If you’ve read any of our Byte of Prevention blog posts or Put into Practice articles, you’ve witnessed the captivating storytelling of Jay Reeves. Jay’s conversational writing style never lacks colorful descriptions that take readers from the stress of trial prep to the sorrow of losing a pet. His stories, filled with lessons in law and life, give our blog readers a daily dose of wit and wisdom.
Jay recently published a book entitled, The Most Powerful Attorney in the World. His book, described as “a collection of short stories from a Law Life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life’s lasting luminescence,” is available on Amazon. I had a chance to chat with Jay about his new book and how he continues to draw inspiration from his “well-lived” law life.
LM: Can you tell us about your law life ( years practicing, area of practice, etc.)?
JR: I graduated from the University of South Carolina Law School in 1981 and was licensed to practice that same year. In the four decades since, my Law Life has had three distinct phases. (1) Private practice – mostly as a solo attorney – in South Carolina and North Carolina, where I represented lawyers in licensing, disciplinary and ethics cases. (2) Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly, where I did everything from writing obituaries to covering big trials. (3) Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual, where I presented tons of seminars and workshops and visited hundreds of lawyers and firms statewide.
LM: Has writing always been a passion of yours? What books/authors have made the biggest impression on you?
JR: Not just a passion, but THE passion, starting from when I was a little boy and walked down to the Carnegie Library where I discovered an entire series of Wizard of Oz books. Like many of my generation, To Kill a Mockingbird made a big impression. I love many authors. Some favorites: Doris Betts, Raymond Carver, Zadie Smith, Richard Ford, Alice Munro, Faulkner, Donna Tartt, James Lee Burke.
LM: What inspired you to compile your stories in a book?
JR: They first appeared in the Lawyers Mutual newsletter. People seemed to like them. I’d write one and file it away. One morning I woke up to find they’d all jumped out of the file cabinet and were demanding I put them together in a book. So I did. The talented and amazing Camille Stell at Lawyers Mutual Consulting & Services made it happen. I’ll be forever grateful for her wisdom and support.
LM: The elements of “books, movies, and baseball” often pop up in your stories. What is the significance of these elements?
JR: My mentor Doris Betts used to say you don’t necessarily have to “write what you know,” but you better always “write who you are.” Growing up in a small town in Kingstree in the 60s, my life was shaped by reading (and hearing) stories, watching movies at the Anderson Theatre, and playing baseball. Other than my family, those were my first loves. They’re a part of who I am. They sneak into pretty much anything I write.
LM: What is one of the biggest lessons you learned as a lawyer that you’ve carried with you throughout life after law?
JR: Gosh, I learned so many lessons, most of them the hard way. Be Authentic is a big one. Meaning: don’t try to live up to some imaginary idea of how a lawyer should look and act. Be Honest is another - cutting corners and being slick always comes back to bite you. Be Grateful, Have a Sense of Humor, Shut Up and Listen, Be Kind, Stay Curious, Pet your Dog … all these lessons appear in my stories, in ways I hope are fun and non-preachy.
LM: What is the significance of the book’s title, The Most Powerful Attorney in the World?
JR: One of my very first clients in Charleston SC was a sweet, elderly woman with a thick Low Country accent. When she called I thought she said she needed a Powerful Attorney. I said I’m your guy. Actually, she needed a Power of Attorney.
LM: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
JR: If you’re an attorney: that you can have a Law Life filled with purpose, profits and peace of mind. It’s what you’re entitled to. No less. If you’re not an attorney: that the law is a special and important calling, and that the men and women who practice it are by and large good people who’re trying their best.
LM: Are you currently working on any new projects?
JR: I write every morning. Currently, I’m finishing up a manuscript for an upcoming CLE seminar series on Telling Your Story: How to Design an Inspired Law Life. On the fiction front I’m having a blast writing a novel about a recluse in South Carolina who becomes a viral media star after thwarting a robbery with a jar of cheese dip. Yes, he’s a former baseball pitcher.
LM: Where can we find your book?