“Athens State was just the perfect combination of small class size, caring and knowledgeable professors, and the fact that it’s local.”

As a history major, Taylor Heck never imagined that she would become a lawyer. She had no family or friends involved in the occupation, and yet she now finds herself rooted in Mississippi fighting for justice at Lamar & Hannaford, P.A. “A lot of kids think that they have to go to the ‘Alabamas’ and the ‘Auburns,’ and those are fantastic schools, and we’re lucky to have them in the state, but you don’t have to go to those four-year universities with the big names to be successful,” she said. Taylor is a great example of how one can take advantage of resources close to home, such as Athens State University, to shape and discover one’s own potential.

Taylor grew up in the Athens area and was homeschooled most of her life. This gave her the flexibility to begin volunteering at the Athens-Limestone Public Library when she was thirteen, and continue working there throughout high school and most of her college career. After attending Calhoun Community College, transferring to Athens State came naturally for Taylor. “Athens State is a big part of the community here. I’ve always known about it and thought that it would be a good option for me,” she stated. She loved the added benefit that the University was close to home, which allowed her to save money and continue working.

At the beginning of her college career, Taylor aspired to teach history at the collegiate level. However, her interests began to shift after taking some political science classes. “I’ve always been interested in the political arena – history, politics, and law. My family has always joked that I can argue really well,” she said. “I took several political science classes from Dr. Jess Brown, and that’s when I realized that I was more interested in the law part of things.” From there, she made the decision to go on to law school instead of pursuing a career as a history professor. Taylor graduated from Athens State with a degree in history and political science and then set sail for law school at the University of Mississippi, where she graduated in the top 10 of her class. She attributes Athens State with helping prepare her for this great accomplishment. The success did not end there for Taylor, as she obtained clerkships for two Mississippi Supreme Court Justices immediately following law school, setting her up for her current career.

Graduating college with as little debt as possible was a big goal for Taylor. She worked hard to maintain a high GPA and was rewarded with several scholarships, including Athens State’s History Department Scholarship. The scholarships, in addition to help from her parents, were a tremendous aid to her. “I was pretty much paying my way, so any amount that could help offset that and get me out in a good financial position to go to post-graduate school was very helpful,” she said. Taylor is extremely grateful for both the support provided by her parents and her scholarships to this day.

Even though life has taken her to Mississippi, Taylor still considers Athens, Alabama her home. She currently works for Lamar & Hannaford P.A. in Senatobia, Mississippi, but is licensed to work in Alabama as well. “On any given day, you may be working on a criminal case, a custody case, a divorce case, a zoning issue, a land dispute, or a workman’s compensation case,” she explained. “It’s certainly not boring. With a lot of the cases I handle, the truth is certainly stranger than fiction. You just think: What’s the best way that I can help this person out of this situation?” Taylor still has big goals for the future as she hopes to run for judicial office one day.

Taylor has some advice for anybody considering law as a career path. “Take things seriously,” she advises. “I see a lot of people during their first year of undergraduate that don’t take it seriously, and frankly, if you bomb that first year and are playing catchup on your GPA, it will be harder for you if you decide to pursue higher education.” While she stresses that it’s not impossible to recover from bad grades, always trying your hardest is the key to being successful. Taylor also believes that too many people get caught up in big name schools and that it can be beneficial to take advantage of colleges closer to home. “I think our junior college system—Calhoun especially, which I have personal knowledge of—has some of the greatest professors and dedicated faculty around. It’s the same thing for Athens State,” she said.  “Athens State was just the perfect combination of small class size, caring and knowledgeable professors, and the fact that it’s local.”

Taylor’s story is proof that it is possible to start in a small place, discover your passions and interests, and achieve something great.  She advises others to think about this when considering their college and career goals. “Don’t be too stressed about what exact classes you need to take and think that you’re going to be hamstrung with your future. Just take classes that interest you and do your best, and I think that your career path will make itself known to you.”