Following Precedent Journey to Commencement: Twins Katherine and Michael Farese become eighth and ninth family graduates of UM School of Law

This story is part of the "Journey to Commencement" series that highlights University of Mississippi students and their academic and personal journeys from college student to college graduate.

Twin siblings Katherine and Michael Farese have always been close, so it was no surprise that they wanted to continue their education together. The Ashland natives come from a long line of attorneys, so law school felt not only like a natural progression, but something they were meant to do.

On Saturday (May 11), Katherine and Michael both will walk across the stage as the eighth and ninth members of their family to receive their Juris Doctor from the University of Mississippi School of Law.

"Law school was sort of expected of us, but we never felt pressured," Katherine said. "Our parents always supported us and told us we could be anything we want."

Even without the pressure, the siblings fell in love with what they knew. When they were 16, they started working with their father, Anthony L. Farese, in the family law office, Farese, Farese & Farese P.A. Their father served as their inspiration from the time they were young.

"When we went to preschool, we were in different classrooms because they thought they needed to separate us, and we were separated until the third grade," Katherine said. "We would go to school in the mornings, and Michael would bring a briefcase instead of a backpack because he wanted to be just like Dad. His was just full of Hot Wheels, not files."

In all four years of high school at Marshall Academy, they participated in mock trial with their dad as their coach.

"That's when I decided I wanted to go into the law, when I was in 10th grade," Michael said. "He showed us that being a lawyer is about helping people."

"I got to see what Dad did every day, and he became our superman," Katherine said. "He's my hero, and that's who I look up to."

It took Katherine a little bit longer to decide on her career path.

"I was a little more hardheaded," she said. "I think it was my form of rebellion, but it was contained.

"I loved mock trial, but it didn't really hit me until senior year that I thought I could make a career out of this."

Their family members taught them that being a lawyer meant helping others, which is the inspiration they have carried throughout their educational careers.

"I saw my father help so many people, and I wanted to emulate that for my children," Anthony L. Farese said. "I watched my father and uncle litigate a murder trial for the first time when I was 12, and it was a tough situation.

"I think the American judicial system is the best system in the world to participate in, and practicing law is one of the most noble professions anyone can choose to pursue."

Katherine said she was especially inspired by her father's work. While working at the family office, she watched her father kneel down in front of a client who was crying, reassuring them he would do everything he could for them, and that he would never leave them.

"I feel like I was meant to be a lawyer and, as cheesy as it may sound, we want to help people," she said.

Michael said his father talked to them about the frailty of man, and that anyone from any occupation or socioeconomic status can make a mistake.

"It's humbling to be able to advocate for someone," Michael said. "A lot of people are good people who find themselves in bad situations, and it's easier than you think.

"No matter what anyone is accused of, everyone is entitled to a defense."

Since both siblings knew they would pursue a law degree, they declared political science as their undergraduate majors and minored in history. They took all the same classes through their Ole Miss undergraduate careers.

"We've always been each other's best friend, so it was never weird to us that we would take all the same classes or end up with the same major and minor," Katherine said.

Leaning on each other throughout their higher education careers allowed them to succeed.

"We've always studied together," Michael said. "That's the good thing about being twins; is you always have a study partner."

When it came time to choose a law school, there was no question that they would follow in the footsteps of their family members.

"Ole Miss is always the place that we wanted to go to law school," Michael said. "That had been our dream that we had been working toward, and that's where our family went to law school."

The Farese family has quite a legacy at the university, beginning in the 1930s. John B. Farese, from Boston, attended Holmes Community College on a football scholarship. There, he met his wife, Orene Ellis Farese. He was then able to attend the Ole Miss law school on a boxing scholarship, graduating in 1939.

"He had an offer to move to New York City but turned it down to stay in Ashland because his wife, aunt Boots, received a teaching position there," Katherine said. "We've always been told that he started his practice with a one-volume code, a beat-up typewriter and $3.50 in his pocket."

Anthony T. Farese, John's nephew and Michael and Katherine's grandfather, was living in Massachusetts and making $1.50 a day at a shoe factory when John told him to move to the South and offered pay for his education.

"Uncle John put him through Northwest Community College, but Papa, having served in the Korean conflict, always said 'Uncle John and Uncle Sam' put him through law school," Katherine said.

Over time, the Ole Miss law school became a family tradition. John Booth Farese graduated in 1969 and practices civil law. Steven E. Farese Sr. graduated in 1977 and practices criminal defense. Kay Farese Turner graduated in 1973 and practices law in Memphis.

Katherine and Michael's father graduated in 1985 and is a criminal defense attorney. Their aunt, Alison Farese Thomas, graduated in 1993 and practices family law. Several other family members also practice with the family firm, including Steven E. Farese Jr. and John S. Farese, who graduated from Mississippi College School of Law.

"I couldn't imagine taking on law school without Michael because we hold each other accountable to study and do our best, and we're each other's biggest cheerleaders," Katherine said.

Everything about law school is different from undergraduate school – the exams, the writing and the study methods. However, since both siblings like most of the same things and work so well together, they kept their tradition of taking the same classes together in law school, with the exception of just a few.

"We really tried to help each other learn how to take a law school exam, how to study, how to brief our cases," Katherine said. "He knows my mind better than anyone else, and I know his, so we've always been able to bounce ideas off each other."

When one understands subject matter better than the other, they are able to explain in a way the other understands.

"Being twins is special, compared to other sibling relationships," Katherine said. "We always say we're two halves of a whole. We can just look at each other and can have a full-blown conversation with no words."

"It's almost like twin telepathy," Michael said.

They both also continue to lean on other family members for support, calling their parents before each exam.

"I know we say we can't do law school without each other, but you need to see our call logs," Katherine said. "Our mother has been so supportive and sweet, and our dad has been such an inspiration and a great life coach."

Additionally, the Farese legacy serves as motivation for both siblings.

On the first floor of the Robert C. Khayat Law Center is a wall of etched portraits, one for each member of the Lamar Order, which recognizes the school's major donors.

"Our grandfather's portrait is downstairs, and if we're nervous, we go look at Papa's picture and think, 'OK if he did this, we can do it,'" Katherine said. "So that's special for us."

All families have a little bit of sibling rivalry, but for the Fareses, a little competition has just pushed them toward success.

"We're definitely competitive," Katherine said. "All twins are."

"But when one of us achieves something, we celebrate together," Michael said.

They did explore a few extracurricular activities separately in law school.

Katherine competed on the Moot Court Board, where she had an opportunity to hone her skills in oral advocacy and writing case briefs. Michael participated in trial advocacy because his goal is to be a courtroom lawyer.

"I've been able to see Dad help people through the worst part of their lives, so part of the reason I want to do criminal defense is I want to be like him," Michael said. "It's also the most interesting part of the law to me. You're able to be in the courtroom and litigate and try cases."

Katherine and Michael hope their next shared achievement is passing the Mississippi Bar Exam, which they will take July 30 and 31. On Aug. 1, they plan to join the family practice in Ashland.

"Dad's always said we're like a farm family," Michael said. "We've got to grow our own help."

Michael will follow in his father's footsteps and become a criminal defense attorney. Katherine has drawn inspiration from her grandfather, who served as a chancery court judge, and her aunt, and will practice family law.

And for the first time in 24 years, the twins will not live in the same home.

"When we move back to Ashland, we'll have separate homes, but they're two doors down from each other," Katherine said. "But I'm sure we'll be at one house or the other all the time."

Story by Christina Steube/School of Law

Photos by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

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