Meagan Chinnis (J.D. ’19) was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina to a father, who is a county politician, and a mother, who works in administration. This is instilled in the 25-year-old an early passion for justice, something that was reinforced after losing a friend to a violent crime.
“I’ve seen the panic, chaos and fear that criminals can bring to a community,” Chinnis said. “As a female in my twenties, I have been put in terrifying situations in places where I should feel safe. I want to use the skills that I have worked hard on to help bring justice to victims’ families and to help make young women and men feel safe in their communities.”
Chinnis graduated from Georgia State College of Law in May—a place she credits with helping her find her place. She graduated from Clemson University with a bachelor’s degree in political science, but that was not until she changed her major on four occasions. When it came time to look for a law school, she was looking for a place with a good academic reputation and friendly faces.
“Throughout college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life or where I really fit,” she said. “I was always interested in leadership and public speaking, but, for a while, I thought that becoming a politician was the only career that gave me the opportunity to be myself.”
When she arrived at GSU, she struggled with the same issue– finding her way. As the first in her family to attend law school, she had no one to rely on for advice or guidance. However, that didn’t last for long. She says that the people in the College of Law helped her find her place by providing opportunities to learn different areas of the law and to understand how the areas actually function in a practical sense. She also made friends.
“When I moved to Atlanta, I did not know a soul,” said Chinnis. “GSU gave me incredible friends to lean on throughout these three years.”
She met a lot of them through the GSU College of Law Student Trial Lawyers Association (STLA). She recalls being nervous during her tryout, but ecstatic when she made the team as an attorney. In addition to friends, she also met coaches who helped hone her skills as a future trial attorney.
“The STLA coaches are incredible and mine in particular, while tough, wanted nothing but the absolute best for me. Every practice, they pushed harder, turning me into the confident mock trial attorney that they saw and no one else did. I am so incredibly grateful for my STLA experience.”
Aside from STLA, her proudest achievement as a student at GSU is being selected as a member of the Order of Barristers. Now that she’s turned her tassel, Chinnis is studying for the bar exam before starting the job search. When she does begin her search, she will look for jobs in criminal prosecution in order to bring justice to those like her late friend who inspires her every day.
Written by Hayden Hillyer