BYC Spotlight – Justice Ann Lamar

Justice Ann Lamar, J.D. 1982

Who has had a tremendous impact on your career and how did this person help you?

This question is difficult because there have been so many people that have had an impact on my life and made me who I am today.   But, if I had to narrow it down to one, it would be my father.   He was a country lawyer that became a Chancery Judge, serving for more than 17 years.   His career was one of the things that drew me to the profession.   He was so proud of this profession and represented to me all the best parts of it. He didn’t live to see my career unfold as he died in 1993 when I was an Assistant D. A.   But he was always a supportive, encouraging, and proud Dad and his impact was truly tremendous.

What unexpected turns has your career taken?

The absolute truth is that every single step of my career has been unexpected.   I truly had no intention of going to law school.   I married at the age of 19 and seven years later after my husband graduated from law school, I decided to go too.   We had planned to have a small- town practice in our hometown of Senatobia, but five years into our practice, one of our assistant district attorneys retired and I was asked to take his position. Thirteen years later when our District Attorney retired and the leading candidate dropped out of the race, I qualified to run for D.A. on the last day to register.   Two years later Governor Musgrove appointed me to the Circuit Court bench and that was certainly unexpected.   I served in that position for six and a half years until Governor Barbour appointed me to the Mississippi Supreme Court. At every turn, a door was opened and I took a leap of faith and walked through those doors. Each time it was a huge step out of my comfort zone.

What is one characteristic that you believe is important to be successful and why?

There are so many things that play into success.   In our profession, I think the most important characteristic is honesty and integrity. You can’t have long term success without it.   A lawyer without integrity may succeed for a while, but it will eventually catch up with him. Our clients are often vulnerable and they trust us with their secrets and most intimate personal problems.   Good and successful lawyers honor that trust.   The next most important thing is hard work and preparation. The willingness to prepare and invest time and energy is critically important to success. There is no substitute.   Preparation – or lack thereof – of always apparent.   When Billy Graham was asked whether he would do anything different if he had it to do over again, he said “I would study more and speak less.”

What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop in your career?

I retired from the Court at the end of 2016 and I’m still trying to decide what retirement will look like. I continue to be involved in the implementation of the Rules of Criminal Procedure that went into effect last year.   During 2017 I was able to meet with most of the groups that are tasked with making the rules a reality in their courts. And I continue to be involved with the Mississippi Judicial College and their education efforts. I have not ruled out serving as a senior status judge.   I am also serving on the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning and my background in law is useful daily in that work.

Why is supporting the mission of the Bessie Young Council important to you?

I don’t know about the make up of the law school today.   It’s probably more diverse than when I was there. It’s helpful for non-traditional students to realize that they are not out there all by themselves.   These students bring a varied perspective and often a different array of challenges with them to law school. Through BYC we hope to recognize this and support these students both through scholarship and mentorship.   I was lucky to find two friends in law school that were in a very similar situation as me. Their friendship and support throughout law school helped me tremendously.

What are your strongest memories from law school?

On the first day of class, I met two women that became my good friends to this day. One was a widow raising three children and commuting from Bruce.   Another one was married and commuting from Tupelo. We developed a fast friendship because we were all non-traditional students.   Because we were all commuting, we rented an apartment in the married housing on campus so we’d have a place to go and study and pull all-nighters. I also got pregnant my first semester of law school so I started my second year with a three-week-old — that was definitely memorable!