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Paul H. Stephensen III

ALAN TURNER — Watkins & Eager: Spanning 3 centuries



There aren’t very many companies that can claim to have operated in 3 different centuries.  The Jackson law firm of Watkins & Eager is a firm that has accomplished that.

The firm traces its roots back to 1895, when William Watkins began practicing law in Jackson.  He later partnered up with Pat Eager, and the firm has been in operation ever since.  Another very interesting fact about Watkins & Eager is that the firm has essentially operated in the same block in downtown Jackson throughout its tenure.  That truly must be a rarity in the world of business.

We met recently with Paul H. Stephenson III, member and Chairman of the Executive Committee at Watkins & Eager, and talked about the firm’s history and focus.

“We’re primarily a general commercial law firm,” he said.  “We handle a wide variety of business-oriented matters, including product liability, employment law, workers comp, estate and tax law, and many others.” He indicated that the bulk of their work is on the defense side.

One of the largest firms in the Jackson region, Watkins & Eager has 66 lawyers and an additional 55 employees.  While they do handle cases in other states, all of their primary work is handled in the Jackson office.

Paul is a native Mississippian.  “I was born in the old Baptist Hospital,” he said.  “I attended Jackson public schools, then went to Ole Miss, and finished law school in 1977.”

After graduation, he joined Watkins & Eager, and has been there ever since.  That’s another impressive statistic, because there are probably few professionals who have spent their entire working career with a single firm.

As one of Mississippi’s pre-eminent business & commercial law firms, we asked Paul how he views the state’s economy and economic future.

“We’re bullish on Mississippi,” he said.  “We have so many great assets as a state, including great people, water and timber, great agricultural lands, a top notch port, and others.  We see a bright future for our state in the coming years.”

Asked what challenges he sees for Mississippi, he joined many others in pointing out the importance of education .

“Education is, of course, very important to our economic progress,” he said.  “Companies want and expect a good work force with solid skills, and education is the key to satisfying their needs.”

He sees Mississippi as a “very business-friendly environment.  The Governor is highly supportive of business, and I think we stack up favorably with many of our neighboring states as a great place to do business.”

Asked whether he considers business to be over-regulated these days, he suggested that “many business owners and managers would certainly think so.  Obviously, when regulation passes a certain point, it can squelch business growth and investment.”

Asked whether Watkins & Eager is committed to keeping its offices in Jackson, Paul indicated that the firms expects to “keep on operating here in the same block.”  He sees challenges in Jackson, but he also sees things that he considers encouraging in the city, “especially the interest of some who are interested in living downtown.”

As a top law professional who has had a great career, we asked Paul if he still considers the law profession as a good choice for young people who are entering college and deciding on what they want to do in life.

“The study of law and the opportunities it presents for service is a great thing,” he said.  “For those who are dedicated and willing to work hard, it’s a great way to make a living.”

A short video interview with Paul can be seen on our website, MSBusiness.com, or on our YouTube channel, mbjournal.

» Contact Mississippi Business Journal publisher Alan Turner at alan.turner@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1021.


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