The Tahoka Kid
Jeremy Brandon brought a little bit of West Texas to Harvard
Published in 2008 Texas Rising Stars magazine
on March 17, 2008
Updated on June 11, 2009
If Jeremy Brandon, 30, had one ounce of athletic talent at Tahoka High School, he might not have graduated in the top 10 percent of his class at Harvard Law School.
Tahoka is a small cotton farming community of about 2,900 located just 28 miles south of Lubbock. But it’s no West Texas suburb. “To the east, west, north and south of Tahoka, there’s nothing but farmland and beer stores,” Brandon says, explaining that the stores sprout up just outside dry boundaries.
“Growing up in Tahoka where, aside from farming, football is ‘king,'” he says, “I wanted so much to play sports and give my dad something to talk about at the coffee shop. But I just had no talent. I figured I’d focus on getting good grades.”
Now an associate in the Dallas office of Susman Godfrey, Brandon admits he could have been pegged a “dork” in high school. In his high school graduating class of 44, Brandon was valedictorian and student body president. Getting good grades led him to Baylor University, mostly because he was Baptist and even had done a bit of preaching at a Tahoka church. A church buddy went to Baylor, and Brandon decided to follow, and won a scholarship to attend.
As a freshman, he went to a Texas A&M football game in College Station, where he fell in love with Aggieland. “I immediately knew this was where I wanted to be,” he says. “There was such school spirit and a genuine feeling of camaraderie. It just gave me chills.” So he transferred to A&M.
After his junior year, he applied to Harvard Law School. By that time, he knew he didn’t want to be a farmer, driving a tractor and pulling weeds. “They work so hard all their lives just to pay the bank from year to year,” he says. “Some years it doesn’t even rain. I couldn’t handle that.”
A key to getting into Harvard was, of course, getting good grades. At A&M, Brandon graduated first in his class of 3,512 with a 4.0 GPA, but he admits that his West Texas roots helped convince the Harvard Law admissions committee. “It’s all about diversity, and I brought a little hick to the table,” he says.
When the conservative young man with a passion for politics arrived at the liberal powerhouse at Cambridge, he found himself changing. “I went to Harvard, learned a little law, and left a Democrat,” he says.
He also graduated magna cum laude in 2003.
His first job out of Harvard was to clerk for the Hon. Jeffrey R. Howard of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit. He later worked in Washington, D.C., with Williams & Connolly. He loved the firm and the District, but wanted to come back to Texas. “I missed my family, and I couldn’t afford a house in D.C. And I was intrigued by Susman Godfrey and its model,” he says.
His commercial litigation practice focuses 40 percent on plaintiff’s work and 60 percent on defense work. Most of his time is spent litigating antitrust cases.
“I never was into so-called corporate law,” he says. “I like to write and I like dealing with people. I really like the challenge and adrenaline rush of being in court as an advocate. I recently had the opportunity to fly solo in an important argument before the Oregon Supreme Court, and that was a heckuva experience.”
He says he doesn’t get back to Tahoka enough. “There are really good people there,” he says. He is proud to say that his high school buddy Drew Stone is now assistant principal at Tahoka High; his former quarterback pal Wes Solomon is now a coach in Houston; and his best friend from high school, Lee Rash, is now in business school at the University of Chicago.
Having achieved success but still single, Brandon says his job cuts into his social life. “I work way too much,” he admits.
Then again, his advice for small-town students is to follow the same philosophy that has driven him. “From a career perspective, if you work hard you can accomplish anything,” he says. “Never forget your roots, and be nice to everybody along the way.”