Our stand-by lawyers are an experienced and diverse group of lawyers dedicated to our mission to make the law easy and affordable. These stories give a glimpse into our lawyers' lives and show how they help our clients achieve their goals with Amelia Village Newspaper.
Meet Jessica, surfer and full-time lawyer
My name is Jessica Taylor Levine. I was born and raised in Miami, Florida. I have a deep love for the sea, so much so that I stayed for a college in Miami and attended the University of Miami, where I studied journalism, philosophy and English literature.
During my studies at the University of Miami, I surfed a lot, gave spin lessons, climbed, climbed and ran almost every day. Running is a passion of mine and my pharaoh dog Tut usually ran with me.
After graduation, I knew I wanted to continue my education and continue to write (what you spend most of your time studying journalism, philosophy, and literature).
At this point in my life my family had moved to Nashville and left me in Miami. The next two years after college, I worked and saved for graduate school. There was only one school I wanted to go to, Savannah College of Art and Design. After saving for two years, studying a lot for the GRE and putting together my writing portfolio, I sent a single application to a graduate school, SCAD. I found out that I was accepted on my birthday. Shortly afterwards I packed up my apartment and of course Tut and moved to downtown Savannah, Georgia. Living in Savannah was like a dream. You leave the highway, drive into the city center and suddenly the streets are paved with bricks and the houses are 200 years old. The Spanish moss overwhelms you and the beauty and sense of history in an undeniable way. And then came the first day of the graduate school.
SCAD is very selective. I was maybe 20 of all applicants who were accepted into the Research Training Group that year. The expected workload was ruthless. In fact, SCAD does not hold classes on Fridays and leaves its buildings open 24 hours a day, as students are expected to need 3-day weekends to keep up – and we did.
After your first year as a PhD student at SCAD, you will be put through a review process. You need to put together your thesis advisors, put together a portfolio that illustrates your improvement, and write an essay, with the topic being your only guide – write about something related to your area of expertise.
Well, I was a nonfiction writer. I was in the middle of my thesis, a non-fiction novel (a miracle in itself, considering that you have 5 years to complete your thesis 5 years after completing your coursework). The deliberately open topic didn't let me sleep. Sometime in the middle of the night when I was watching TV thoughtlessly, I looked up and there was a 20/20 episode about a pornographer. He was interviewed and, to my surprise, he was not talking about porn, but the First Amendment. At first I couldn't connect.
Like most people, the first amendment was this general idea of freedom to say at will, say my opinion, say FU to censorship, you know, the stuff in films. But realizing that this man seemed to be teaching me more about the First Amendment in 5 minutes than ever before, made me realize that the First Amendment would not only be the subject of my Intermediate Review essay, but also an instant passion.
From that point on, after passing the intermediate exam, I focused on studying every aspect of the First Amendment. I bought legal textbooks on profanity, flag burning, protest, church and state separation, the Southern Poverty Law Center. I bought and read books that were subject to censorship at a certain time, books that had sparked great debates about the First Amendment, and began to follow and read some of the country's leading First Amendment scholars. I was hooked. Strangely enough, I had never thought of studying law in all of this.
One day a few friends were over and I told them how upset I was about that day's events. One of my professors politely asked to expand my medium-term essay into a full paper. I wanted to finish my book! But sometimes someone else needs to look for the truth. My friends looked around and there were law books all over the place, and one of them just said, as if it had been a matter of course all along: "Well, maybe you should do that and then just go to law school."
I didn't really think about it. The next day I told my professor that I was going to write my thesis on the topic that was proposed and that I would be ready within the year because I was studying law. I googled the requirements for the law school, signed up for the LSAT, bought a book on law schools, and Mercer University was listed as the nation's leading law writing program. I took my LSATs, finished my thesis, graduated with honors, and was accepted into the law school at Mercer University. It was a whirlwind of a year. There was no time to think twice or to look back. I just graduated, packed, moved and sat a week later in the orientation of the law school.
The law school at Mercer was incredible. It was like a built-in community. I had professors who enabled me to conduct independent studies to further learn and research the First Amendment. I had a choice of so many constitutional law electives. I spent my time studying constitutional law and family law. Why family law? Because it was an issue of great importance to me, because I saw my parents divorce for two years, and it seemed that the lawyers were never looking for the best for the family, the children, me, and my brother . I wondered if I could be a family lawyer who broke this form and disproved the stereotype of divorce lawyer that we all know too well.
When I graduated from law school, I took the GA bar and was eager to return to Savannah, surrounded by the historical landscape I loved, and especially near the beach. But before the results even came in (I passed, by the way), my family had convinced me that a decade was long enough that they wanted me around, so I packed everything up and moved to Nashville and started to do it study TN bar. I took the TN bar in February and while on vacation to visit a friend for my birthday, my mother called to tell me that I had passed the TN bar. It was a good day.
Within a month I had decided to open my own little practice and my goal was to help families with divorce and custody issues. I always put the children's wellbeing first and remind my customers of it. It is not always easy. In fact, I still find it difficult not to tie myself to my customers and their children. But I would rather be passionate than apathetic.
When I started practicing family law, I learned that there are so many families who need help but cannot afford full-time counseling. Some people cannot even afford an advisory fee. When I found Amelia Village Newspaper, I read what services they offered and was very excited to get the chance to be part of Amelia Village Newspaper. I love answering questions from people, even those that just keep people calm.
When you practice family law, you are always dealing with people who are most at risk. The cases that I deal with are about families, parents, grandparents and the children they love the most in the world. Can it be emotionally demanding? Yes. Are there days when I'm so exhausted that I'm just sitting in my pajamas and working from home? Absolutely. But I wouldn't trade the endless hours, my customers, or my job for anything. I love what i do.
You can follow Jessica on Twitter.
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