Emily Wilt’s destiny was sealed at the age of 7 when she decided to pursue the practice of law after someone gifted her a miniature briefcase.
At that point in her still-young life, the only professionals Wilt knew were doctors, lawyers and teachers – and since she’d never met a doctor or a teacher who’d carried a briefcase, she chose to become a lawyer.
Even after Wilt realized she didn’t have to be a lawyer to carry a briefcase, her interest in the law continued.
“The legal field offered so many options, not only in terms of the areas in which you can practice but also in the roles you can take on,” she says. “No other profession could quite measure up after I learned how varied and intellectually challenging the practice of law could be.”
The scope of the law unfolded before Wilt at the American University Washington College of Law, where she immersed herself in not only her studies but also the clinical programs the school made available to its students.
“I wanted to exit law school with practice experience instead of just theoretical knowledge,” Wilt explains.
While attending law school, Wilt held a summer general counsel clerkship at the National Republican Senatorial Committee in Washington, D.C. She also worked as an intern for Tennessee Senator Bob Corker and as a student attorney at the Janet R. Spragens Federal Tax Clinic.
Wilt says the work she did as part of her clerkship taught her two valuable lessons: One, some states have crazy laws and, two, voting matters.
“County, state, House and Senate leaders can not only effectuate change at the local level but also nationally,” she submits. “It’s important to do your due diligence about a potential representative before casting your vote.”
Wilt further says her work at the clinic and as an intern for Corker impacted her decision to practice tax law.
“My time with the United States Senate taught me to work hard, research heavily, stand up for what I believe and be humble, no matter my success,” she recalls. “Those lessons then led me to be a student attorney at the clinic, where I advocated for low-income taxpayers. I decided I wanted to practice under the large umbrella that’s tax law while working at the clinic.”
Wilt is among 46 associates who have joined Baker Donelson company wide since August of this year. She’s in the firm’s Chattanooga office, where she’s serving as a member of its tax group.
“I heard so many conversations around town about the wonderful work the attorneys at Baker Donelson were doing and had to join the team,” she says.
Although Wilt’s admission to the bar is pending, she says the practice of law is both aligning with her expectations and surprising her in many ways.
“I don’t think there will be a day of practicing law that some legal concept doesn’t surprise me. The way the law dictates and mitigates personal choices is fascinating.”
As part of establishing herself in the profession she’s aspired to join since she first clasped her novelty briefcase, Wilt has quickly become an active member of the local legal community.
In addition to serving as an associate member of Chattanooga’s Estate Planning Council, she says she’s excited about contributing to a few of the community volunteer groups with which Baker Donelson partners.
Wilt will not, however, be joining one sizable local fellowship. Despite growing up in Chattanooga, she has no plans to become a member of Vols Nation.
Instead, she’ll remain true to her undergraduate alma mater and continue to cheer on the University of Kentucky Wildcats.
“As a proud alumna, I love – and hate – watching Kentucky football and basketball games,” she smiles. “Those Wildcats enjoy keeping their fans on their toes.”