Zeola Charles

Ellen Richardson | September 20th, 2021
Zeola Charles (Photos by TMF Photography)

Zeola Charles (Photos by TMF Photography)

While most use their career to become a financial success or a powerhouse that the younger generation looks up to, there are those who take the path less traveled. A path that allows them to become a voice for the voiceless.

Zeola Charles began her job path with the U.S. Army and eventually became a part of the Las Vegas insurance game. Yet, her career path would change after returning to a dream born at the tender age of eight.

“Ever since I was an 8-year-old girl, I wanted to be a lawyer. However, life would take me along a different path, and I joined the army at the age of 18,” said Charles. “During this time, I also obtained an associate degree in paralegal studies, followed by a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. After leaving the army, I obtained my MBA all while starting my career as a litigator in the insurance world, where I remained for more than 20 years. Although this career path had an air of legal air to it, I kept feeling my childhood dream calling, so I returned to law school at 38 years old.”

Along with making a career change a bit late in the game, Charles would also begin her path to greatness with a move from Las Vegas to Alabama for law school and eventually North Carolina.
“It is funny because we decided to move to North Carolina after a spring break road trip where we fell in love with this state,” said Charles. “It was just so beautiful and ran well by people who cared about each other. Seeing the pride that everyone had to make this state the best possible was also something that I had never seen before, so I knew that I wanted to start our family’s new life and adventure in North Carolina.”

After deciding to settle down in the Triangle of Raleigh/Durham area, the woman with a passion for the law started her new career path as an employment judge for the North Carolina Division of Employment Security Commission. “I am one of those people who enjoys being the ultimate decision maker, so when I was offered this opportunity, I could not pass it up,” said Charles.

Despite her love for being a decision-maker, it wouldn’t take long before the born litigator would decide to return to her calling. “Within a few months of working in North Carolina, I decided to leave the bench and make my way back to my first love – being a lawyer,” said Charles. “The truth is, I’ve always loved arguing a case and I began to miss being a part of the true art of law, which involves arguing a relative message to 12 jurors, hoping that your voice helps them be decision-makers in your favor,” said Charles.

Today, Zeola Charles and her family’s private law practice, By the Book Services Charles & Associates, is becoming the legal voice for those who need assistance. By The Book Services offers services in the realm of real estate law, family law, civil or criminal trials, traffic violations, and more throughout the Raleigh/Durham area. “Honestly, we provide attorney services in almost every area of law with the exception of wills and estates,” said Charles. “I am even contracted with one of the largest legal firms in the state for legal debt collection.”

According to Charles, the primary goal for this firm is to be the voice for and to serve the underserved in this area. “The fact is that I want my life and career to have purpose rather than seeking after financial gain,” said Charles.

“Making a decision like this took a lot of prayer and the support of my family, who were there for me through the entire transition, including moving states, going back to school, and even starting my own practice. In fact, my husband was so supportive that he became my paralegal.”

Prior to going into business with his wife, Chad Charles was also on a different career path. “I started my career in the Army alongside my wife but was injured. After retiring from the U.S. Army, I obtained my bachelor’s degree in engineering, after which I worked as an engineer in several different industries in Las Vegas,” said Chad.

Despite he and his wife working in separate careers, Chad and Zeola Charles would begin a new career journey alongside one another following this family’s move to North Carolina. “When we moved to North Carolina, my wife needed to be fingerprinted and also needed a notary, so I started my new career path by obtaining a license to become a fingerprint technician and notary,” said Chad. “This is actually how we started By the Book Services.”

Following Zeola’s decision to return to a calling given to her as a child, Chad also followed his new calling. “When my wife decided to leave the bench and become an attorney, I knew that the best way I could help her was to go back to school and become a paralegal. So, that is what I did, and I am excited to say that I received my certification as a paralegal from North Carolina State University on August 12th,” said Chad. “Now, we can work on cases together and build a business that can help our family and community for years to come.”

Along with this family’s new business becoming the legal voice for the underserved in the Triangle, the Charles family and By The Book Services is also doing their part to assist other bright minds in the community in their future success. “I know how expensive it can be to obtain a higher education, which is why I worked the entire time that I went to school,” said Zeola Charles. “In order to help students like my 16-year-old daughter, who will be graduating summa cum laude from Chatham School of Science & Engineering and obtaining her associate degree in applied science this year, succeed in furthering their education we are offering work from home opportunities where these students can set their own schedule and make a few dollars to pay for materials like books, etc. We are also offering a $500 scholarship to an area student in need.”

Now that their purpose has been realized, Zeola and Chad Charles are pursuing their God-given calling and proving that one can accomplish some things, but together, a team can do a great deal more. The team of By The Book Services is proof that anything is possible when you make your purpose your priority.

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