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Image of Courtney Gilmer featured as a woman of NM
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Sept. 20, 2022

Introducing Women of NM: Financial Regulatory

Featuring: Courtney Gilmer

Nashville of counsel Courtney Gilmer’s practice is focused on working with financial services clients in navigating increasingly complex regulatory and business environments. Courtney has experience with laws impacting both traditional and innovative lenders in the consumer financial services space. Examples of her work include assisting clients with developing, implementing, and maintaining compliance management systems, preparing policies and procedures, performing internal compliance audits for clients, preparing clients for outside audits, as well as preparing related lending documents and disclosures. She also advises financial institutions, FinTech companies, and other financial services providers regarding relationships with federal and state regulatory agencies.

Why financial regulatory compliance?

I started my career as a bankruptcy attorney. At that time one of the largest retail bankruptcy cases had been filed in Nashville and it was “all hands on deck” at my firm to represent a number of different creditors in the case. Bankruptcy law showed me that I was interested in the intersection of business law and litigation. I enjoyed digging in and learning about new industries for each case and how to craft solutions to help those businesses restructure and succeed. Later, I was able to continue representing creditors and lenders in state and federal court litigation and that eventually developed into advising clients on how to avoid litigation or other regulatory action via compliance. I had the opportunity to join a client’s legal team as Chief Compliance Officer for three years where I gained a client’s perspective of compliance. I returned to private practice because I enjoy the variety of issues and industries our clients cover – it is truly something new every day!

What’s one piece of advice that greatly impacted you and your career trajectory?

When I graduated from high school, one of my favorite teachers gave me a paperweight with the quote: “Whatever you are be a good one.” This quote is attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but there is some debate about that. Despite its murky origins, this saying has guided me much of my life and the paperweight still sits on my desk.

When I was a young associate, I focused on being a good one – do good research, write a good memo. As my career progressed and I had the opportunity to mentor new attorneys, I worked to be a good mentor. When I am being a colleague to my fellow attorneys, I try to be a good one – same with how I treat fellow members of the Bar and my clients. And in one of my most important roles, mother to my two children, I always try to be a good one. By taking the focus off of being the best or always worrying about another role or promotion, I just work to be really good at where I am now and that has brought me the most success.

What inspired you to become an attorney?

I grew up on my family’s farm in rural Missouri. No one in my family was a lawyer or an astronaut. Yet somehow, I wrote an essay in the 3rd grade stating that I would be either an astronaut or a lawyer. After years of begging, my parents sent me to Space Camp only to discover I suffered from terrible motion sickness and was terrified of heights. They later sent me to Speech and Debate Camp, and it was one of the best weeks of my life. Alas, the decision between astronaut and lawyer had been made!

What are the biggest foreseeable challenges in your field?

The biggest challenges are really for our clients because they are facing continuously changing and expanding regulation touching all aspects of their businesses. And the stakes are only getting higher – I was on a recent call where I explained that one of the penalties for violation of a particular financial regulation was actual jail time for officers and directors. That will make a client sit up and pay attention! Clients rely on us to not only assist with the current issues they are facing, but they also expect us to always be looking ahead for ways to avoid future issues while still allowing them to conduct business. It is always a balance of trying to be a speed bump and not a road block for a client’s business.

What advice do you have for attorneys starting their practices?

Do not limit yourself early or unnecessarily. There will be projects or practice areas you might not be interested in, but if you are offered the chance to work on them, try it out. I know countless attorneys who because of one project or one relationship, ended up in a practice they could never have imagined when they first started out. Work to meet as many people as you can not only at the Firm, but in your larger Bar. Join the groups - Young Lawyers, the Women Lawyers, the special practice groups - and participate and get to know people. Years later, those same people will have work they need to refer to another attorney and they will call you. Or they will be General Counsel and they will hire you to do their work. Plant those seeds of relationships and the willingness to try new things early and it will pay off in ways you cannot imagine.

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