Law school graduate Justis Gibbs plan to follow in family legal tradition and serve his community
Justis Gibbs always knew he wanted to become a lawyer. Growing up in Jackson as the son of two attorneys, the dinner table conversations at the Gibbs household often surrounded the legal system and all its policies, practices and problems. He knew that he wanted to become an advocate for others.
“Ironically, the legal system was the controlling factor for most of my concerns,” Gibbs said. “I soon figured out that becoming a lawyer was the best way I could use my talents to help my community and family.”
In 2018, Gibbs earned an undergraduate degree in political science with a minor in strategic, legal and management communications from Howard University. Law school was always the immediate plan.
His mother, Debra Hendricks Gibbs, earned her Juris Doctor from Mississippi College in 1999 and is a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives. His father, Robert Gibbs (JD 79), and sister, Ariana Gibbs (JD 16), both earned their degrees from the University of Mississippi School of Law.
“I’ve known of three commencements that came before me, so it’s always just been a dream and expectation for me to have this moment for myself,” Gibbs said. “Ole Miss School of Law has a rich, rich history, and it’s just been a great moment to be able to be involved in a part of the history in a fundamental and really exciting way.”
Gibbs served the law school significantly during his three years. He was Honor Council Representative for his first two years of law school, and was appointed investigation committee chair his third year, where he oversaw potential violations. He served on the Dean’s Leadership Council, as the internal competition chair for the Negotiation Board and on the faculty selection committee.
Over the last year, he also served as a student representative on the school’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, where he offered input to administration on changing historically discriminatory policies and practices in legal education.
All his involvement and work culminated on April 29, when he walked across the stage as a graduate of the law school and as a recipient of the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award. The ceremony was especially meaningful for Gibbs because the school’s 2021 Commencement speaker was his lifelong mentor and role model: Robert Gibbs.
“There are really no words to describe the moment,” Justis Gibbs said. “I am a very symbolic and sentimental person. I remember sitting and listening to my dad’s words and thinking of my ancestors who fought tooth and nail so their grandsons could experience that beautiful feeling.
“I am grateful for his accomplishments, as they continue to push me in the right direction in life.”
Robert Gibbs is senior partner of Gibbs Travis LLC in Jackson. He is known as a skilled trial attorney and specializes in mass tort litigation, business litigation, product liability and alternative dispute resolution. He also previously served seven years as a circuit court judge for the Seventh Judicial District of Mississippi.
“When I came to school here 42 years ago, all I could think about was just making it through myself, and not only did I make it through, but my daughter and now my son have made it through,” Robert Gibbs said. “Justis has always looked at what I did and was determined that he would do the same thing.
“So, to see your own flesh and blood agree to follow in your footsteps and then do everything that it takes to make it to that plateau, it’s so exciting.”
Robert Gibbs is also president-elect of the Mississippi Bar Association for 2021-22. The person in that role traditionally speaks at the law school’s Commencement along with a guest speaker. But that meant he would ordinarily be speaking to the Class of 2022.
“When I got the call and was invited to do it, Justis and I both just jumped for joy because neither one of us thought it would happen, and for it to happen for me, who graduated from here, and to come back full circle and not only see my son graduate, but have the opportunity to speak to his class,” Robert Gibbs said.
“That means so much to me. And my hat just goes off to this administration for thinking that that would be something worthwhile. It definitely is worthwhile for me.”
Robert Gibbs spoke to the Class of 2021 about the power that comes with their degree and their reputation as practicing attorneys.
“When you are acting as a lawyer or with anything else you do, do it with good character,” he said.
Justis Gibbs is spending the summer studying for the Mississippi Bar Exam, and his immediate plan is to practice law in Jackson alongside his father at Gibbs Travis LLC. He also plans to be an advocate and voice for others.
“I would love to use my law degree to help my community as best as I can, and that’s any way possible,” he said.
Story by Christina Steube/School of Law