As former chair of the LTAMS Membership Committee, Jennifer West Signs wrote dozens of member highlight articles, but had never been the subject of one until now. Jennifer is a native of Gulfport, Mississippi, and a graduate of Mississippi College where she received a B.A. in English with a minor in History in 1985. Her favorite history professor convinced her to apply for law school, and she earned a J.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1988. During summer breaks, Jennifer clerked for Jones, Jones & Jones, where she learned how to search a title at the courthouse and type up a title commitment in triplicate using an electric typewriter and carbon paper. The practical experience set her on a course to focus her career on commercial real estate.
Returning to Gulfport permanently, Jennifer became an associate with White & Morse where she was mentored by Knox White, Lee Perry, and John Harrell in handling title searches, closings, and foreclosures. In 1992, White & Morse merged with Eaton & Cottrell, where Jennifer found her place handling more complex closings and commercial real estate matters for Ben Stone, Luther Boyd, and Rodger Wilder. Jennifer became a partner of the firm in 1997, and another merger led her to join Balch & Bingham in 2001. After 33 years of practice involving development and finance projects ranging from casinos to shopping centers to solar facilities, she transitioned to an Of Counsel position at the end of 2021 and has been happily retired.
Jennifer is listed in The Best Lawyers in America for Project Finance Law and Real Estate Law and was named by Best Lawyers as “Lawyer of the Year” in Real Estate Law in Gulfport in 2017, 2020, and 2024. She received an AV Preeminent Peer Review Rating from Martindale-Hubbell and is ranked by Chambers USA in real estate. She was named “Title Person of the Year” by LTAMS in 2021. Jennifer also served as Chair of the Real Estate Section of the Mississippi Bar from 2006 – 2007 and is a former member of the bar’s Ethics Committee.
One of the most satisfying aspects of Jennifer’s work has been mentoring associates interested in real estate practice. She always encourages them to be sure they understand how to search a title and draft a title commitment for themselves, to read every document in the chain of title, to religiously follow a checklist, and to start every new project by plotting out the legal description and finding aerial photographs. Google Maps is quite the improvement over the hand-drawn tax maps that were kept at the courthouse back in the day.
Another benefit of Jennifer’s time at Jones, Jones & Jones was getting to know the firm’s abstractor, Fred Signs, who she married in 1993. Fred was the manager of the Gulfport office of First American Abstract Company for many years and now operates Beachview Abstracting LLC to stay busy in his retirement. Their son, Weston, is a senior at the University of Alabama majoring in accounting with a minor in art history. Together, they enjoy traveling, and their amazing experiences include exploring Mayan ruins in the jungles of Belize, whale watching along the coast of Alaska, snorkeling with giant sea turtles in Hawaii, and holding a manta ray in the ocean off Grand Cayman. They recently took a Viking Cruise on the Danube from Germany to Hungary. Jennifer is a member of Opportunity Church and spends much of her spare time with creative projects including baking, sewing, writing, and painting murals and rocks. See some of her work on Facebook on the page “Solid Rocks – Gulfport.”