Leaving Evidence of a Job Well Done
This spring, after 34 years, Paul Milich, professor of law and director of Lawyering Advocacy, will teach his last Evidence class. He’s been a member of Georgia State Law’s faculty since a year after the school opened its doors. Many former students say he played an integral role in helping them become successful litigators.
“In litigation, you must know how to use the evidence; those who do almost always have the upper hand,” said Jimmy Faircloth Jr. (J.D. ’90). “Professor Milich made sure that those who took his classes understood the rules of evidence and were comfortable with them.”
Judge J. Wade Padgett (J.D. ’90) said Milich has a gift for conveying information in ways that people can use and remember-and for sticking with you until you understand.
“Not all experts in their fields can do that,” Padgett said. “Many don’t have patience for those who don’t ‘get it’ right away.”
Milich discovered his love of teaching while leading an undergraduate philosophy course in graduate school. Throughout law school and while litigating, the desire to teach remained in the back of his mind. Even the salary cut didn’t deter him. “I loved trying jury cases, but I have never regretted my move to teaching.”
One of his most memorable moments is when David Maleski, a founding faculty member, told him not to worry if students thought he was too tough or demanding in the classroom. “He said they would thank me later. I took his advice, and they have.”
Students often learned from Milich without realizing it, Padgett said. “You just felt like you were in a conversation with an experienced lawyer. His stories and examples were very relatable.”
His mantras helped too. “He always used to say ‘a brick is not a wall,'” joked Faircloth.
“Not every piece of evidence needs to be a home run in order to be admissible,” Milich explained.
In addition to teaching, Milich worked for more than 20 years to get Georgia to replace its 150-year-old evidence code with a modern code based on the Federal Rules of Evidence. “Our efforts finally paid off when Governor Deal signed the new code into law on May 3, 2011,” Milich said. “That was my proudest day.”
Padgett helped train judges and lawyers on the new rules. “Some old-school lawyers didn’t want the rules to change because they’d been very successful using them, but ultimately, Professor Milich’s work and dedication paid off,” Padgett said.
Milich was equally committed to his students, even long after they’d earned their law degrees. “I even called him a couple times when I was in the middle of a trial and having trouble. He was always available to help,” Padgett said.
Although his role is to teach others, Milich has also learned something since joining Georgia State: “Humility,” he said. “I’m sure that will make my former colleagues and students laugh. I was outstandingly arrogant in my earlier years, and, although I still am a person of strong convictions, I’m much happier in my life when I listen more and talk less, pick my battles carefully and accept that despite a lifetime of reading and traveling, thinking and discussing, there is still so very much I simply don’t know.”
Padgett said he thinks of Milich as an icon in Georgia legal circles. “I don’t know how you follow him if you’re the next Evidence professor. It’s like trying to decide who the next coach is after Nick Saban.”
Milich will still teach continuing education programs for judges and lawyers, write Georgia evidence books and do consulting.