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Posts tagged as “SSF Section News”

Meagan Gentry wins Solo and Small Firm Section Award

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There are few people who see the need to make a difference and rise to the challenge. Meagan Gentry is one of those people.

Over the summer, Gentry partnered with Annie Andrews at the Charleston County Public Defender’s office to collect books for children in the juvenile detention center in Charleston. At the end of the project, the two collected 3,500 books of all genres and in English and Spanish and distributed in Greenville, Columbia and Charleston.

The passion that drives Gentry is the very reason she won the 2018 Solo and Small Firm Section Award. Solo and small firms are an important pillar in the legal community because of their contributions to the profession and volunteer efforts and community engagement.

“As chair of the Solo and Small Firm Council, we are honored to recognize Meagan Gentry for her contributions to her local community,” said Ayesha Washington. “Her recent involvement with the Juvenile Detention Center is proof that when Meagan sees a need in her community, she responds with action.”

Running a solo firm means it’s one person doing several tasks. The work doesn’t disappear when the attorney is on vacation or leading community service efforts. There’s not always an office manager or accountant on site that can help. However, Gentry finds herself able to balance it all. 

“I love the flexibility that having a solo practice brings,” Gentry said. “However, that doesn’t mean I’m not up late responding to emails. It’s a benefit and a burden because you don’t have to be at work at a certain time, but you’re never actually off of work either. It allows me to focus on community events that I’m passionate about.”

Gentry runs her solo firm, Gentry Law Firm, in Charleston where she practices family law, estate planning, criminal defense, personal injury and is a guardian ad litem. She spends a lot of her time volunteering for several community projects, including cooking and serving chili dinners to families with children in the MUSC hospital, a sponsor and community advocate for Lowcountry Orphan Relief and Reading Partners of South Carolina.

“When I first found out I had been selected, I looked at the previous winners and did not feel that I measured up to even half of their accomplishments and community work,” Gentry said. “But I am thankful nevertheless.”

Gentry graduated from law school in Arkansas in 2010 and began her career as a prosecutor in Arkansas. She found her way to South Carolina years later as a public defender before she opened her own private practice.

The Solo and Small Firm Section Award was created to increase awareness about the value solo and small law firms contribute to the state and legal community. Past recipients are Jenkinson, Jarrett & Kellahan, P.A.; Bluestein, Nichols, Thompson and Delgado, LLC; and Ken Lester.

Member Spotlight: Tom Andrews, Council Representative, South Carolina Bar Solo and Small Firm Section

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Solo and Small Firm Section member Thomas (Tom) Andrews has a solo firm in Columbia practicing primarily in the area of veteran benefits law.  He graduated from USC in 1999 and from the law school at USC in 2002.  He has been a member of the Solo and Small Firm Council since 2017.

Here’s Tom’s Story:

After I worked as a law clerk to then Circuit Court Judge Michael Baxley and as a staff attorney at the South Carolina Court of Appeals, I practiced insurance defense at a mid-sized and then small firm for nearly ten years.  After my first week at the first firm, I knew billing hours and reporting to an insurance adjuster were not going to be my lifelong passion, but it took me a while to find that passion.  Finally, I stumbled into a CLE on veterans benefits and ultimately a rewarding solo practice assisting veterans in obtaining there benefits from the VA. 

I grew my practice by initially working of counsel at a small insurance defense firm giving most of my time to defense matters while gradually growing my VA practice.  In 2017, I finally left that firm and struck out on my own.  The transition from a stable paycheck and robust office support was scary, but has worked out better than expected.  My work-life balance is amazing, which makes my wife and children especially happy.  My practice involves approximately 80% VA benefits work and 20% general litigation, mostly personal injury.   My clients are truly grateful for my efforts and have gifted me with everything from homemade barbeque sauce to a hand-carved walking stick.

Outside of the office, I stay busy helping my wife chase after our three young children, serving as a member of my church's vestry, and I am a senior judge with the South Carolina Barbeque Association.

Member Spotlight: Mike Cerrati, Section Delegate, South Carolina Bar Solo and Small Firm Section

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Section Delegate and immediate past-Chair Mike Cerrati practices in Belzer PC’s Hilton Head, South Carolina office, regularly advising domestic and international trademark and copyright owners on the proper selection, clearance, use, licensing and protection of their intellectual property both in the U.S. and abroad.

He frequently prosecutes federal and state trademark applications and coordinates foreign trademark filings worldwide. Mike manages intellectual property portfolios for established corporations and assists startups and entrepreneurs in developing strategies for branding their new businesses. He also serves as U.S. counsel for a number of leading intellectual property firms in Europe, Asia, South America and Central America assisting with the prosecution and protection of their clients’ trademarks in the U.S. In addition, Mike litigates intellectual property disputes in state and federal courts, represents trademark clients in opposition and cancellation proceedings before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, and handles domain name disputes.

Member Spotlight: Ayesha Washington, Chair, South Carolina Bar Solo & Small Firm Section

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Solo and Small Firm Section Chair Ayesha Washington is the owner and principal attorney of The Washington Law Firm, LLC, in Charleston. Her areas of practice include general litigation, nursing home litigation, complex personal injury, Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), train grade crossing collisions, product liability, toxic torts, contracts, and probate and estates.

An active member of her community, Ayesha is currently Vice Chair for Metanoia, a community development corporation designed to use neighborhood assets to build leaders, establish quality housing, and generate economic development. She is also a board member and mentor for the Young Ladies Conquering Obstacles, a teen enrichment program; and is a member of St. Matthew Baptist Church where she has served as the Coordinator for Vacation Bible School for the past three years. She is a member of the church’s Health Ministry and facilities the church’s exercise program. She is a certified Zumba Instructor.

Previously, she served on the Advisory Board for the non-profit organization: It's Up to Me! (a teen pregnancy prevention program) from 2005 to 2009; the School’s Out Board from 2006 to 2009; and Carolina Empowerment Group (a HIV/AIDS awareness program) from 2007 to 2011.

In addition to her work on the Solo & Small Firm Section Council, Ayesha is also a board member of the South Carolina Women Lawyers Association, and a member of the Charleston County Bar Association. A graduate of Clemson University, the University of South Carolina School of Law, and The Citadel, Ayesha holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, a Juris Doctor, and a Masters in Business Administration. 

Member Spotlight: Stacy Thompson, Co-Chair, South Carolina Bar Solo & Small Firm Section

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Meet Chair-elect Stacy Thompson, a partner with Bluestein, Thompson & Sullivan, LLC, in Columbia, SC, practicing primarily social security disability law since graduating from USC School of Law and the Darla Moore School of Business (MIBS, Portuguese track) in 2000. 

Here’s Stacy’s story:

Although I truly enjoy my work, and in particular my clients and the people I work with, spending time with family (of the human and furry kind) is vital to me.  My local adventures, including supporting my Gamecocks in all sports, and time at home with my rescue mutt give me much-needed respites from the practice of law and the responsibility that comes with being a small business owner.  However, I blame my mother (don’t we all) for starting a tradition that has truly altered my overall perspective about what truly matters...

About 7 years ago, my mother received her Medicare card in the mail and decided that she needed to fulfill a life-long dream of hers – to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.  She trained and prepared for the next six months and ultimately conquered that peak – 19,341 feet to Uhuru summit and the Rooftop of Africa.  I thought she was a little crazy at the time, but was inspired by her experience and asked to join her on the next climb.  After that first trip to Machu Picchu, we continued with annual hikes, stomping (and laughing) through the Swiss Alps, the Canadian Rockies, Death Valley, the Julian Alps (Slovenia) and across England.  One of our greatest physical challenges together was to the base camp of Mt. Everest/Kalapathar (18,192 feet) and in January 2018, I followed in Mom’s footsteps and climbed Kilimanjaro as well.  Needless to say, you learn a lot about yourself when climbing straight up a path in the dark at 19,000 feet, but the sense of accomplishment at the end makes every struggling breath worth it!  The memories made on every trail and in every country Mom and I have ventured to in the past seven years are priceless in so many ways and we will keep living by the mantra “Find Joy in the Journey” as our bucket list continues to grow!