GULFPORT — Attorney Brian Sanderson, 34, is at the forefront of rebuilding efforts on the Gulf Coast and isn’t currently practicing law, but he’s still a lawyer through and through. He’s also president-elect of the Young Lawyers Division of the Mississippi Bar.
“I would not have the opportunities I have today without my law degree and experience in private practice,” he said. “Law school teaches critical thinking skills and the importance of attention to details that are invaluable today.”
He practiced law for six years in the Gulfport office of Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada. Soon after the storm, he was asked to serve as counsel for the Governor’s Commission and later served as deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Renewal.
“I was surprised when I was asked, but it was an easy decision to be part of something that affects our future,” he said. “I wanted to be involved in the commission and the office of renewal. There are so many big issues being tackled that can lead to big opportunities.”
Sanderson rode out Hurricane Katrina in his grandmother’s house in Pascagoula where water rose waist high. “As the winds died down and the water started receding, I thought: things will really change here,” he said.
Now Sanderson is involved in rebuilding by serving as president of the Gulf Coast Business Council, a position he describes as challenging and exciting. He says he doesn’t know why he was asked but affirms that he is a son of the Coast and cares deeply about the area.
“I hope that my dedication is illustrated in my work. My background is one that is needed and I raised my hand and said ‘I’ll do it’,” he said. “It was emotional seeing the aftermath of the storm. Now, this is the time to get it right. We are truly on the edge of big things.”
Looking at the challenges the area faces, he believes the future hinges on affordable insurance rates and housing for the workforce. “Without success on these issues, our renaissance will never be fully realized,” he said. “The Business Council is working closely with the governor and the Legislature in addressing the spiraling cost of Wind Pool rates and, ultimately, the standard rates for residential and commercial properties.”
Sanderson is optimistic that reasonable solutions will be found during this legislative session. “We have enormous opportunities for the Coast to be more vital than before,” he said. “We have the potential and although some folks may think it’s idealistic, I believe it.”
The Gulf Coast Business Council was formed by business and community leaders to help the area rebuild by speaking with one voice to influence public policy.
“If the Gulf Coast Business Council is to fulfill its objective of effectively using our top business leaders to help address public policy issues, it is going to take a bright, energetic and charismatic president to lead it. We found all of that in Brian,” said Anthony Topazi, the council’s chairman. “He is a consensus builder, focused on the end result. I couldn’t be more pleased with his performance and the record of success the council has already achieved under his leadership.”
Sanderson, a Gulfport resident, earned bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Mississippi where he served as president of the law school student body.
Although he doesn’t assume the presidency of the Young Lawyers Division until July, the always-organized Sanderson is already planning programs of work and selecting committee leaders for his 12-month term.
“History shows that much can be accomplished in 12 months,” he said. “During her presidency last year, Amanda Jones provided invaluable aid to Katrina victims by directing the Young Lawyers disaster assistance initiative for weeks on end. Our current president, Rhea Tannehill, is making our committees and local affiliate groups strong. I’m fortunate to work with a great board and staff at the Bar Center and am looking forward to a meaningful year.”
When Sanderson practiced general litigation, he enjoyed working in the courtroom and writing legal briefs. “Working with other attorneys at Butler Snow in my governmental relations practice also was rewarding and prepared me well for my work with the Governor’s Office,” he said. “My position with the Business Council demands constant management of many different initiatives and issue sets and to a great extent is similar to working with multiple clients in law practice.”
Sanderson advises students to seriously consider law school. “Law is a noble profession that is designed for the greater public good. Often the public knows more about the relatively few lawyers who are unethical and tarnish the reputation of the profession, but they are the exception, not the rule,” he said. “A law degree opens a world of varied, rewarding career opportunities. It is just as valuable in working for the poor of the world as it is in leading an international law firm or hanging out your own shingle.”
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.