A 2005 graduate of Mercer Law School, M. Anne Kaufold-Wiggins is currently a partner and a member of the Executive Committee at Balch & Bingham LLP in Atlanta. Anne has a practice split between product liability and casualty litigation, class actions, and appellate work. She specializes in representing electric utilities, including both investor-owned utilities and electric membership corporations, in addition to high stakes personal injury and wrongful death cases, fire cause and origin claims, complex commercial litigation, class actions, environmental torts, and other energy-related litigation. Anne and her husband, Todd, live in College Park, Georgia, where their daughters attend Woodward Academy.
Tell us why you decided to go to law school and specifically Mercer Law School.
Growing up initially, I wanted to be an astronaut like Sally Ride. I was desperate to see the moon and the stars up close. My goal, however, was short lived by the Challenger disaster. Having decided space missions were too dangerous, I decided to be a lawyer. I loved to argue and win. My mother always said to “do what you love.” I loved to debate. I loved to write. I loved spending time on the back row of the courtroom and in the clerk’s office following around my father, Hon. Howard C. Kaufold, Jr. (’78). By the time I was in middle school, I dreamed of being a lawyer. Being unsuccessful in his attempts to persuade me that the life of a lawyer was too difficult to pursue, my father took me for a visit to Mercer when it came time to apply to law school. After all, he’s a double bear himself. He and Professor Chris Wells convinced me that I was best suited to attend Mercer Law School because of the opportunities it would provide given its small class size. I distinctly remember being told if you want to be a “real lawyer,” capable of practicing law when you finish, Mercer is the only place to go. They were right. Macon was quiet with no distractions. The Macon legal community was supportive of the law school. The legal writing program and adjunct teachers, like Chris Clark (’89), were key in giving me the building blocks for a successful practice. I’ve never regretted choosing Mercer.
In what ways has the law school impacted your career and who you are today?
Relationships built on the Mercer Law School experience have opened many doors for me. As a law student, I didn’t appreciate what being a Mercer lawyer would mean. Being from Vidalia and having a father there with a successful practice, I had a hard time getting anyone to believe that I wanted to practice law in Atlanta. When I started looking for summer jobs there, Dean Cathy Cox, then Secretary of State, gave me my first job as a law student in the Securities Division of her office. The next year, at the urging of a family friend, Hugh B. McNatt (’72), I was hired by Josh Archer (’94) to work as a Summer Associate at Balch & Bingham LLP. I’ve been at Balch since that time. Over the years, other Mercer alumni have joined us—Hugh Peterson (’97) and Walt Jones (’05). Now, as a hiring partner in the Atlanta office, I’m proud to have built our team from the Mercer ranks as well—Brooke Walker Gram (’11), Tyler Bishop (’16), and Jena Lombard (’18) make me a better lawyer every day.
Over the years, my best client relationships and opportunities for growth came from other Mercer lawyers. The best advice that I’ve been given from the bench came from Mercer judges. I’ve been able to resolve cases in part because highly skilled and professional Mercer lawyers were opposite me. The impact of the law school on my career is immeasurable, which is why I give back to the law school regularly.
What do you enjoy most about your current career position?
I do not make the facts or the law. They are what they are. In this environment, what I enjoy most is the tactical challenge of executing a winning strategy for my clients.
What advice would you give to younger alumni or current students who aspire to follow a similar career path?
There is not much you cannot achieve with hard work, determination, and the grit required to get back up and try again when you fail. We all make mistakes. The key to success is how you respond to them. Surround yourself with people that will support you. Build a team that is inclusive and where others have skills that complement yours. Our actual career path and the one we planned may not align. That’s ok. At the end of the day, often the journey is more rewarding than the destination.
You were just elected Alumni Board president – tell us about this and what your goals are for the Board?
The goal for the Alumni Board is to build engagement. There are more than 5,600 of us across the county. I find Mercer Law School alumni at every turn. We can do more to connect with one another and help each other, and we should. We have a duty to ensure the excellent reputation of the Law School and our education continues. This year we will hold two main events: Homecoming at the Law School (Nov. 3, 2018, in Macon) and the Annual Alumni Dinner (Feb. 22, 2019, in Atlanta). We’re planning to have more than 400 attendees at the Annual Alumni Dinner. These events are great ways to reconnect with your classmates, colleagues, and the law school. Please mark your calendars and save the dates. You’ll be glad you did.
Last Word: what would you like to say to all Mercer Law School alumni?
I need your help. Strong alumni engagement shows the legal community, students (current and prospective), and various ranking organizations that the Mercer Law alumni truly care about the law school and believe in the quality legal education they received. If you are interested in getting more involved, please let us know. There’s plenty to do. http://law.mercer.edu/alumni/get-involved/