Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, March 26, 2021

Rainey Kizer’s Pedigo grateful for ill-timed email that led her to the firm

Stephany Pedigo is an attorney with Rainey, Kizer, Reviere & Bell. She says a desire early in life to help other people receive justice eventually led her to become an attorney. - Photo by David Laprad | Hamilton County Herald

Stephany Pedigo was looking through old papers recently when she came across an essay she penned in sixth grade. While scanning the youthful prose, she noticed she’d expressed a desire to someday be a lawyer.

“I thought it would be an avenue for righting wrongs and helping people receive justice,” Pedigo, an insurance defense attorney with Rainey, Kizer, Reviere & Bell, says.

Although Pedigo’s current contribution to the justice system looks different from her adolescent self had envisioned, Pedigo says she’s fulfilling the mission she identified in her younger days.

“In an insurance defense case, a person is served a lawsuit, which is scary,” she explains. “My favorite part is the beginning, when I take the time to listen to my client, understand what they’re going through and talk with them about what’s coming.

“I explain that it’s a process and they’re not a bad person because someone filed a lawsuit against them.”

If anyone can make the defendant in a lawsuit feel reassured, Pedigo can, as her voice on the phone suggests a constant smile and soothing disposition. Her friendly demeanor likely also serves her well in the other areas of her practice, which include wills and estates, probate, conservatorship law, real estate closings and various business transactions.

Pedigo’s diverse practice has its roots at Spears, Moore, Rebman & Williams, where she first practiced after graduating from Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law. There, she assisted with cases involving bankruptcy, personal injuries, business litigation, wills and estates and medical malpractice defense.

Pedigo cut her time with Spears Moore short when she and her husband, Austin Pedigo, currently senior counsel at Unum Group, became pregnant with their first child.

“My husband and I consider ourselves to be educated and thoughtful humans, but we somehow didn’t think through what would happen after the baby came,” Pedigo laughs. “I wanted to have more time with our child, so I took a leave of absence.”

Pedigo’s leave became a permanent departure from Spears Moore, though she soon found herself working again when local judges began appointing cases to her.

This led to a 15-year stretch of representing individuals at Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute in judicial commitment hearings. During this time, Pedigo also served as guardian ad litem in the local juvenile court.

She says both avenues of practice allowed her to achieve her childhood hope of someday helping people receive justice.

“I met thousands of people over that course of time,” Pedigo recalls. “At Moccasin Bend, I was representing – at the height of it, near the end – in excess of 70 people a week. I saw a lot of brokenness and sadness.”

Here again, Pedigo says she took the time to listen to each person and try to understand what they were experiencing. Although she had only a few moments with each client, she says the work was meaningful to her.

“I believe I was where the Lord wanted me to be,” explains Pedigo, who identifies as a Christian. “I felt like I was serving who He wanted me to serve, and I was honored to be able to do that.”

Pedigo says the Lord – as well as an email she sent into a digital void – redirected her in 2015, when she joined the firm of Baker, Kinsman, Hollis & Clelland.

“The state wanted to change the billing for appointed work in a way that was not going to benefit attorneys,” she says. “So, I came to a crossroads.”

Pedigo says she felt like she’d completed the current chapter in her life, but she was afraid of being unemployed, so she submitted the new agreement. However, the person to whom she emailed it quit the day she turned it in and didn’t receive her message.

Weeks later, when Pedigo finally learned what had happened, her struggle over whether or not to continue the work was over.

“I felt like that was clearly leading me to not continue to do it.”

Less than two weeks later, her brother-in-law, Fred Clelland, extended an invitation to join Baker Kinsman.

“That was a nice way to resume a more traditional practice,” Pedigo says. “It was reassuring to have my brother-in-law there to help.”

When Baker Kinsman joined Rainey Kizer in 2018, Pedigo moved with them. Not only had she stepped back into insurance defense and built a steady stream of work in wills and estates, probate and conservatorship law, but she also liked her colleagues at the firm.

“They are, without exception, people of great integrity and incredible intelligence and capability,” she says, her voice carrying an undercurrent of admiration.

The feeling is mutual: When 2021 began, Rainey Kizer made Pedigo a member.

While speaking about her advancement, Pedigo’s tone shifts to one of humility. “For my colleagues to have that much confidence in me and invite me to be a part of something that’s dear to them means more than I can say.”

Listening to Pedigo discuss her practice is one way to become familiar with her; another way is to ask her about her children.

Her and Austin have three children – and she says her affection for them has no boundaries.

Somehow, the smile in her voice widens as she mentions her and her husband’s oldest child, Philip, a sophomore at the University of Alabama who has set his sights on law school.

‘He’s watched my husband and me practice the law his entire life, so his eyes are wide-open,” Pedigo says. “He’s a very critical thinker and has skills that will be a real asset to him.”

Pedigo’s middle child is Nate, a senior at McCallie School who’s learning how to make mead – even though he’s not old enough to drink it.

For his birthday this month, Nate asked for an LLC.

“I drafted it up,” Pedigo says, laughing again. “He’s incorporated as Rooster Enterprises.”

Pedigo calls Nate, who’s started an investment club at McCallie and invests the money he earns as a lifeguard “one of the most likable human beings you’ll ever meet.”

The adoring Pedigo then calls her youngest child, Margaret, “a lovely person.”

“She embodies quiet confidence and is a loyal friend.”

Shy of the spotlight, Pedigo sounds eager to discuss other people, even though doing so opens a window to her character. This also happens when she talks about her Christian faith.

“The Lord has shown me untold mercy, and I can look back and see His hand all through my life, from how my husband and I met, to my career, to being able to do the work I did when my children were young.

“And then just watching Him continue to lead us and care for us.”

As an expression of her faith, Pedigo has taught Sunday School at Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church, which before the pandemic offered a combined class for children and adults.

One of the last topics Pedigo recalls teaching was heaven. She says tackling the afterlife cleared up a lifelong misperception of what she says she believes it will be like.

“As I studied what scripture says about heaven, I thought about my fear when I was young about heaven being boring, and I realized it was still with me.”

Pedigo says the image of a U2 concert came to mind as she worked on her lesson.

“I went to a couple concerts as I growing up, and they were big and fun, and I was like, ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if Bono looked at me?’ When I remembered this, my frame of reference shifted from a cloud and a harp to something I wouldn’t want to end.”

Despite being a seasoned teacher – Pedigo taught a business law course at Tennessee Temple University and home-schooled her children for a time – Pedigo says she made a rookie mistake while teaching the class – incorporating a clip from a U2 concert instead of a more current band.

“The kids were not impressed,” she says before sending still more laughter over her landline.

Although Pedigo seems to have bottomless reserves of joy, she says she takes her work – and her enduring quest to help others receive justice – seriously.

“C.S. Lewis said, ‘The art of life consists in tackling each immediate evil as well as we can,’” she notes. “That’s what I try to do. My day-to-day life is about helping the person who’s in front of me with their situation at that moment in time.”