When Randee Stemmons was 10 years old, she read Harper Lee’s classic “To Kill a Mocking Bird.” At the same time, her father was appointed to defend a young man accused of murder.
“He kind of became my Atticus Finch, and I was Scout,” Stemmons said. “That’s when I fell in love with law.”
Stemmons wears a lot of legal hats in the community of Mount Vernon, where she’s practiced law at her family’s 104-year-old firm since 1983.
“Living up to the reputations of my father and grandfather — I could never master their abilities, but I think I would make them proud,” she said. “They were trial lawyers. My practice is a little more people-oriented.”
Even after being diagnosed with endometrial cancer last year, Stemmons continued her role as a municipal judge in five towns and a general practitioner in her hometown. And she only recently resigned as a special representative for region XV for the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel.
“I think what I’ve enjoyed the most is finding solutions to the problems that people present to me. Sometimes you have to get creative to get those solutions,” she said.
Stemmons graduated in 1980 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and business administration from William Woods University. She went on to earn her law degree in 1983 from the University of Missouri School of Law.
“I came back to my home town to practice law with my dad,” she said, adding that her family founded the Stemmons Law Firm in 1915.
Stemmons has practiced law for 36 years, concentrating on probate, guardianship, estate planning, real estate, family law and criminal law.
“I love practicing in a small town. The judges — you try so many cases in front of them you have a feel for what they are going to do,” she said. “It’s not as backstabbing as some bigger areas. We work for resolution rather than trying cases.”
Stemmons said she finds the legal community to be supportive in a small community.
“For instance, when I was going through [cancer] treatments the judges knew that, and they would just continue my cases,” she said. “… Even though I am a solo practitioner, and so are a lot of lawyers in this area, we kind of depend on each other. I had almost every lawyer call the office and ask what they could do for me… It was amazing.”
Stemmons volunteers in her community, concentrating on children and veteran issues. She co-founded the Emergency Service for Children charity, which raises money for about 200 children a year to buy food, clothing, medical supplies and other essentials. She also is a board member of the Mount Vernon Veterans Home Assistance League, an organization that raises money to enhance the lives of veterans.
“Law has been a way of life since I was 10. Even when I got sick, I couldn’t give it up — I kept working,” Stemmons said. “I think the best times in the practice of law are when I go to court. All my friends who are lawyers are there. We laugh a lot — those are the good times.”