Native Mississippian and motivational guru Zig Ziglar once said, “Outstanding people have one thing in common: An absolute sense of mission.” Based on my observation of successful leaders, I would wholeheartedly agree with Ziglar’s conclusion. These leaders have discovered their true passion and are living “on purpose” with focus and determination. Mission driven individuals inspire others to greatness and to make a difference. My interviewee this week, Patricia (Patti) Gandy, is the type person Ziglar was referring. Gandy is living out her passion each day as the founding director of the Mission First Legal Aid Office which was established by Mississippi College School of Law and Mission First Inc. to provide legal services to qualified residents of Hinds, Madison and Rankin counties.
Gandy’s resume is put together almost as if she was destined for her current role. However, she is quick to explain that there was no grand plan, but instead, a faithful commitment to doing each job well in her journey. A native of Jackson, Gandy received her associate’s degree from Hinds Community College and soon found herself employed as a receptionist for a law firm which led to her becoming a legal secretary. While still in her 20s, she went on to become president of the Mississippi Legal Secretaries Association. As she approached her 30th birthday, she decided it was time to complete her undergraduate degree which she did in business at Mississippi College.
To pay her way through school, Gandy freelanced as a legal assistant and ended up helping connect other legal assistants with job opportunities. Upon graduation, she decided to create a business (The Gandy Agency) to provide legal assistants to law firm. She built a thriving business over an eight-year period. As she considered the next decade of her life, she decided to go to law school at Mississippi College School of Law where she was a top student. Upon graduation, she clerked for the Mississippi Court of Appeals before practicing with Butler Snow, LLP for a number of years. In 2006, Patti accepted the position of director of the Mission First Legal Aid Office.
Gandy shared, “I reflected on what I was passionate about and realized that I truly enjoyed helping the poor and needy.” She continued, “As I look back, I realize that God was preparing me for each opportunity.” Leaders like Gandy understand that leadership is journey, not a destination. Based on the role model of her father, Gandy sought to be a good steward of the job at hand and strived to be a servant leader. She said, “My dad also taught me the importance of connecting with his employees on a personal level and being genuinely interested in their lives.”
She bases her leadership philosophy on trust and respect. Today she works with hundreds of professional volunteers to help them live out their faith by using their skills to help the poor with legal aid. Last year, the organization and its volunteers made a difference in the lives of over 1,500 people. The organization has been a big success and complements the work done by Mississippi Volunteer lawyer Project and similar organizations. Gandy’s main focus is on recruiting, motivating, and encouraging the volunteers and keeping the organization aligned with its mission. She regularly speaks to communities around the state about how to set up similar programs. In 2014, Gandy was recognized for her accomplishments and was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by The Mississippi Bar. I am encouraged by Gandy’s commitment to excellence and her courage to follow the path of an “on mission” life.
» Martin Willoughby is a business consultant and regular contributing columnist for the Mississippi Business Journal. He serves as Chief Operating Officer of Butler Snow Advisory Services, LLC and can be reached at martin.willoughby@ butlersnow.com.