Newly Minted Lawyers Told to “Go and Make a Difference”
“It feels triumphant,” said Khari Little (J.D. ’17) of being sworn in at Georgia State Law’s 19th annual newly-minted lawyers Swearing-In Ceremonies on Nov. 17.
Ninety-one alumni were sworn in for the Superior Court of Georgia, the Georgia Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Georgia by Judge Shawn Ellen LaGrua (J.D. ’87) of the Superior Court of Fulton County and Presiding Judge Christopher J. McFadden of the Court of Appeals of Georgia.
“What you will become in this profession is a matter not of fate but rather of decision,” LaGrua said. “I see your eager and excited faces, and that gives me hope for a better world.”
Before administering the oath, LaGrua told graduates not just follow the path that is the next logical step, but do what makes you happy. “When I went to work [as a prosecutor] it’s because I wanted to, not because some partner needed to see me show up,” she said. “Life is too short to be miserable all day.”
But no matter much you love your job, pursuing hobbies and making time for family is vital, she added. “Don’t let the law define your life.”
In addition, she encouraged the new lawyers to make time for volunteer work. “Find a way to enrich your community in a way that is meaningful to you,” she said.
LaGrua also gave practical advice about courtroom conduct, and professionalism as a whole.
“Treat everyone with courtesy and respect — especially the other side,” she said. She pointed to alumna Carrie Christie (J.D. ’89) as a great example. At the beginning of each new case, Christie calls opposing counsel to introduce herself and ask what he or she might need, LaGrua said.
The law community is small, LaGrua said, and that opposing counsel may one day be the judge you argue before, a partner at a firm you are interviewing at, or could become a mentor.
Jeffrey R. Davis (J.D. ’91), executive director of the State Bar of Georgia, echoed LaGrua’s emphasis on having integrity. “On this road that you’re about to journey on, you’re going to crisscross paths with people, and your reputation is all you have. One bad act can ruin a career that you have worked hard for,” he said.
Being a lawyer is about serving your community and your fellow man, Davis said. “It’s about helping people. Not necessarily with your license or with your skills, but with your heart.
“Go and make a difference,” he said in closing.
Chief Justice P. Harris Hines of the Supreme Court of Georgia told the new lawyers to be intense in their practice, stay focused and work hard, and to also see others through eyes of kindness.
There are times you will be afraid, he said. In those times, it’s important to push through it and keep going. “That is hard work, that is perseverance, that is intensity.”
Kimani Little, who came to Atlanta to watch his younger brother Khari Little get sworn in, said the graduates are on the right start because they got fantastic advice from the speakers. “If Khari listens to that advice, he will do just fine as he starts his practice of law. I think the messages of true grit, hard work and being very cognitive of your reputation and your word are incredible pieces of advice for lawyers,” said Kimani Little, who practices law in Washington, D.C.
“We’ve been climbing this hill a long time, and we finally got to the top,” said Khari Little, a staff attorney working in business immigration at Seyfarth Shaw LLP. He worked as a paralegal for six years before deciding to go to law school. He continued to work full time while taking evening classes.
“There were a lot of late nights reading those heavy books, but both my office and the school tried to make it as easy on me as possible,” he said. “I owe a debt of gratitude to both.”
Parents William and Kate Little are extremely proud of their son. “Khari was very diligent, he got rid of his cable, he was determined and he hit the books,” said Kate Little, who observed one of Khari’s trial for advocacy classes. “I enjoyed being able to see what he was learning put into practice. He worked hard and was very pleased with his education here at Georgia State.”
Oren Snir (J.D./MBA ‘17), an associate at Alston & Bird working in technology and privacy & data security teams, said being sworn brought a feeling of relief. “It feels incredible to be on the other side of this journey,” he said. “I can only say good things about the program at Georgia State Law—it was an affordable and great educational experience that prepared me for the bar exam and also provided internships that exposed me to different areas of the law.”
Taking the oath was surreal, said Kimberly Miller (J.D. ’17), who is clerking for a bankruptcy judge in the Northern District. She chose Georgia State Law because of its location and the experiential learning courses offered. “I know many people say they hate law school and it’s a miserable three years but I really loved it,” she said. “I had a great time, and I met people I think I’ll be in contact with the rest of my life. It was a fantastic experience here.”
Michelle Namer (J.D.’17) said it feels great to be an actual attorney now. “I can’t wait to get out there and practice,” she said. “Georgia State gave me my grit. I was intense and gritty before, but this was the place that fostered that and I feel like it’s churned out some very gritty attorneys and I’m going to be proud to practice law.”
Namer is working part time at the Justice Café in addition to starting her own firm, the Law Office of Michelle Namer. One of the projects in her firm is the Law Farm, which focuses on helping small farmers in the metro Atlanta area in various areas of the law.
“My own passion is for farm gardening. I am obsessed with people who are trying to make food systems smaller,” said Namer, who has an undergraduate degree in biology. “I plan to use the tools I’ve gotten here at Georgia State, and do what I love to help others be able to do what they love.”