Strong work ethic the foundation of Highsmith’s success


Editor’s Note: This October, we will celebrate our 30th class of 40 Under Forty honorees. Each week in 2022, The Business Journal of Tri-Cities Tennessee/Virginia will highlight one of our 2021 40 Under Forty honorees leading up to the announcement of our milestone class this fall.

Akiah Highsmith has a sharp legal mind, a heart for serving others and a set of hands that are not afraid to dig in and do some hard work.

“My parents really raised me to have a strong work ethic,” Highsmith said. “I grew up on a farm, and nothing really got done sitting around. That’s something I’ve been able to maintain.”

Highsmith made his mark in Tennessee’s 3rd Judicial District. As a state prosecutor, he showed the ability to effectively prosecute criminal cases in a manner that delivered justice in a fair manner. He also worked tirelessly to go the extra mile to project vulnerable citizens by serving on the Vulnerable Adult Protection Investigation Team, and he became deeply involved with the Hawkins County recovery court to help those battling addiction.

Highsmith credited Doug Jenkins, a chancellor in the 3rd Judicial District, for helping him appreciate the human side of his profession and developing sensitivity for what people involved in trials were going through.

“You’re usually dealing with people when they aren’t at their best, so taking that into account,” Highsmith said. “There’s also the old adage of being an attorney and also a counselor and helping people through their problems.”

Last year, Highsmith made the move to Herndon, Coleman, Brading & McKee where he made his return to private practice. He always knew he wanted to return to private practice, but didn’t know when it would happen. With a 9-month-old daughter at home, last fall proved to be the right time, and Herndon, Coleman, Brading & McKee proved to be the right opportunity.

Highsmith will be the first to admit the work ethic instilled in him back on the family farm drives him to work as long as it takes to get the result he wants. In fact, he was thrilled to get the keys and alarm code at his new office so he could dig in and get to work.

Gary Mabry knows Akiah and his wife McKenzie Highsmith well enough to know the young attorney keeps a healthy balance between his career, his community service and his family. “The Highsmith family values give one the sense that all is well in his law practice because all is well at home,” Mabry wrote in his letter of recommendation.

Working in Johnson City has shaved 10 hours a week of commuting from Highsmith’s schedule, allowing him to become further involved in his community. He plans to use that time to become even more involved in serving the people around him.

“I’m looking forward to extending my roots here in the community,” he said.

Next week we will profile Bryan Houston of Klem, Houston & Associates. If you would like to nominate someone for inclusion in the 2022 class of 40 Under Forty, visit and follow the instructions.

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