It wasn’t until after getting her bachelor’s degree that Brook Ptacek thought about going to law school. She wasn’t challenged with her job at the time, so she looked back on what courses she enjoyed most while studying communications at Loyola University in New Orleans. She realized she was most intrigued by a communications law class, and decided to explore that further. She studied for the LSAT and worked as a paralegal for two years to confirm that she really wanted a career in litigation.
After graduating from Georgia State Law in 2019, Ptacek now practices full time as an associate for Finch McCranie. Her firm focuses on complex litigation, covering traumatic injuries, federal criminal defense work and government contracting. In her six months of practice, she’s done her own depositions, mediations and has settled several cases. Here, she looks back on how her decision to attend GSU Law helped her get to where she is today.
How did you choose Georgia State Law?
I am from Atlanta and grew up with several lawyers in my neighborhood. One of the lawyers that lived in my area and actually helped me decide between Georgia State University and University of Georgia. He told me the students that come out of GSU are highly competent, I would be ready to practice and walk out of there without any debt because of my scholarship. All of that held true.
How did Georgia State Law help you get where you are today?
If I didn’t go to Georgia State Law I wouldn’t have gotten this job. 2L year I was trying to get experience, but I hadn’t gotten many call backs at the big firms so I had to really figure out networking on my own. I called one of the lawyers from my neighborhood and he said, ‘I actually have an opening this morning, bring your resume and a writing sample’. Because I was in the College of Law, I was able to just walk down, and after a two-hour interview, they gave me a month-long offer. They kept extending that each semester until they offered me on as a full-time attorney last spring. I worked endlessly trying to prove myself.
You are the first associate at your firm hired right out of law school. What do you attribute that to?
It requires a lot of ‘boots on the ground’ networking. I found that a lot of it is going out, making an effort, and be willing to get denied. As a perfectionist and a type-A, I was not ready for that experience, but it worked out. I was one of the first few female attorneys brought on as staff, and I am the youngest one here. I have settled several cases and I have a lot of autonomy because my firm is small, so I love it.
What is your advice for current students?
Be gentle on yourself. Wanting to become a lawyer typically attracts those familiar with going above and beyond, and they’re not used to not doing well. I was working very hard but I still wasn’t at the very top of my class and I didn’t understand what the struggle was. Looking back, I wish I had just been kinder to myself and acknowledged that it takes more time to learn these things. If you don’t get it right the first time just keep moving because ultimately, you’re going to get where you need to go.
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 Mara Thompson