Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, October 22, 2021

Dyer finally gets her view from top of ladder

Hallie Dyer is a new associate with Duncan, Hatcher, Holland & Fleenor in Chattanooga. She comes to the firm from Knoxville, where she graduated from the UT College of Law. - Photo by David Laprad | Hamilton County Herald

Attorney Hallie Dyer says she’s held every role one might find in a typical law office at least once.

Reared in McMinnville, Dyer’s long, slow climb up the ladder of the legal profession began when Dan Warlick, the late Nashville attorney who assisted in Elvis’ death investigation, plucked her from obscurity to work in his office.

Dyer had performed as a witness for the high school mock trial team at The Webb School in Bell Buckle and taken a law class at Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama, but the legal profession was not on her radar when Warlick snapped her up.

Not knowing she’d stepped on the first rung of a tall ladder, Dyer left to teach at a bilingual school in Honduras.

She was still there when Warlick called her and asked her to temporarily fill in for his office manager, who was going to be on maternity leave.

Dyer agreed and then stepped from the second to the third rung when Warlick unceremoniously began assigning her paralegal tasks, including work on a federal criminal case.

Contributing to the case was exciting, she says, and her interactions with the client intrigued her.

“I know this is rare, and everyone says this about their client, but the guy was totally innocent,” she claims, her eyes brightening. “He really was.”

The client was a real estate closing attorney and a property investor Dyer insists made mistakes while managing the sale of investment properties.

“It was the coolest case,” she recalls. “I was 24, and I was sitting at a table in a big federal courtroom with an attorney on one side of me and the client on the other. It spoiled me for the everyday work I’d been doing.”

Although the case hooked Dyer, she says she fought climbing higher up the ladder.

“My boss kept telling me I needed to go to law school. He said my brain works like an attorney’s brain. But I knew it would be hard.

“People come to you all day, every day with their problems, and even though you have a stack of problems on your desk, they have only one problem, and you’re their only lawyer. I knew it would be stressful, so I resisted.”

But Warlick didn’t relent. Dyer says he continued to encourage her to think critically about the cases on which she was working and gave her legal knots that were difficult – but not impossible – to untangle.

Eventually, Dyer realized she wanted to be doing what Warlick was doing.

“I wanted to be the one who talked to the jury,” she says. “I wanted to be the one who disappeared into a room to talk with the other attorney or who was called into the judge’s chambers.”

Dyer also found criminal cases to be delicious assignments – perhaps too delicious in some cases, she admits.

“I just really liked it when a client who was in deep trouble would come into the office,” she says, her whole face brightening this time. “I worked on cases involving car crashes in which people were, or were not, criminally responsible for horrible injuries and deaths. And I came to believe that if our government is going punish people for what they’ve done, then it needs to do it correctly every time.”

Dyer began gracing the corridors and classrooms of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville College of Law in 2015. She says she believed Warlick wanted her to take over his practice when he retired, but he died suddenly in 2017, leaving her without a post-graduation trajectory.

She secured a job in a Knoxville law firm in 2019 but soon discovered it was not the kind of professional home she desired.

“It wasn’t the kind of place where I could build a foundation for how I wanted to practice the law,” Dyer says.

To Dyer, the practice of law is a collaborative process in which one generation of attorneys takes the next one under its wings and nurtures them. This new cohort of lawyers then works together – even when standing on opposites sides of the courtroom – to achieve the tenets of the law.

Dyer says she felt as though the Knoxville firm would not give her the kind of mentoring she felt she needed, so she left it in early 2020 – just weeks before COVID-19 became an international force of nature.

While doing document review on a contractual basis to survive the pandemic, she heard the voice of Chanse Hayes, an attorney with Duncan, Hatcher, Holland & Fleenor in Chattanooga, on the other end of a call.

“We’d been classmates together at UT. He said, ‘We’re growing and I believe you’d get along great with everyone. Why don’t you come talk with us?’”

Dyer started as an associate with the firm (which will be Duncan, Holland, Izell & Fleenor Nov. 1) the first week of August.

“It’s been wonderful. The people here understand how truly inexperienced a new attorney is. Law school doesn’t teach you how to practice law. I was very aware of that coming out of school because of my paralegal experience and having watched someone do the day-to-day work of an attorney.

“I need experienced lawyers to give me their time – and everyone here has been gracious enough to involve me wherever they can.”

This one-on-one guidance has steered Dyer through the early days of her practice, which has consisted of a variety of basic but essential tasks such as representing a client in a personal injury case, assisting a client with title issues and handling numerous family law matters.

“I enjoy helping people work out their custody and child support issues,” she says. “It feels like my work has made a difference in someone’s life.”

As Dyer settles into not just her role at her firm but also life in Highland Park, where she lives, she’s content to have found a firm she says will enable her to build a strong practice.

“I didn’t imagine I’d end up here when I took the job answering the phone at the firm in Nashville,” she says. “But it’s a great place to be.”