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Stepping Out

Amanda Alexander’s path to law started with confronting bullies on a school bus

Published in 2022 Mid-South Super Lawyers magazine

Years ago on an elementary school bus in Kokomo, Mississippi, several older children were taunting a student with disabilities, so Amanda Alexander confronted the bullies—physically placing herself between them and their target.

“I was small and petite then,” she says, “but I would often advocate for this child.”

After telling her mother about the experience, and crying over how frustrated she felt, she considered the people her mother listed off who might help resolve the issue: the child’s parents, the bus driver, the school. And then her mother asked Alexander a simple question: “What do you want to do?” Both mother and daughter figured the student could benefit from having a good lawyer.

“Well then, that’s what I am going to do,” Alexander remembers saying.

She stuck to it. Her first job after attending Tougaloo College was with the Mississippi Bar; her first mentor was state Supreme Court Judge Reuben V. Anderson, the first Black judge to hold the position; and one of her first posts after law school was at the city attorney’s office in Jackson, where she was responsible for workers’ compensation cases.

It was during her time with the city that she decided to strike out on her own. “I was outside this parking garage and there was this ‘For Rent’ sign on this building. I kept saying ‘Maybe I’ll go over there and rent some office space, have my own thing,’” she remembers. “And that is what I ended up doing.”

Those beginning years included many teaching moments. She had to terminate a law clerk because they didn’t realize a piece of information on a case would be pertinent, which could have affected the relationship with the client. “It was an intentional decision not to share with me,” Alexander says, adding that her outlook on the experience remains positive. “We were able to resolve it: ‘Let’s figure out what happened, and so we can learn from it and move forward.’”

Part of what made Alexander Law possible was her steady income as a professor at Jackson State University. “You should definitely make sure you have [regular] income to support your efforts,” she says.

As for others thinking of making the leap? “I encourage lawyers who are stepping out,” she says, “to talk not only with lawyers who are practicing but business owners who are successful.” To that end, she seeks advice from her brother, Bernard, who owns an insurance company. “His perspective is, ‘You can be a great lawyer, but that doesn’t mean you will be a great business owner.’”

Alexander also shared her experience in one of the chapters of the book The Road to Independence: 101 Women’s Journeys to Starting Their Own Law Firms, put out through the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession. “Paying it forward simply makes sense to me,” she says. “It’s wired into my DNA.”

But nothing is forever. In September, Alexander was offered the chance to merge her operation with the largest minority- and women-owned firm in the country, Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, and manage its Mississippi office.

She compares the emotions as analogous to sending your child off to college. “It was a natural decision to flourish but such expansion does not negate the emotional attachment to something that I have spent 17 years growing and nurturing,” she says. “Forming Alexander Law, P.A. was more than a business decision, it was a decision for my family and for my independence, and it was a decision for me. My daughter Amari Elizabeth can see a legacy of building something from the ground up. As a woman of profound faith in God, the decision to let the firm expand its wings creates new challenges, but I am at peace because we are up for new challenges.”

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