Alumni Spotlight: Justice Sharon G. Lee

Oftentimes, UT graduates with degrees in accounting move on after graduation to be certified public accountants, controllers, or chief financial officers. Sharon G. Lee, however, chose something slightly different than her classmates---she became a Tennessee Supreme Court judge.

Sharon LeeAfter graduating cum laude in 1971 from the Webb School of Knoxville, Lee attended Vanderbilt University for one year before enrolling in the UT College of Business Administration. During her time as a student at UT, Lee was a member of The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, Beta Alpha Psi national accounting fraternity, and the Delta Gamma Fraternity. After graduating from the College of Business Administration in 1975, Lee went on to earn her law degree, graduating from UT’s College of Law in 1978, ranking in the top 15 percent of her class and earning multiple superior achievement awards.

Upon completing her law degree, Lee returned to her hometown of Madisonville, Tennessee, where she established and ran a successful general practice for 26 years. In addition to her practice (which included an emphasis on civil and criminal litigation), Lee worked as the Madisonville city attorney, the Vonore city attorney, the Monroe County attorney, and the city judge for the city of Madisonville. From 2001-2004, she also worked as a family mediator with advanced family domestic violence training. When Lee was appointed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals in 2004, she was the first woman to serve as judge on the eastern section of the Tennessee Court of Appeals in its 79-year history. In addition to serving on the Court of Appeals, Lee joined the UT College of Law as an adjunct faculty member in 2007. By 2008, Lee was appointed as a justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court, where she serves today.

In addition to the rigorous responsibilities of Lee’s “day job,” she has served in leadership positions for numerous professional organizations, including the executive and strategic planning committees of the Tennessee Judicial Conference; being a fellow of the Tennessee and Knoxville Bar Associations; serving as East Tennessee’s director-at-large of the Tennessee Lawyers’ Association for Women; serving as the membership co-chair, president elect, and president of the East Tennessee Lawyers’ Association for Women. Her philanthropic interests have included serving on the boards of directors of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Monroe County and the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum of Monroe County. In her free time, Lee enjoys spending time with her daughters, Sarah and Laura, boating, traveling, and of course, attending UT football games.

While it may seem that Lee’s profession is a far stretch from her accounting major at UT, she says it’s quite the opposite.

“Although I did not use my accounting degree to enter the accounting profession,” says Lee, “I found that my training and background in accounting were invaluable to me in my law practice and now in the judiciary.

“While at the university, I learned to think analytically and to organize information in such a way as to make it understandable to judges and juries. I enjoyed using my accounting background to do my own bookkeeping and prepare financial statements during the 26 years I practiced law and ran my law office. I also found my business education very valuable in handling cases involving things such as division and evaluation of assets in marital disputes and in the dissolution of partnerships.”

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