“There was nothing about banking that appealed to me in any way when I got out of law school,” says Katie Edge, now a banking lawyer with Miller & Martin PLLC, of her early career.
Of course, things are different now.
“I have been able to build a nice practice here with Miller & Martin. I’m affectionately called the bank lady,” she notes.
Edge’s professional career has been characterized by that type of unpredictability. Her career and indeed her adult life looked entirely different in earlier days.
“I was a schoolteacher when I came out of Peabody College, here in Nashville, in 1967, taught school for a number of years, got married, had a child, got divorced, and decided to go to law school,” Edge recalls.
Wanting to be “completely independent” without having to borrow money for tuition, Edge enrolled at the Nashville School of Law, then called the Nashville YMCA Night Law School. This, incidentally, was while she was putting in a 60-hour work week for a local architectural firm and taking care of a kid at home.
“It was hard. The working schedule was hard enough, but school was tough,” Edge says. “Having been an educator, I also tended to want to do well. I was working pretty hard.”
She finished, of course, and passed the bar exam her first time out. Then there was another problem. She wanted to work for a law firm, but none of the major locals would grant her a second look. Back then, Edge remembers, being a Nashville School of Law graduate didn’t warrant an second look from corporate firms.
“It wasn’t a big-name school,” Edge says. “While the school had a long history in this community, it didn’t at that time have a very prestigious name.”
She eventually found a job with the Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions. Though she had no background, training, expertise or real interest in banking law, it turned out to be an auspicious time to begin a career as a banking attorney. 1983 was the year that Knoxville-based banking mini-empire United American Bank collapsed, the result of what was later determined to be massive fraud on behalf of its owners, Jake and C.H. Butcher. That crisis, says Edge, led to a domino effect that spread throughout the state.
“I was sorry that we closed 35 banks in Tennessee in the mid-'80s, but I was glad I was in the middle of it,” she says. “It gave me a career that I couldn’t have had any other way.”
Edge stayed with the department until 1995. During that period, she worked her way up from staff lawyer to general counsel to assistant commissioner to deputy commissioner. “The progression helped me know just about every banker in the state,” she recalls.
These days, Edge spends much of her time helping small and community banks work their way through the financial crisis of the past several years. While many small Tennessee banks she’s dealt with have had some difficulties — and will likely face more when new capital requirements under the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Bill go into place — she has yet to oversee a closure this time around.
Rather, she says, regulators, banks, and attorneys like her have worked to find creative solutions, often small-bank mergers, to avoid closure. Working out these mergers often requires her to act as “mother and psychologist” to bank executives and board members, she says.
“It is a credit to the regulators, particular the Tennessee commissioner, that we have been able to keep some of these banks open until we find solutions for them,” Edge says. “And that’s what I love. I love solving the puzzles and trying to help these companies fix their problems.”
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