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The headquarters are in the old Emporium Building across North Congress Street from the Governor’s Mansion in downtown Jackson.

Watkins & Eager’s proven stability has it poised for the future

By NASH NUNNERY

Jackson law firm Watkins & Eager is a full-service, diversified practice with its roots historically entrenched in the Capital.

Founded by William Hamilton Watkins in 1895, the firm maintains its headquarters in the old Emporium Building across North Congress Street from the Governor’s Mansion in downtown Jackson. Watkins argued over 20 cases before the Supreme Court of the United States and was later joined in 1916 by Pat H. Eager, Jr., a trial attorney who later became Mississippi’s first invitee into the American College of Trial Lawyers, and served as president of the International Association of Defense Counsel.

Watkins’ son, Tom took over the firm from his father in the early 1930s. Bill Goodman, William’s grandson and Tom’s nephew, grasped the leadership mantle in the mid-1970s. Grant Sellers now serves as CEO of Watkins & Eager.

Paul Stephenson

Paul Stephenson, chairman of the firm’s executive committee, joined Watkins & Eager in 1977 near the beginning of Goodman’s tenure.

“Bill Goodman provided stability and really established the firm’s culture,” he said. “He left a legacy of shared aspirations.”

With a focus on mass tort and commercial litigation, Watkins & Eager has made a name for itself over the years defending large companies beyond Mississippi’s borders, including Exxon, Chevron, General Motors and Ford Motor Co., to name a few.

“The Power of WE – Experience, Collaboration, Results” is the firm’s slogan, a rallying cry that embraces the idea of cooperation and partnership instead of a strategy of win-at-all-costs.

“Our commitment is to use all resources and expertise available in a collaborative approach with our clients but in a cost-effective manner,” Stephenson said. “We have a ‘deep bench’ in business and transactional law and strive to achieve the desired results for our clients.”

Stephenson, whose practice experience includes complex class actions, oil and gas controversies and business practice challenges under the RICO Act, said Watkins & Eager is committed to staying anchored in downtown Jackson in spite of numerous other legal and CPA firms exiting the city for the suburbs.

“There have been multiple opportunities to relocate over the years but we’ve made a firm commitment to stay in downtown Jackson,” he said. “A healthy and hearty downtown Jackson is important to Watkins & Eager.”

The firm, which boasts 71 lawyers and 55 staff personnel, also maintains offices in Hattiesburg and Birmingham.

Most law firms rank talent recruitment as their biggest challenge. According to global human resources consortium Robert Half Legal, more than three in 10 lawyers recently surveyed said recruiting highly skilled legal professionals is the greatest practice management challenge facing their firm.

Watkins & Eager is committed to diversity and seeks academic excellence as well as superb oral and writing communication skills in recruiting new talent, according to Stephenson.

“During the interview process, we look for young people that are articulate and those of good character, in addition to their academic record,” he said. “We also search for highly motivated individuals who recognize the value of our law firm and the team concept. Also, our firm embraces individual autonomy and encourage them to be their own men and women.

“At Watkins & Eager, we value that name and our relationships with each other. It’s worked for us.”

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