Interview by Kelundra Smith
Whitney Woodward has many titles—wife, mother, vice president of Total Rewards and risk management at RaceTrac and now student in Georgia State Law’s part-time J.D. program.
When she decided to apply to the program, she only had four and a half weeks to study for the LSAT before the testing deadline. As one of her colleagues described it, “all the stars aligned” when she was accepted to the program.
At first, Woodward contemplated not going because of her other responsibilities, but her colleagues, husband and children insisted. She took a chance on herself and on a typical day, she works full-time at RaceTrac, drives downtown for classes in the evening and then heads home to catch up on the latest in fifth grade drama and college prep demands with her children. She says this is all possible because of the flexibility the program offers.
“There are not enough wonderful things I could say about the part-time program at Georgia State Law,” Woodward said. “They have not put me in a box. They’ve been flexible about allowing me to go from afternoon to night classes. The value I am getting for the money I’m spending—I’m being challenged in the classroom, but it’s at a cost I can swallow. I don’t know if I could find that anywhere else.”
Woodward’s favorite experience at Georgia State Law is the year she spent working in the Health Law Partnership Legal Services Clinic (HeLP). Students in the clinic work under the guidance of an attorney to advocate for patients treated through Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. They mostly work on supplemental security income (SSI) cases for children with chronic illnesses such as severe asthma, sickle cell anemia, autism and more.
“It’s the hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve done in law school,” she said. “Georgia State is cutting edge when it comes to clinics. For a part-time student, those clinics are critical. When I graduate I won’t be sitting in a courtroom [every day since I plan to stay at RaceTrac], so to be able to get courtroom experience in school is invaluable for me.”
Students in the HeLP Clinic also collaborate with students from Emory School of Medicine and Morehouse School of Medicine to form the medical basis of their case briefs.
“The medical students that worked directly with the clinic clearly explained the medical records so we could better articulate our brief to the court.” Woodward said. “The level of connection was just unbelievable.”
During the 2019-2020 academic year, she’ll be working in the Landlord-Tenant Mediation Clinic as a certified mediator in the Fulton County Courthouse. She expects to graduate next spring and hopes to bring what she’s learned to RaceTrac since employment compliance, benefits, risk management and insured litigation are already a part of her job.
“I have not spent a lot of time looking into the crystal ball,” she said. “Be excellent where you are and great things will happen.”