By Anna Grace Usery
Brooke Reeves may seem petite and quiet at first glance, but she’s a lion in front of the jury for her clients. After setting her mind to pursue law at the University of Mississippi Law School and pursuing the often movie-famed prosecutor role, her life took a turn when she met local defense attorney Kevin Frye. Now, Reeves said she wouldn’t picture her career in any other capacity after recently making partner. Hottytoddy.com’s Anna Grace Usery sat down with Reeves to discuss her story.
Usery: What were you interested in as a child growing up in Fulton, Mississippi? Did you always want to be a lawyer?
Reeves: My biggest hobby as a child was reading — I always had a book in my hand. And no. While many childhood friends grew up knowing they wanted to be a teacher, or a nurse, or a vet, I didn’t. I didn’t make a decision until my first year of college. I decided to go to law school and never really changed my mind.
Usery: What led you to the ‘W’ in Columbus for your undergraduate degree?
Reeves: I knew that even if I decided against going to law school, or didn’t get in, I wanted a defined career path. While at ICC, I decided to pursue a degree in Speech-Language Pathology, either at Ole Miss or the W. Both have such great SLP undergrad and graduate programs, and it really came down to scholarship money. The W offered the most, and it was ultimately a great decision! When it was finally time to submit law school applications, I had to give it a lot of consideration – I ended up loving the SLP program even more than I expected. But everything works out as it should, and I know I made the right decision.
Usery: When you realized you wanted to go to law school, what kind of law did you want to practice and what kind of change did you want to make?
Reeves: I wanted to be a prosecutor, and the majority of my practice now is criminal defense – isn’t that usually how it works? The day I met Kevin (Frye) was after my first year of law school. He asked me, ‘What do you want to do?’ I said I wanted to be a prosecutor and he said, ‘Well, I practice criminal defense.’ Six years later, I’m still here.
Usery: Looking back on six years, what have been some of your proudest accomplishments?
Reeves: In the four years I’ve been practicing I’m most excited about my partnership with Kevin, which is official as of last week! I’ve also really enjoyed getting involved with the Oxford Area Young Lawyers Association, where I’m currently vice president, and the Lafayette County Bar Association, where I’m the incoming president. I’m a 2015 graduate of Leadership Lafayette, and I volunteer for Family Crisis Services of Northwest Mississippi, an organization close to my heart and a wonderful asset to the community.
As far as “accomplishment”, I feel accomplished when I know I’ve made a difference to a client. Any legal issue, even if it seems minor to someone else, is major to the person going through it. Knowing that I’ve eased someone’s fear or made sure they felt like someone was on their side is an accomplishment to me.
Usery: What do you see in your young lawyers group that makes you excited for the future?
Reeves: We have a great group of young local attorneys that encourage each other and truly want to see each other succeed. In 2016 and again this past weekend I served Mississippi as a Young Lawyers Division delegate to the American Bar Association Annual Meeting. It’s easy to be excited about the future of our profession when I get to see firsthand how many opportunities we have to make a difference. This weekend at the ABA meeting it was clear that on both state and national levels, young attorneys are doing more than ever to be involved, be more inclusive, and make positive changes that affect not only the legal profession, but communities as a whole. I look forward to our local chapter playing a part in that.
Usery: You spent a summer studying law abroad in the U.K., and you studied the more compassionate side of law. Why did you choose to pursue that opportunity?
Reeves: Yes, I studied Immigration and Human Rights in at Regent’s University in London. Ole Miss offers a great summer course through Downing College at Cambridge University. which several of my friends did after our first year, but I stayed in Oxford, took classes and worked. The second summer I decided not to do the course through Ole Miss. I really wanted to be in a larger city, plus I thought if I went with Ole Miss students, I wouldn’t push myself to meet new people. I knew I wanted to be in the U.K., so I found a course at Regent’s University. It was through three US colleges – one in Boston, one in Minnesota and one in California. I flew to London not knowing what exactly to expect, but it was incredible! I made some amazing friends that, five years later, I still talk to weekly.
Usery: What are some of the things you learned there?
Reeves: My Immigration and Human Rights professor was the most fabulous, brilliant woman – we bonded over our technological unsavviness! Prior to the coursework, I had little to no knowledge of the immigration system at all. It was a great learning opportunity, and I’m especially thankful for it now, when the immigration system as a whole is a daily topic and can be so divisive. Of course we learned standard immigration practice such as obtaining work visas, student visas, sponsoring a family member, etc., but we focused a great deal on several of the more compassionate paths, particularly asylum and protection through the Violence Against Women Act. These are issues I feel strongly about and would love to incorporate into our practice if the opportunity arises.
Usery: Are there any local cases you’ve worked that really made an impact on you?
Reeves: Adoptions are always fun! It’s one of the rare legal matters where pretty much everyone involved is excited and happy! It’s such a special thing when someone chooses to become family, and I’m always honored to play a part in that.
Being in a college town, many of our clients are students. We deal with all types of misdemeanors, but most of our felony cases involving college kids tend to be drug-related. There are a lot of students that may be charged with a drug offense, which is never a good thing, but fortunately most of them don’t have an underlying problem – usually just experimentation or what might be considered “typical” college use.
It’s very different when you see someone who is truly addicted and see how a substance, or multiple substances, affected their life and family. Cases like this make me look at a lot of things differently. Right now I’m taking an online class about the opioid crisis in America to better understand the addiction, recovery and treatment side of it, so I can provide better representation and understanding to my clients. Kevin and I both make an effort not to view our clients only as someone who is charged with a crime – we try to understand them more as a person and what led them to our office.
Usery: What are some other things you’re doing to be transparent as a lawyer in the community?
Reeves: I never want anyone to feel like they can’t come talk to me because they can’t afford it, or because they are intimidated by lawyers. We don’t charge a consultation fee. Even if someone is ultimately unable to hire, I’m happy to meet with them because I would rather them at least have a better understanding of the situation. I try to always be accessible – our office phone is forwarded to my cell phone twenty-four hours a day. It’s definitely not 8 to 5! I’ve been to the jail on Sunday mornings and on Saturdays before going to the Grove, because if I was in the same situation, I would want someone there as soon as possible.
I can see where some people think lawyers are cold, stiff and work 100 hours a week because for some lawyers that’s true. Yes, there can be untrustworthy lawyers, but that’s true for any profession. I hope that stigma is lessening…especially in Oxford. I want people who come in my office to feel like I’m just another person. Yes, I have a law degree and I can represent you, but I never want to seem unapproachable.
Usery: I read you’re into fitness. What kind of reprieve does that offer you after work?
Reeves: I do enjoy working out, and should probably be doing it more! There are times when it completely takes my mind off of work and everything I thought about or did that day, but there are also times it allows me to be alone and think through issues or think of something from a different aspect.
Usery: What’s something not very many people would know about you?
A lot of people probably know both of these, but first, I LOVE to travel – usually alone. I love planning trips, and helping others plan trips. And second, I really love squirrels, and almost always have almonds in my purse to feed them!
Usery: Wow, how did that come about?
Reeves: I’ve just always thought they were adorable. It is sort of a joke, but it does really make me happy. I went to New York alone a few weeks ago and someone asked, ‘What are you going to do?’ I said I was going to feed the squirrels (laughs).
Usery: What’s your favorite thing about Oxford?
Reeves: I love Rowan Oak. I’ll sit out there and read or have picnics with people. I think it’s the prettiest spot in Oxford. I also love the Grove on gameday. I tell friends from out of town to treat it like a tropical vacation…everyone has to try it. I like the Grove to be the Grove and everyone have a good time, but when we’re in the stadium let’s just not talk to Brooke. I’ve been told I can be too intense about the game! If I’m out on the square, I enjoy the balcony at City Grocery.
Oxford's Women on the Move: Setting the Bar High
By Anna Grace Usery