Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, October 14, 2022

Three routes lead to Husch

As Dallas-born Mikah Roberts contemplated her future, she knew she wanted a career in which she worked with and advised clients. She initially enrolled in a graduate counseling program, but then shortly before the beginning of her first semester canceled her registration and took the LSAT on a whim.

Rachel Ryan grew up shadowing her father, a general practitioner in a small Alabama town and “a champion of the people,” she says. Inspired by his selfless advocacy for others, she decided to follow in his footsteps and become an attorney.

Alissa Netto was raised in a lower-to middle-class family in New Orleans with four siblings and two parents who scraped a meager living from the city. When her loved ones encouraged her to pursue a profession so she wouldn’t have to struggle like her mother and father, she chose the law.

Although Roberts, Ryan and Netto grew up in different cities and walked unique paths to the study of the law, they’re now all working under the same roof at Husch Blackwell in Chattanooga.

Husch’s recruiting efforts at Roberts’ alma mater – the University of Tennessee College of Law in Knoxville – brought her to the firm, first as a summer associate and currently as first-year associate.

“After hearing about Husch and doing some research, it was my top choice for work,” Roberts says. “Also, because Chattanooga is a small city, I knew a few people who were working for the firm and was able to build connections that helped me learn more about it and express my interest in working here.”

Ryan also connected with Husch through an on-campus interview at UT and says she decided to pursue a position at the firm’s Chattanooga office because she wanted to settle in a small regional city in the South.

Netto, on the other hand, used her networking skills to secure a position with Husch.

“Mikah and I became close during law school,” she says of her former classmate and current colleague. “I told her I wanted to end up in Chattanooga but I didn’t know where to start looking for a job. She told me someone had turned down an offer to work here to return to their hometown, so a position was likely open.

“At the same time, a friend who works at Grant Konvalinka was helping me look for jobs in Chattanooga, as well. She sent the contact information of the Husch recruiting committee my way.

“Husch took Mikah’s word about my abilities and offered to interview me.”

The rest, Netto says, is history, which means it’s time for her, Roberts and Ryan to once again begin thinking about the future.

As they settle in at a firm with 800-plus attorneys at more than 20 offices across the U.S., their employer is giving each of them an opportunity to get their feet wet in a specific area of the law while encouraging them to discover and explore what might interest them.

Roberts, for example, is contributing to Husch’s real estate and development practice group, which has her drafting retail lease and purchase and sale agreements for investment trusts.

She says she’s enjoying her introduction to the field. “I’m still trying to figure out the direction in which I want to take my practice and am just happy to be working on any projects I can get.”

Ryan is entrenched with Husch’s mass tort and product liability team – and says she might have found her niche.

“I want to stay on this team because I find torts very interesting and we go to trial more than any other group at Husch,” she says.

Netto is also involved in litigation, although she’s focusing on complex business disputes instead of mass torts. In her still brief time with Husch, she’s already had a hand in cases involving real estate clashes, bankruptcy proceedings and trust and estate issues.

Although Netto isn’t sure if she’ll continue to concentrate on commercial litigation, she likes being in court.

“I enjoy the litigation process and plan to stay with it. However, I’m not yet sure which areas of the law interest me the most. I hope to dive into as many different subject areas as I can until I find something that sticks.”

Like other local firms, Husch has a strong commitment to pro bono work. Eager to offer their time and talents to those who need legal services but are unable to pay for them, Roberts, Ryan and Netto are already searching for ways they can contribute.

Roberts, for example, is eyeing Husch’s Communities for Change group, which offers pro bono legal services to minority-owned businesses. “The group is great for transactional attorneys who are passionate about social justice,” she says.

Ryan has already volunteered at Legal Aid of East Tennessee and would like to contribute to the organization again. She’d also like to do pro bono work for people with disabilities.

“This is an area of interest to me,” she notes. “I wrote a paper about assisting individuals with mental health disabilities in the court system in law school.”

Netto says the challenges of her chosen profession keep her busy, so she appreciates the opportunities Husch provides for serving her community.

“I was involved with Legal Aid in law school but getting back to that has been hard. Fortunately, Husch has a robust pro bono program, and I’ve been able to assist on some of those matters.”

As busy as these associates are as they gain their footing in the law, there is an end to each workday and a weekend waiting at the conclusion of each workweek. To fill the hours away from the firm, Roberts, Ryan and Netto engage in a variety of rejuvenating activities.

Roberts, for example, tends to her nearly 40 houseplants and likes to run marathons. She and her husband also enjoy trying local restaurants and coffee shops.

Ryan likes being physically active, too, whether she’s running, hiking or riding a horse. “I also have a little dog named Grits,” she reveals. “My world revolves around him.”

Meanwhile, Netto is searching for hobbies and making friends as she explores her new hometown.

“I recently took a pottery class and enjoy reading, cooking and doing anything outdoors. I have less free time now, so I also try to relax, do yoga and catch up on TV shows or movies.”

Duty calls all too quickly, though, bringing each of these associates back to the firm where they’re launching their careers. As they reflect on the unique and personal paths that brought them to the law, they see how each step led them to a suitable home for their talents and aspirations.

“I always knew I’d pursue a professional degree, but the law had never been on my radar,” Roberts says. “All I knew about lawyers was what I’d seen on TV, and it seemed far too intimidating a career for my quiet personality. Now I can see how the practice of law is the perfect combination of all the things I’m passionate about.”

“I enjoy being someone’s confidant and counselor,” Netto offers. “I like listening to people share their problems and helping them find solutions. I think being a lawyer is one of the few careers where you can use your degree to truly help take people through some of the worst – or best – moments of their lives.”