Hutchison Taught Shelton Wittenberg ’14 to Have Confidence as a Lawyer and a Lacrosse Coach

Hutchison Now highlights graduates early in their careers who embody how a Hutchison education can lead anywhere you can imagine. We spoke with Shelton Wittenberg ’14, an associate attorney at Baker Donelson who also coaches Hutchison middle school lacrosse.
How did you become interested in the legal field and corporate law? What inspired you?

The first time a career in the legal field was ever put into my head was in 8th grade after Model UN. Our history teacher, John Stephany, saw how much I enjoyed the process of researching a problem for my country, drafting a resolution, and presenting the resolution. He mentioned that I should consider a career in the legal field. I was in 8th grade, and I did not think about it until later in high school and college. 

I have always loved to write and think critically. I also enjoyed science. I went to college and decided to major in Dietetics and Nutrition and minor in Journalism so that I could combine my love of science and writing with my love for sports. However, there was always a part of me that kept exploring and wondering what a career in the legal field would look like. During my junior year of college, I started to explore different paths in the legal field. I realized that I could have a legal career that embraced my strengths and interests and would also allow me to help others in different ways.

I went into law school with a career in corporate law in mind because I have wanted to work in sports since I was a little girl. I used to dream of sitting next to Lee Corso and the College GameDay crew on Saturdays or announcing a game on the sidelines, and corporate law somewhat aligned more with a career in sports. However, through my experiences externing, interning, and being a summer associate, I learned that I was most excited and interested in corporate work and that a lot of my strengths lie on the corporate side.

You work in mergers and acquisitions, general corporate matters, securities, and corporate governance. What is the biggest misconception about what you do?

I think the biggest misconception about what I do is that being a corporate lawyer is not as exciting as being a litigator. Yes, I do not go to court for trials, which I feel is what people think of as the exciting part of the legal field. However, I have found that it is exciting to get to work on projects that help clients grow their business by merging or acquiring another company, selling their business and finding the perfect buyer, preparing for the future of their families/companies, creating the business they have dreamed of starting, and providing guidance/solutions. It is different from going to court where one side prevails because the goal for the projects that I work on is for both sides to prevail and leave happy with the final result. I love getting to be a small part of that!

What advice do you have for aspiring lawyers? 

The biggest advice I have would be to explore and experience the vast opportunities the legal field has to offer. There are so many different paths that a legal career could take you on, and by exploring and experiencing, you might discover that you have a passion for something you never would have thought of or discovered. 

I also would say to not be scared to reach out to people you know in the legal field and ask if they have any opportunities to help you gain experience or if they have time to sit down to talk about their work. One of my biggest mentors is Judge Phyllis B. Gardner, a General Sessions Judge in Memphis. I got to know her because my mom works with her niece who put us in contact with each other, and I asked if I could intern for her over the summer. That summer with Judge Gardner was extremely impactful for me as I got to learn from her, and she helped me become so much more confident in myself. Our relationship came full circle two years later when she administered the Oath of Admission to practice law in Tennessee after I passed the Bar. None of that would have happened had I not reached out to her asking if I could intern for her.

Wittenberg serves as an assistant coach for the black lacrosse team, the most competitive middle school team at Hutchison.

As a former lacrosse player for Hutchison, what does it mean to you to be coaching middle school lacrosse now? What did you learn from participating in athletics at Hutchison and how are you passing that down to current students?

I love getting to help coach middle school lacrosse at Hutchison. Hutchison athletics was my safe haven and where I learned a lot about myself, whether that was on the field or court. It has been special for me to be able to give back to Hutchison and Hutchison athletics by coaching. It is exciting to watch the next generation of Hutchison athletes learn to love lacrosse. It is amazing to see them not only grow individually as players, teammates, and persons through the experiences on the field and at practice but also grow together as a team. 

I was extremely shy as a little girl, but when I put on a jersey and stepped onto the field or court, I felt like I was the biggest person out there even though I was always one of the smallest. Participating in Hutchison athletics helped me become much more confident and a better leader off the field. I give a lot of credit to my coaches for pushing me further than I thought I could go and challenging me to grow and be a better teammate, leader, person, and athlete. As a coach, I like to challenge and push the girls to go beyond what they believe they are capable of, but I also think it is important to recognize and nurture the strengths of each girl because I know that so much confidence and growth in life can be achieved through athletics. Nothing makes me happier than seeing confidence grow throughout a season.

How did your Hutchison experience help you get to where you are today?

Hutchison took an extremely shy little girl and turned her into someone who is confident in who she is and what she has to offer. I was taught that I should not be afraid to use my voice because my words have value and my thoughts have meaning. I not only learned how to lead confidently but also how to work on a team and collaborate. My Hutchison experience taught me that I am capable of more than I think I am and that I can push outside of my comfort zone. I also learned that it is ok to fail because even in failure there is so much opportunity for growth. 

I love how Hutchison encouraged me to explore my interests, pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone, and nurtured my natural gifts/abilities. Because of Hutchison, I learned how to work hard as well as the importance of paying attention to the details. I learned how to fail and how to grow from failure. I learned how to lead, but most importantly, I learned to be confident in who I am and what I bring to the table. I know I would not be who I am today without my experience at Hutchison, and I am thankful every day that my parents gave me the gift of a Hutchison education.

Shelton Wittenberg ’14 is an associate attorney in Baker Donelson’s Memphis office. She concentrates her practice in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, general corporate matters, securities, and corporate governance. She earned her JD from The University of Memphis in 2023 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Mississippi.

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