Jarvarus Gresham (J.D. ’19) knew he wanted to be a lawyer at an early age. He was a member of the Mock Trial team at D.M. Therrell High School in Atlanta. He participated in summer internships through the American Bar Association’s Summer Law Internship Program at King & Spalding. And, he majored in criminology at the University of Florida. After working at Alston & Bird for five years in various capacities and successfully managing a political campaign, he decided to enroll at the College of Law.
Now, as an associate in the commercial litigation group at Baker & Hostetler, Gresham is soaking it up like a sponge. On a typical day, he is working on discovery, drafting motions and taking depositions—refining his skills on the path to becoming a formidable trial attorney. Here, he shares experiences from his first year of practice and reflects on his time at the College of Law.
Which law school courses do you pull from the most in your law practice?
For practical skills, Lawyering Foundations. Because I’ve done quite a bit of legal research and writing, that class gave me a foundation for preparing memos, motions, and accompanying briefs. The second-class would be Advocacy. We were able to work side-by-side with practicing attorneys. I was fortunate to work with Richard Hendrix, who worked for more than 20 years before teaching. Just having that practical experience and being able to put my hands on different discovery documents prior to starting at the firm gave me a sense of familiarity, enabling me to hit the ground running.
The other class I must mention is Race, Ethnicity & the Law with professor Tanya Washington. That class completely changed the way I view race and its legal implications. While people generally understand racism, discrimination and oppression definitionally, studying its systemic nature and how embedded it is in American life completely changed my perspective.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned in your first year of practice?
I’ve learned not to expect to be comforted by definite answers. Clients come to us with challenging legal issues, expecting sophisticated and well-based solutions. These issues can normally go either way depending on the facts. Definite yes’s and no’s are hard to come by. The phrase people joke about in law school, “It depends” has definitely proven true.
What advice would you give to recent graduates who are facing a far different forecast than you were last year?
Make studying for the bar a priority because your bar license is an asset that you have spent a considerable amount of time, energy, and resources working towards. Further, because jobs are uncertain, you want to gain as many skills as possible, such as taking online legal research courses and sharpen your legal writing skills. I would also encourage recent graduates to engage pro bono and nonprofit organizations to gain experience and practical skills.
What experience did you get at GSU Law that you don’t think you would have gotten anywhere else?
One of the greatest things about being at GSU is the people. I developed relationships that I’m sure will be lifelong. Some of my classmates created a text message thread and on an almost daily basis, when different legal issues or procedural issues come up, the first thing we’ll do is go to that thread and ask ‘hey, have y’all seen this issue?’ Nine times out of 10 someone has, and we continue to share that knowledge.
The College of Law started the One Year Out story series to follow-up with recent graduates one year after earning their law degree. This series is designed to give current and prospective students a peek into the first year of law practice.
Interview by Kelundra Smith