Law Student Carries on Legacy of Admired Attorney

Nathaniel Snyder named first recipient of Edmonson scholarship

UM law student Nathaniel Snyder (back row, third from left) is greeted in Oxford by friends and family members of UM alumnus Richie Edmonson. Pictured are (front row, from left) Kevin Smith, Bob Coffin, Jep Pollard, Scott Hollingsworth and (back row, from left) Harry Park, Richie’s brother Will Edmonson, Snyder, Roger Aldridge, Bradley Shultz and Richie’s brother Stephen Edmonson. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Richard Edmonson lost his life to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, in 2015, but his memory is forever linked to the University of Mississippi. Nathaniel Snyder of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is the first recipient of a UM scholarship established to pay tribute to Edmonson.

Snyder, who graduated from Ole Miss with a bachelor’s degree in accountancy in 2017, recently completed his first year at the School of Law using the Richard “Richie” M. Edmonson Jr. Memorial Scholarship to supplement his tuition.

“I am extremely honored and humbled to be the first recipient of this scholarship and to know that I will be the first to carry on Mr. Edmonson’s legacy,” Snyder said. “His generosity has allowed me to pursue a career in law, a profession that Mr. Edmonson used to help others.”

Edmonson, of Madison, was a partner at Markow Walker law firm for 24 years and was an A-rated attorney by Martindale Hubbell.

“Richie was always very goal-oriented,” said Lisa Bane, Edmonson’s wife. “He would see something he wanted to accomplish and he would never give up until he had achieved his goals. He had a great drive and determination to succeed at everything he attempted.

“I think he would be very honored to know that this scholarship is helping other people reach their own academic goals at the university he loved so much.”

Edmonson chose UM for his college home, earning both undergraduate and law degrees. He excelled in academics, particularly in his pursuit of his legal education, and was active in Kappa Sigma Fraternity, Order of Omega, Mortar Board, Phi Delta Phi and the Mississippi Law Journal staff.

UM law student Nathaniel Snyder (center) is greeted in Oxford by brothers of the late Richard Edmondson, Will (left) and Stephen Edmonson. Submitted photo

In addition, the well-rounded student was active in intramural sports, with flag football as his favored activity.

After college, he enjoyed spending time with Lisa and their three daughters, as well as going mountain and road biking, running, hunting and whitewater rafting.

Fraternity brothers and family members sponsor a golf tournament in Oxford each year to raise money for the scholarship.

The Edmonson Scholarship Fund is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. To contribute, send checks with the fund’s name noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., University, MS 38655; or visit http://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift.

For more information, contact Suzette Matthews, development officer for the School of Law, at suzette@olemiss.edu or 662-915-1122.

University Appoints Erica McKinley as General Counsel

Respected attorney brings 20 years of experience in private and public sectors

Erica McKinley

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has appointed Erica McKinley as general counsel. McKinley, former chief operating officer for the National Basketball Players Association, is an attorney with nearly 20 years of global legal experience in the private and public sector.

As general counsel, McKinley will serve as the university’s chief legal officer. She will report to Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter and provide advice and counsel on a wide array of matters including governance, research, athletics, student affairs and finance. McKinley also will coordinate with the University of Mississippi Medical Center on legal matters, working closely with its general counsel. She will be a member of the chancellor’s senior leadership team.

McKinley is a trusted adviser with outstanding judgment and a distinguished background, Vitter said. Before her work in professional basketball with the NBPA, she was associate general counsel for Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Previously, McKinley was an assistant attorney general in the D.C. Office of the Attorney General, where she served as chief of general litigation. She was later appointed general counsel for the D.C. Department of Human Resources. Early in her career, McKinley practiced commercial litigation and white collar criminal defense with two D.C. firms, Arnold & Porter and Akin Gump.

“I am honored to support the University of Mississippi as it continues its unprecedented growth in higher education, research and health care,” McKinley said. “I’ve come home to Oxford with an immediate sense of pride, purpose and responsibility.

An Ole Miss alumna from Jackson, McKinley earned a law degree from the UM School of Law in 1998, graduating summa cum laude and salutatorian. After law school, she completed a clerkship with Judge E. Grady Jolly on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. McKinley also holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Tougaloo College.

“We are extremely pleased to have an accomplished leader with such vast experience,” Vitter said. “Ms. McKinley is a highly-respected attorney with exceptional legal experience in corporate, government and private practice. We are thrilled to welcome Erica back to Ole Miss.”

McKinley will relocate from New York to Oxford and assume the role of general counsel on June 22.

Duffs Honor Late Father with Major Gift

Contribution supports Ole Miss' inaugural Flagship Constellations

The late Ernest Duff (center) is being remembered by sons Jim Duff (left) and Thomas Duff with a major gift to the UM Flagship Constellations. Similar to this new initiative that uses a multidisciplinary approach to challenges, attorney Ernest Duff had an entrepreneurial spirit and was known to respond to opportunities with solutions. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The youngest of five children and the first in his family to pursue higher education, Ernest Duff left his small home town of Columbia to attend the University of Mississippi, where “his eyes were opened and his mind enlarged.”

Duff became a widely respected attorney, visionary, entrepreneur and community leader who always gave credit to his educational foundation built at Ole Miss.

Now sons Thomas and Jim Duff, of Hattiesburg, have made a $1 million gift to pay tribute to their father’s life and to support the university’s new Flagship Constellations initiative – multidisciplinary teams composed of faculty, staff and students from the university’s Oxford and Medical Center campuses seeking significant, innovative solutions to complex issues.

“Each of us stands on the shoulders of those who came before us, and our father certainly did that,” businessman Thomas Duff said. “The education he received, the opportunities that were given to him, he utilized those throughout all of his life. The power of an education enriched his life, his family, his grandchildren and his great-grandchild. We are very grateful for that legacy and what Ole Miss has meant in each of our lives.

“My father loved the University of Mississippi. He was elected student body president and inducted into the student Hall of Fame. He enjoyed college so much that he spent the next three years in the School of Law, where he was active on the Mississippi Law Journal staff and graduated No. 1 in his class.”

Education was an important part of his father’s life, as well as the mentors and friends who came with it, Jim Duff said.

“I remember as a kid hearing all these wonderful stories about different individuals, professors and students at Ole Miss who had a big influence on his life – who helped mold him into the person that he became,” Jim Duff said. “And he became the type person who changed many, many lives.

“Ole Miss is such a special place to our family because of him. It’s such a unique institution, and he would be extremely proud and pleased with this gift. He would want to give back to Ole Miss.”

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter thanked the Duffs for their strong support of the Flagship Constellations, an initiative that brings together the brightest minds across all areas of the university to inspire and accelerate meaningful solutions to some of our greatest challenges.

“With this gift, Thomas and Jim Duff have created the Ernest R. Duff Flagship Constellation Fund to commemorate their father’s great love for Ole Miss,” Vitter said. “Ernest Duff was a leader and a visionary – what a tremendous way for them to honor their father and ensure his continued impact and legacy.

“This support will enable us to ignite the potential of the Flagship Constellations. We are extremely grateful to the Duff family for choosing such a meaningful gift to the University of Mississippi as a means of remembering their dad.”

Similar to the Flagship Constellations initiative, Ernest Duff had an entrepreneurial spirit and was known to respond to opportunities with solutions. As a successful corporate attorney, he worked with many major businesses, and while serving as an attorney for Georgia Pacific in Columbia, he saw a need, filled it and, as they say, the rest is history. The company needed someone to haul wood chips, so Duff founded Forest Products Transports. The trucks needed tires, so he established Southern Tire Mart, which has become the largest commercial tire dealer in North America.

Southern Tire Mart led to the formation of Duff Capital Investors, which is composed of 19 various businesses employing more than 11,000 people with total revenues exceeding $ 2.2 billion. Duff Capital Investors is one of the largest private companies in Mississippi and includes KLLM Transport Services of Jackson.

Duff, who passed away in May 2016, served as city attorney in Columbia for 32 years, Marion County attorney for 36 years and Pearl River Valley Electric Power Association attorney for 53 years; he was a director of Trustmark Bank for 28 years.

His sons, Thomas and Jim Duff, both University of Southern Mississippi alumni, lead Duff Capital Investors as co-owners. In 2012, in recognition of their significant contributions, USM named its athletics center the Jim and Tom Duff Athletic Center.

The family also includes their mother, Bobbie Baggett Duff, brother Stephen Duff and sister Jane Duff Thomley, all of Hattiesburg.

Thomas Duff serves on the board of trustees of the state Institutions of Higher Learning, the governing body responsible for policy and financial oversight of the state’s eight public universities. He also serves on the Mississippi Power Board of Directors.

For more information on providing support for the Flagship Constellations, contact Vice Chancellor of Development Charlotte Parks at cpparks@OleMiss.edu or 662-915-3120; or visit http://flagshipconstellations.olemiss.edu.

UM Graduate Programs Highly Ranked by U.S. News & World Report

Business school finishes No. 53 among public institutions

The University of Mississippi School of Business is tied for No. 53 among public institutions in the 2019 edition of the U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools rankings. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi offers 14 graduate programs ranked in the Top 100 among public institutions. Seven programs joined the ranks of the Top 100 in the recent 2019 edition of the U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools rankings, adding to seven other UM graduate programs that were previously ranked.

UM graduate programs ranked in the Top 100 are:

Online graduate programs at UM ranked in the Top 100:

  • online MBA (No. 20)
  • online education (tied for No. 35)

The business program performed exceptionally well in the 2019 edition of the rankings, finishing in a tie for No. 53 among public institutions.

“We are excited for the recognition of our MBA program, and this ranking is a testament to the quality of our faculty and the outstanding educational experience that we provide for our students,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration. “We continue to create opportunities for student success and offer an excellent value in the marketplace for students aspiring to receive an MBA.”

Earlier this year, U.S. News & World Report named the university’s online Master of Business Administration as one of the best in the nation, ranking No. 20 nationally, and the Ole Miss online graduate education programs tied for No. 35 among public institutions.

The School of Law is tied for No. 54 among public institutions in the 2019 edition of the U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools rankings. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

“We’re pleased to see many of UM’s graduate programs ranked nationally,” Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said. “As we continue our focus upon preparing the next generation of leaders for challenges on a national and global stage, these rankings provide important benchmarks for us to highlight and measure our successes.

“Through our outstanding faculty and collaborative research opportunities, we are committed to fostering excellence in graduate education and to growing our reach and impact.”

The new rankings arrive a year after U.S. News & World Report graduate program rankings for history, English and political science placed each of those UM programs in the Top 100 for public institutions.

In the 2018 edition of the rankings, the UM graduate program in history cracked the Top 40 for the first time, tying for No. 38 among public institutions.

The English program tied for No. 40 among public universities.

The political science graduate program entered the rankings for the first time and tied for No. 59 among public institutions.

Ken Cyree, dean of the UM School of Business Administration, said the school’s high ranking in the U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools rankings is a testament to its faculty and educational experience. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

In the 2017 edition of the U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools rankings, the Ole Miss pharmacy program ranked No. 23 among public institutions, and the university’s clinical psychology graduate program tied for No. 67 among public institutions.

“The institution has focused on enhancing graduate education, and we are so pleased that our excellent programs have garnered this level of recognition,” said Christy M. Wyandt, interim dean of the Graduate School.

In four of the last five years, the university also has improved its overall U.S. News & World Report Top Public Schools ranking. In the 2018 edition, UM was tied for No. 73 among top public schools.

The 2019 edition of the rankings rates programs in business, law, medicine, nursing, engineering and education, among others. According to U.S. News, the ranking methodology varies by discipline, taking into account factors that may include test scores of entering students, job placement rates and starting salaries of recent graduates, academic quality ratings by officials at peer institutions, and opinions of hiring managers.

Law Class of 2018 Presents School with Class Gift

Officials hope donation becomes annual tradition

UM law students (from left) Brittany Barbee, Allison Bruff, Jack Noonan, Spencer Newman, James Kelly, Alex Heideman, and Victoria Jones, members of the Class of 2018 Gift Committee, show off a portrait of Dean Joshua M. Morse III, who is being honored by the class’ gift to the School of Law. UM photo by Jordan Thomas

OXFORD, Miss. – The Class of 2018 at the University of Mississippi School of Law has presented a class gift to the law school, setting the stage for a new tradition. Students collectively decided that their gift would honor Dean Joshua M. Morse III (LLB ’48), who challenged segregation in the 1960s.

“This was based on several factors, including 2018 as the 70th anniversary of Morse’s graduation from the law school and recognizing his great influence at the school during a tumultuous and troubled time in our history,” said Brittany Barbee, one of the leaders of the Class Gift Committee.

Morse was a pioneer who played a major role in shaping the direction of the school. His efforts included extending legal education opportunities in Mississippi, making the School of Law accessible to all people, regardless of race, gender and socio-economic status.

To honor Morse, the reading room in the Grisham Law Library will be named after him and his portrait will hang there.

So far, the committee has raised more than $3,600. Seventy-three percent of the class has given, with a goal of reaching 75 percent. The committee also secured matching gifts from alumni.

Susan Duncan, the school’s dean, commends the class on its willingness to participate in the campaign.

“I am so incredibly proud of the Class of 2018 for their initiative in naming the library reading room after Dean Joshua Morse, and I’m also thankful to them for starting this new tradition of class gifts,” Duncan said. “The fact that they are not only donating money themselves, but are also getting their gifts matched, speaks volumes to their leadership.”

The Class of 2018 includes 122 students who have grown together academically and professionally over the past three years. This departing gift is their way of leaving a legacy, no matter where they end up.

“I feel like this class gift serves two purposes,” said Ned Nelson, a third-generation Ole Miss law student and a member of the Class Gift Committee. “First, to commemorate a truly admirable figure in our school’s history and second, to establish a sense of pride in giving back to the school that has given us so much more than an education.”

Donors are encouraged to participate regardless of the amount. The final amount raised will be tripled by generous donors. Donations can be made at http://umfoundation.com/3lgiving.

Law Alumna and Adjunct Professor to Clerk on U.S. Supreme Court

Tobi Young hopes to apply her real-world legal experience while clerking for Justice Neil Gorsuch

Tobi Young

OXFORD, Miss. – Tobi Young, a 2003 graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Law and an adjunct professor, has been selected as a U.S. Supreme Court clerk for Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Young, who graduated with high honors, will serve during the court’s 2018-19 term.

“The law school is so excited for Tobi, who has been an excellent professor and mentor to our students,” said Susan Duncan, UM law dean. “She has had an incredible career thus far, and we know she will be excellent in this position.”

Young is the school’s first female graduate to clerk for the Supreme Court. W. Wayne Drinkwater, who graduated in 1974, clerked for Chief Justice Warren Burger during the 1975-76 term, and Judge Rhesa Barksdale, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, clerked for Justice Byron White during the 1972-73 term after graduating in 1972.

Coincidentally, Gorsuch also clerked for White, as well as for Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Young first met Gorsuch while working at the Department of Justice. He helped oversee the Civil Rights Division, where Young worked initially as a trial lawyer and then as counsel to the assistant attorney general. Gorsuch later recommended her as a clerk to Judge Jerome A. Holmes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

Gorsuch also was appointed to the Tenth Circuit in 2006.

“After my clerkship, my husband and I kept in touch with then-Judge Gorsuch during his 10 years on the bench,” Young said. “He would occasionally send us articles he wrote, and when we visited Denver, he always made time to join us for lunch or visit with us in his chambers.

“When I learned he was going to be announced as the next Supreme Court nominee, I joined a few former colleagues and traveled to D.C. to assist with his confirmation.”

Young recalls Gorsuch’s confirmation process as both exhilarating and exhausting.

“We worked around the clock for nearly three months,” she said. “I was fortunate enough to be at the White House when he was announced as the nominee by President Trump, and it was such an inspiring moment watching a mentor accept the nomination with such humility and humor.”

It’s common for newer justices to bring in former clerks and colleagues in their first few years on the Supreme Court. Gorsuch asked Young if she was interested in clerking for him, an idea that she hadn’t even considered.

But, as Young said, “How can you turn down an opportunity to clerk at the Supreme Court? It’s not a prospect I had ever pursued, but it was such an honor for him to have placed his trust in me. I’m excited to work for him, and lucky to have an amazing support system that enables me to be a mother and take this position.”

Young’s husband, Evan, who also is an adjunct professor at the Ole Miss law school and a partner at Baker Botts LLP, clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia during the 2004-05 term.

“Evan still frequently refers to his experiences at the court and with Justice Scalia, who also had a great affinity for Mississippi,” she said. “Being Justice Scalia’s clerk transformed his life and the way he approaches the practice of law.

“If he is still buzzing about his clerkship, there must be something magical to that experience.”

Young is general counsel in the Office of President George W. Bush, as well as general counsel and board secretary for the George W. Bush Presidential Center. Before that, she was an associate White House counsel under Bush.

“I am extremely grateful to President and Mrs. Bush for their example and for having given me the opportunity to work for and with them for over a decade,” she said. “Having practiced law in both the government and the private sector, I have experienced the profession as more than a theoretical puzzle. I hope this real-world experience will help me serve Justice Gorsuch well.”

Young excelled during her time at Ole Miss and was invited to give the Commencement speech for the 2016 School of Law graduation.

“I truly enjoyed my time at Ole Miss, and appreciate the support that has continued,” she said. “My professors taught me the fundamentals of the law, while also consistently emphasizing the importance of upholding the ethical expectations of our field – an area lawyers can never underscore enough. That’s a topic that Evan and I focus on with our Ole Miss students.”

This spring, Young and her husband are teaching a class together entitled “Uncle Sam Wants You?” which focuses on opportunities for and ethical responsibilities of lawyers who work at any level of government. As professors, the Youngs feel that not only teaching the curriculum, but also being a mentor to their students, is vital.

“We could not have been more impressed with the engagement level and the intellectual curiosity of this class,” she said. “We hope to continue being involved with the law school for many years to come.”

UM Issues a Firm Challenge

Law school challenges firms to support university

Author and UM law school alumnus John Grisham takes questions from Ole Miss law students in the Khayat Law Center. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Law is challenging 20 Mississippi firms to show their support for education by achieving 100 percent giving participation from their attorneys who are Ole Miss alumni.

Recently, Adams and Reese LLP of Jackson became the first firm to reach 100 percent giving to the 2018 UM Law Firm Challenge.

William C. Brabec, a 1983 UM law graduate and partner with Adams and Reese, worked to encourage all Ole Miss alumni within his firm to participate. He credits law school Dean Susan Duncan for inspiring him to become a donor.

“Dean Duncan informed us of the importance of alumni giving in the law school evaluation process,” Brabec said. “She said that only about 4 percent of the school’s 7,000 alumni give back regularly to the school.”

The school hopes to triple that percentage by the end of this year’s challenge on June 30. Private giving supports the school with vital scholarship and operational funds.

Gee Ogletree, also a partner with Adams and Reese, helped encourage participation, a challenge met in only five weeks.

“We quickly accepted Dean Duncan’s challenge to us,” Ogletree said. “We believe that fundraising will play an increasingly important role in the future of all law schools, and we support Dean Duncan as she continues the law school’s tradition of excellence and takes it to new heights.”

The UM Law Firm Challenge was created as a way to get alumni involved in giving back, Duncan said.

“We are so proud of Adams and Reese for being the first firm to achieve 100 percent giving among alumni,” she said. “Lawyers there truly took the challenge to heart and did a great job quickly getting their alumni to support the initiative.

“We hope their success will encourage other firms to reach 100 percent.”

Adams and Reese based its participation on the firm’s core values, which include growth, respect, excellence, accountability and teamwork. These values drove Brabec through the process.

“Our firm always encourages excellence and philanthropy,” he said. “Also, being a regional firm with alumni from all over the Southeast, there is a competitive spirit among the alumni of the various SEC schools.”

Adams and Reese has set the bar for the other 19 Mississippi law firms. Firms that reach 100 percent participation receive a personalized trophy, recognition on the School of Law website and in the alumni newsletter.

To participate in the 2018 UM Law Firm Challenge, alumni can give to any UM law school fund by clicking here or by contacting Suzette Matthews at 662-915-1122 or suzette@olemiss.edu. Or, checks with the fund noted in the memo line can be sent to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655.

Law Journal to Publish Special Issue Focused on State’s Legal History

Edition set to come out in April with articles focusing on people who helped shape state law

Antonia Eliason

OXFORD, Miss. – The Mississippi Law Journal is putting together a special issue featuring several works focused on Mississippi legal history, including articles written by Antonia Eliason, a University of Mississippi law professor, U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills and former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice James L. Robertson.

“We are very excited to be publishing this special Mississippi-focused issue,” said James Kelly, the journal’s editor-in-chief. “The articles in the book tell the stories of people who have helped shape our state’s history and law.

“We are so proud to be bringing these stories to print and are very grateful to the authors for sharing them.”

Eliason’s article, titled “Lillian McMurry and the Blues Contracts of Trumpet Records,” focuses on a Jackson-based record company established and run by Lillian McMurry from 1950 to 1955. McMurry was a pioneering businesswoman who discovered and signed some of the most prominent artists in the blues genre, including Sonny Boy Williamson and Elmore James.

“Lillian McMurry has become a hero of mine; her picture hangs in my office to remind me of the strength of character and compassion that she demonstrated as the head of Trumpet Records,” Eliason said. “After spending so much time in the archives reading her correspondences with the artists that she signed, I feel like I’ve come to know her personally.

“She had a remarkable ear for talent despite a lack of musical training, and supported her artists, even after the record label dissolved.”

Drawing on archival material, the article demonstrates a progressing level of sophistication for the young record label, as well as the ways in which McMurry’s business practices helped promote increased fairness and transparency in recording contracts.

“At a time when there were so few female players in any capacity in the recording industry, she broke barriers while avoiding the rapacious practices of many record label executives,” Eliason said. “She also treated all of her artists the same, irrespective of race, even though she was operating the highly segregated milieu of 1950s Mississippi.

“I hope that through my article, more people will come to know Lillian McMurry’s story. She was a truly exceptional woman and someone who will remain a source of inspiration in my life.”

The article “Dry September Revisited,” written by Mills, chronicles the stories of a group of Mississippi legislators who stood up against Walter Sillers, the powerful speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, after he invited Maj. Gen. Edwin Walker to address the Legislature.

The legislators opposed Walker’s speech because of his role in working to block James Meredith’s entry into UM.

Former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice James L. Robertson’s work, “Only People Were Slaves,” recounts the story of an early freedom-by-residence case brought by a group of slaves. The case, decided in 1818, is notable as the first known instance in which the court of last resort in a Southern slave state ruled that the slaves were free.

The article features the first publication of several original archival sources and is adapted from a chapter in Robertson’s forthcoming book, “Heroes, Rascals and the Law: Constitutional Encounters in Mississippi,” which is being published by the University Press of Mississippi.

The themed edition of the Mississippi Law Journal is slated for release in April.

Spark Series Covers Starting an Online Business

Free event is Tuesday at Jackson Avenue Center

OXFORD, Miss. – The process seems simple: Launch a business online; make money.

Except the process is not that straightforward, and the next Spark Series at the University of Mississippi covers what business owners need to consider before starting their online ventures, including avoiding pitfalls, digitally marketing their businesses smarter and more.

“Questions You Should Ask Before Launching Your Business Online” is set for 5-6:30 p.m. Tuesday (March 20) at the Jackson Avenue Center, Auditorium A.

The free panel discussion is open to the public with no registration necessary. The panel includes Allyson Best, director of the UM Division of Technology Management; Stacey Lantagne, assistant professor of law at the UM School of Law; Neil Olson, former general counsel with mortgage technology company FNC Inc., and startup and tech business consultant; and Jennifer Sadler, UM instructional assistant professor of integrated marketing communications.

The event is intended for any new or existing business, any nonprofit or other organization, or any individual who is interested in a website, app or other digital effort.

“Life online is continuously evolving,” Lantagne said. “It’s important to think about how the law affects the ways you want to use the internet to grow your business. We want to make sure you make the law work for you.”

After the presentation, experts from around campus and the community will be available for individual conversations during an ask-the-expert reception.

The first Spark Series event in late February discussed questions potential business owners need to investigate before forming a limited liability company. The event was well-attended by new businesses and existing ones, and by members of the UM campus and the local community, Best said.

“Now we are going to spark a discussion on another critical point: doing business online,” Best said.

A number of issues should be considered when doing business online, such as contractual and intellectual property considerations, work-for-hire issues when designing a website or app, and security requirements for protecting a business.

“Copyright is as old as our Constitution, yet it still seems to have surprises in store for new entrepreneurs,” Olson said. “Let us show you how you can avoid some of the more unpleasant surprises so you can get on with making your new online presence a success.”

Tuesday’s discussion also includes Sadler, an expert in digital marketing and entrepreneurship.

Digital marketing starts and ends with the consumer, and in an era of big data, business owners can target their exact audience and reach them as they browse online, Sadler said. Some keys to doing this are researching the consumer, understanding their online behavior and providing an easy way to solve any problems they may have.

User-friendly websites and audience-tailored advertisements also help business owners when it comes to digital marketing, but making money online is still hard work.

“Many entrepreneurs believe that once the website or app is up that orders will immediately start coming in – instant success,” Sadler said. “The truth is that it rarely happens that way. It can take a new business roughly six to nine months to reach the top of Google search pages, and that’s only if you have the right website to reach your audience.

“We want to give attendees the tools they need to start strong and grow fast. From forming the business/website name to getting it online, we are aiming to equip entrepreneurs with information they can use today.”

The Spark Series – intended to inspire, discover and transform – will continue in the fall.

Sponsors of this Spark Series event include the Division of Technology Management, School of Law, Insight Park, Meek School of Journalism and New Media, Mississippi Law Research Institute, Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation, McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and the Mid-South Intellectual Property Institute.

UM to Host Discussion Aimed at Business Beginners

Spark Series is intended to inspire, discover and transform

OXFORD, Miss. – Business experts from the University of Mississippi and the local community will lead a Wednesday (Feb. 28) discussion about questions potential business owners need to investigate before forming a limited liability company.

Part of the Spark Series, the panel discussion is titled “Questions You Should Ask Before You Begin Your Business.” The event, set for 4 p.m. in the Jackson Avenue Center, Auditorium A, is free and open to the public with no registration necessary.

The panel includes Marie Saliba Cope, UM assistant dean for student affairs, assistant clinical professor at the UM School of Law and director of the Transactional Clinic; Neil Olson, former general counsel with mortgage technology company FNC Inc., and startup and tech business consultant; Will Wilkins, director of the Mississippi Law Research Institute; and Allyson Best, director of the UM Division of Technology Management.

Following the presentation, the panel will be available for individual conversations during an ask-the-expert reception.

“The local community is fortunate to have so many resources for entrepreneurs and technology commercialization efforts, but if you’re new to this world, it can be a little daunting,” Best said. “We have noticed there are critical points in the process where it’s valuable to stop and consider your options. This series is intended to spark those conversations.”

The event will attempt to answer a number of questions and cover scenarios aspiring owners should investigate before proceeding. Topics for the Wednesday panel include ownership rights and control, independent contractors vs. employees, intellectual property ownership, investor funding and tax issues.

Allyson Best

“(This event) has been created to educate entrepreneurs about legal issues,” Cope said. “For our first event, our hope is that attendees will begin to address the issues that arise when one begins a business.

“We have found that people begin working and jump into business relationships without defining the ownership interest or roles that the members or partners will hold. Our goal is to assist people in planning before they start so that they can avoid conflicts that may arise from misunderstandings.”

Another Spark Series event is scheduled for March, time and place to be announced. The event will focus on e-commerce, with topics including legal considerations, digital marketing and more.

The Spark Series – intended to inspire, discover and transform – is not intended to be a typical training session, Best said. And Wednesday’s event is important for anyone interested in forming a business entity, even if they have already filed with the Mississippi Secretary of State.

Sponsors of the Spark Series include the Division of Technology Management, School of Law, the Mississippi Law Research Institute, Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Insight Park, the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation and the Mid-South Intellectual Property Institute.