Mississippi Business Journal recently named Edward Watson, general counsel at Jackson State University, as one of the top 40 attorneys in the state as part of its 2018 Leaders in the Law awards. Watson told the Jackson Free Press that MBJ grants the distinction to attorneys who "zealously represent clients with integrity and sound legal judgment."
Watson, 42, has served as general counsel since 2017. He previously served as associate general counsel at JSU from 2014-2017 His duties include representing the university in legal cases, working with outside litigation attorneys on JSU's behalf, and providing legal consultation to campus leaders and administrators to ensure the university is in compliance with state and federal laws and regulations.
"It was humbling to be recognized for doing something I love," Watson says. "I came from a small town and was always taught to put the best of your efforts into what you do without seeking out recognition for it. The rewarding part of my work is in working with the student population to ensure their rights are protected as they are developing into young adults, from free speech to due process."
Watson is a lifelong resident of Terry and graduated from Byram Attendance Center, which is now Terry High School. He enrolled at Tougaloo College and graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science in 1999. He later received his juris doctorate degree in law from Mississippi College School of Law in 2003.
After graduating from MCSL, Watson joined Jackson-based civil-defense firm Phelps Dunbar LLP in 2003.
In 2007, he opened his own firm called Alexander & Watson P.A. with friend Amanda Alexander. Watson's firm worked with entities such as the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning to litigate contracts, labor and employment law and general injury liability defense. Working with MIHL contributed to his decision to become a counsel for JSU in 2014, Watson says.
"Representing universities and colleges made me realize I could be involved in law while also mentoring young minds," Watson says. "I've had a lot of people in my life who served as mentors for me, and I decided I wanted to do the same and show the next generation a mentor in the legal profession."
Watson also worked as an assistant prosecutor in the Hinds County youth court from 2009 to 2014 and as the city prosecutor for Terry from 2011 to 2014. Super Lawyers, a website that rates attorneys throughout the United States, named Watson as one of its Rising Stars for Mississippi for three consecutive years from 2011 to 2014.
"After 16 years of practicing law, I've developed a personal philosophy of always trying to find a way to work together with the other side to find a common solution," Watson says. "The legal field can be an adversarial place, but I believe it doesn't have to be that way. I think we can all try to solve issues in an amicable way."
Watson and his wife, Shanell Watson, have been married since 2001. They have three sons, Nicholas, Sean and Barrett.