized I wasn't a teacher, but I wanted to be an advocate for teachers and students." While working as a caseworker in the Tennessee Department of Children's Services, Jackson had noticed that lawyers had the skills and ability to make a positive difference in the lives of the children with whom she was working. She decided to pursue a law degree instead. "I wanted to be able to do policy work supporting the education and welfare of children, and I realized I needed a law degree to do that," she said. "A law degree opens doors, if for no other reason than people listen to lawyers. Sadly, when a social worker makes a recommendation, people may ignore her. However, when I make the same recommendation as an attorney, they listen and things usually happen fairly quickly. Just the degree itself is extremely powerful."

When Jackson entered Vanderbilt in 2004, she had a six-year-old daughter. Her son was born in September 2005, at the beginning of her 2L year. "I couldn't have chosen a better place for law school," Jackson said. "Vanderbilt was so supportive of me being a mother and a law student." She particularly enjoyed the clinics she took, which afforded an opportunity to learn practical lawyering skills. "The clinics were one of the best things about the law school for me," she said. "I loved being able to see things in action."

Jackson accepted a position in the Public Defender's Office after passing the Tennessee bar examination and spent a year representing adults in General Sessions Court before moving to the juvenile division as a Metro Guardian Ad Litem. She works closely with a social worker to advocate for children and ensure they receive court-ordered counseling and other needed services. "I represent the best interests of children who have been abused or neglected or if there's a custody situation," Jackson explained. "What I ultimately do is provide a recommendation to the court on what should happen, and then I do the follow-up in terms of orders and motions."

Jackson handles 40 to 60 cases at any given time and typically deals with more than 150 cases each year. Though her caseload sometimes seems daunting, she finds the work extremely rewarding. "The Loan Repayment Assistant Program makes it possible for me to do this work," she said. "You definitely don't work in the Public Defender's Office for the money. We are all here because we are passionate about the people we serve. My finances are manageable because Vanderbilt pays 50 percent of my loan debt each year, which is a blessing, and I deeply appreciate this program."

Driving a prompt environmental trust plan for GM

Jim Redwine

Jim Redwine '81 recently completed a two-year assignment as the environmental vice president of Motors Liquidation Company (MLC, fka General Motors Corporation) when the plan of liquidation for MLC became effective at the end of March 2011. He describes his role with MLC as "the most challenging and satisfying in my career so far."

He joined MLC on the day General Motors (GM) filed for bankruptcy in 2009, assuming responsibility for all environmental aspects of the largest industrial bankruptcy in U.S. history. "I very quickly had to determine what the case would be about from an environmental perspective and how to accomplish the results I envisioned," he said. "I wanted to avoid any claims that, after the government bailed GM out, a toxic legacy was left behind." Jim evaluated the adequacy of GM's prior environmental estimates and formed and directed teams that estimated the costs to bring all of GM's sites to full regulatory closure based on accepted regulatory strategies. He then negotiated the cost of this program with the U.S. Treasury, which ultimately agreed to his full funding request of $536 million. "This meant the environmental portion amounted to almost half of the $1.2 billion MLC bankruptcy case budget," he said.

Another aspect of Jim's duties involved designing a structure for the post-confirmation entity that would ultimately remediate and facilitate redevelopment of more than 90 former GM sites. Faced with many sites and concerned that taxpayer funds be used as efficiently as possible, he recommended to the U.S. Treasury a "pooling" structure for the post-confirmation entity, which involved sharing of funds between over- and under-budget sites and provided a margin to cover possible cost overruns. "The structure I formulated ultimately was agreed to by the Environmental Protection Agency, 14 states and a Native American tribe, thus becoming the basis for the largest environmental trust settlement in U.S. history," Jim said. "This strategy resulted in our achieving this settlement in record time and also saved significant transaction costs for the public. My hope is that we've not only set the stage for the prompt remediation and redevelopment of the former GM sites, but perhaps also developed a template for the handling future large bankruptcy cases involving significant environmental liabilities."

Keith Loveless '83 honored as "Corporate Counsel of the Year"

Keith Loveless

Keith Loveless '83 (BS'79), who joined the Seattle-based Alaska Air Group 25 years ago as a corporate lawyer, is the subject of a recent profile in the National Law Journal and was recently honored as 2011 Corporate Counsel of the Year by the Puget Sound Business Journal.

A native of Alabama who earned both his undergraduate and law degrees at Vanderbilt, Keith has spent much of his career in Seattle with Alaska Airlines and Alaska Air Group, which also operates Horizon Airlines. Together, the companies have annual revenues of about $4 billion and 13,000 employees. Alaska Airlines' purchase of Horizon, a regional carrier also based in Seattle, was the first major project Keith handled after joining Alaska Airlines as a staff attorney in 1986. He has previously practiced for three years with Bogle & Gates. Keith was named vice president of legal and corporate affairs, general counsel and corporate secretary in 1999. A decade later, the legal departments of Horizon and Alaska Airlines were consolidated under his leadership; he now heads a department of 10 attorneys and 45 employees.

As Alaska Airlines' in-house counsel, Keith has helped negotiate labor and employment agreements for employees represented by six bargaining groups and helped his company hammer out benefit plans, navigate securities regulation and compliance and governance issues, and finance and acquire new airplanes. He also advises the company's board; oversees its ethics and compliance programs, accounting audits and safety and operational audits; and supervises litigation. "I tell my kids that I help run a company every day," Keith told an interviewer from the Puget Sound Business Journal. "That's how I feel about my job."

In January 2000, three months after Keith became Alaska Airlines' top counsel, Flight 261 crashed off the coast of California, killing all 88 people on board. He recalls learning "a lot about crisis management" as he worked with the board of directors to create the first board-level safety committee established by any airline, worked with a team of company executives to develop and implement a stringent risk management and safety audit program, and settled claims brought by families affected by the crash. "It was probably the greatest challenge of my career," he told the National Law Journal in an interview published April 11, 2011. "It consumed me for a couple of years."

The airline was still dealing with the aftermath of the crash when the terrorist attacks of 9-11 dealt the airline industry a severe financial blow. Keith helped the airline weather the challenging years immediately following 9-11, in which many financially troubled airlines declared bankruptcy, as well as the aftermath of the 2008 economic collapse. While many airlines declared bankruptcy over the course of the decade, Keith advised Alaska Air Group to avoid that path. "Reorganizing under Chapter 11 could have given us a way to restructure debt, reduce costs and get relief from burdensome pension obligations," Alaska Group CEO Bill Ayer told the Puget Sound Business Journal. "Keith was of the opinion that, despite the short-term relief it would bring, taking that path would permanently damage the company's culture, breaking trust with our long and proud history of finding a way to overcome difficult challenges—a point of pride for employees. As a result of not taking the easy way out, but rather taking the difficult steps to transform our business outside of bankruptcy, we have gained valuable experience that will serve us well for years to come."

Alaska Airlines was the most profitable airline in America in both 2009 and 2010, and was the top airline in the key areas of on-time performance and customer satisfaction. "Keith has been a key contributor to a decade-long company transformation that culminated in record profits and operating performance for 2010," Ayer said.

During law school at Vanderbilt in the early 1980s, Keith took a two-semester break from his studies to hitchhike all over the country. "That was the best time of my life," he recalled. He still enjoys getting out in the countryside—"I'd much rather go camping than stay at a Ritz Carlton," he said—and recently returned from a two-week bicycling trip in Vietnam. He lives in Seattle with his wife, Beth Rogers Loveless '82 (BA'79), and their two daughters.

Brothers, Rivals, Victors by Jonathan Jordan '92 released by Penguin Group

Jonathan Jordan

Jon Jordan's most recent book, Brothers, Rivals, Victors: Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley and the Partnership that Drove the Allied Conquest in Europe, was released by Penguin Group in April. The book offers an intimate view of the career-long relationships of the three leading American Allied generals, and it received positive reviews in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times Book Review, where it appeared on the best seller list soon after its release April 5.

Jon is a partner with King & Spalding in Atlanta, where he focuses on commercial litigation and bankruptcy law. He majored in accounting at Samford University before earning his law degree at Vanderbilt, but his interest in military history was whetted during a childhood spent on military bases in New Jersey, Ohio, Alabama and the Philippines as the son of an Air Force pilot. His previous book, Lone Star Navy (Potomoc, 2007), won the 2007 U.S. Maritime Literature Award, and he is the author of numerous articles on World War II and military history. He is already researching his next book, on President Roosevelt's high command in World War II.

David Hudson '94 hosts DVD series exploring "The First Amendment in the 21st Century"

David Hudson, an attorney at the First Amendment Center in Nashville, is the host of a new series of eight DVD programs that explore "The First Amendment in the 21st Century" (Ambrose Video Publishing). The DVD series, aimed at high school and college students, explores decisions affecting guaranteed rights made by the Judicial Branch of the government.

Each of the eight programs addresses one or more important Supreme Court decisions dealing with First Amendment issues. Cases discussed include United States v. American Library Association, the internet filtering case; Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, the "gay scoutmaster" case; Garcetti v. Cabellos, the "whistleblower" case; Bartnicky v. Vopper, a case dealing with an illegal digital intercept; Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the campaign finance reform case; Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, which addressed school vouchers; Van Orden v. Perry and McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky, cases addressing display of the Ten Commandments; and U.S. v. Stevens, a dog-fighting case.

David, who serves on Vanderbilt's adjunct law faculty, is the author of numerous books on legal topics as well as books on sports and other topics. His latest book, Horse Racing's Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Derby Delights, Frenetic Finishes, and Backstretch Banter, was released by Potomac Press in May.

Kevin Sharp '93 confirmed to seat on U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee

Kevin Hunter Sharp was confirmed as a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee on May 3. Kevin will fill a judicial seat that has been vacant for four years. He was nominated for the seat by President Barack Obama in November 2010. After his nomination hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in early March, the committee unanimously recommended his nomination to the full Senate, where the vote in favor of his confirmation was 89-0.

Kevin cofounded Drescher & Sharp, where he focused primarily on labor and employment law, in 2003. He earned his undergraduate degree in business administration summa cum laude at Christian Brothers College and served in the U.S. Navy as a flight crew member on the P-3 Orion operating in patrol/reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare capacities as part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet before entering law school.

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