For Kay Baker, there’s no such thing as an average work day. As a private investigator and the sole employee in her firm, Phoenix Investigative Services, LLC., wearing many hats is an understatement. She chases leads, delivers subpoenas, researches, invoices, and meets with clients, just to name a few.
After a storied, successful career that transitioned from being an ADA in several jurisdictions, to a deputy executive secretary for the Campaign Finance Regulatory Agency, and a special agent in the FBI, Kay decided it was time to stop working “for the man”. She had grown tired of riding the circuit around her territories in Northwest Georgia as an ADA. Despite having lived in Chattanooga for a while, she felt little ties to the community because work kept her away from home.
She mulled over her options and knew she didn’t want just any legal job; she wanted to be challenged, she wanted flexible hours, and she wanted to be home more. It was then that her husband had a flash of genius—why not become a private investigator?
At first, Kay wasn’t sure about this, but then realized she could be creative in the investigative profession and not feel as “boxed in” as she had been as a lawyer. She got involved in the local community and developed a database of client prospects through cold calls, networking, and sending letters. Once her license was cleared in August 2015, she was ready to begin her new line of work.
Kay’s vast experience in the law makes her an asset when local lawyers want to employ a private investigator, and she quickly grew a strong clientele base. With her background, she’s able to determine the difference between admissible and inadmissible evidence and knows which leads are worth chasing to help a case.
“I know how to prepare a theory and defense and that keeps me from chasing rabbits,” she says.
As a “boots on the ground” investigator, Kay enjoys digging into cases and finding missing pieces to a puzzle. When she’s not up to her elbows in research for a local case, she’s often fielding requests from out-of-town lawyers looking for help finding people who’ve essentially run away to the local area.
One area of business she was surprised to find success in is process serving summons and subpoenas. Sheriff’s deputies, she explains, usually only go during banking hours when people are at work. If a lawyer needs to serve someone who’s elusive during those hours, they call Kay.
“People look at me and they open doors for me,” she says, giving several examples of instances where she was able to build trust with someone to serve them papers and they accepted the documents amiably.
Kay enjoys not only working for herself, but being her only employee. When working for the ethics committee, she was a supervisor and wasn’t a huge fan of the management aspect. Though clients tell her she needs to hire or she’ll have to start turning business away, she concedes that she’d rather do that than take on the day-to-day of hiring and managing a staff.
“You can be a leader without being the person in charge of other people,” she says.
In her free time, Kay loves to test her physical limits. A former triathlon competitor and now a retired runner, she still enjoys swimming and cycling. Traveling around the many back roads of Chattanooga on her bike has introduced her to numerous shortcuts.
“Now, when traffic is bad, I know several other ways to get home to avoid sitting in rush hour,” she muses.
Her other passion lies in helping animals. Several years ago, Kay and her husband began volunteering at the local Humane Society. They would walk dogs on Sunday mornings and help at fundraising events. It was through this volunteer process that they found their fourth dog to adopt—a sweet puppy found abandoned by the side of the road. Kay and her husband nursed him and he now lives a full and happy life alongside their three other dogs.
A year and a half ago, Kay joined the board of the Humane Educational Society and attended CWLI’s Finance in the Boardroom series to help educate her on this transition. She is passionate about raising awareness on the many things this organization does, from protecting animals and paying for their medical care to tirelessly working to find the animals loving and comfortable homes.
“We’re a sanctuary,” she explains, “So we do not euthanize animals to make room. The government doesn’t cover their medical costs or rehab, so we have to fund raise what we need.”
The organization puts on numerous fundraisers throughout the year, including their large “Rescues on the Runway” auction event that features the entertainment of dogs walking the runway alongside fashion models.
Kay said she feels grateful for the flexibility self employment has offered in becoming involved in community programs like the Humane Educational Society.
“I couldn’t have done this in any of my old jobs. I always felt guilty even leaving for lunch, knowing my job was being paid for by taxes,” she says. “Now, I control my income and workload and can free up time for important initiatives like this.”
For more information about Kay Baker, check out our Q&A.