Phoenix Burchfield wanted legal experience while completing her paralegal studies degree at WKU in Owensboro. She found the perfect opportunity in an unusual place: on the shore of Kentucky Lake.
The Owensboro native searched for legal volunteer hours in the area and had trouble finding the right fit. One day while on Kentucky Lake with her family, rough water caused two boats to collide along the shoreline. Jennifer Hendricks, an Owensboro attorney, was close by and helped the boaters. She and Burchfield struck up a conversation, resulting in an idea that would help both of them – an internship that would work for both of them. Having an intern would give the busy attorney additional help at her firm, and working at the law firm would provide valuable hands-on experience for the intern.
Burchfield began volunteering with Hendricks Law Office in July, using every opportunity to observe and interact with clients. She has also helped with documentation, drafting, and filing.
According to Hendricks, there is a significant amount of preparation that goes into legal hearings, and Burchfield has helped organize, file, copy, and prep cases for final hearing dates. She has also learned how to draft certain basic pleadings and sat in during hearings to see how everything comes together for a final result. Perhaps the most valuable experience has been the opportunity to experience the realistic world of a law firm and gain a wide variety of practical experience that she can use throughout her legal career.
“I have a clearer understanding of an attorney’s daily duties,” said Burchfield, adding that she expects to log over 1,500 volunteer hours with Hendricks Law Offices by the time she graduates from WKU this spring.
The experience has intensified her desire to work in the legal field, and she plans to pursue a law degree. She is prepping for the LSAT and hopes to attend either Brandeis School of Law in Louisville or Belmont University in Nashville.
“She is passionate, driven, and motivated to learn as much as she can about the legal field,” said Hendricks. “I am honored that she chose my office to help her pursue her dreams for the future.”
Burchfield’s mentor has made a lasting impression on her as well.
“I want to help and provide justice to the world,” she said. “And I hope to be half the woman Jennifer Hendricks is, inside and outside of the courtroom.”
When asked what advice Burchfield would give other students, she recommends being fully involved.
“Be as hands-on as possible!”