Hannah-Lynn Apicelli (J.D. ’19) has always been a champion for the underdog. As an undergraduate sociology major at Georgia State University, the Tucker, Ga. native planned to pursue a career in social work. In a class called Sociology of the Family, she learned about inequity and sexual assault in women’s prisons, and that piqued her interest in the law. She says it was a no brainer to remain at Georgia State for law school, and she has no regrets.
In her time at Georgia State Law, Apicelli was president of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund and she volunteered with the Atlanta Legal Aid Olmstead Disability Rights Clinic. The latter she says was the highlight of her law school career because of the opportunities to interact with clients and receive mentorship from skilled attorneys. Now, she is an associate at Shewmaker & Shewmaker, a firm specializing in family, criminal and military law. Here, she talks about the lessons learned from her first year of practice and how she unwinds.
Describe for me your typical workday at Shewmaker & Shewmaker.
In family law, I do a lot of divorces, child custody agreements and prenuptial agreements. In criminal defense, we do everything under the sun. I’ve had the opportunity to enter guilty pleas on my own.
In military law, we do discharge upgrades, so if someone had a dishonorable discharge, we work with the military to get them upgraded to an honorable discharge. We also work on sexual assault cases in the military. I’m learning a lot about how the military handles these types of cases. Within the military system, adultery is a crime punishable by confinement, so that’s a cause for false reports of sexual assault sometimes.
It’s been an interesting experience, because I’ve always been on the side of victims and always wanted to advocate for victims, and now I’m open to this whole other world. When I interviewed for this job, they asked me if I would be comfortable working on these types of cases and being the only person in a courtroom not in uniform. I believe I’m going to have the opportunity in August to go to Fort Hood, Texas to see a military hearing. I feel really grateful that they have faith in my ability.
What classes do you use the most in your practice?
I’ve definitely used my Lawyering Foundations class the most. Learning to write pleadings and briefs was important. Coming into the law office, I was able to take on drafting work, so that gave me a jumpstart. I also use the Advocacy class, and recently, I did a direct examination. I also got to draft opening and closing arguments. I was terrified of taking that class, and I thought I never wanted to be in a courtroom, but after taking that class I thought litigation was invigorating.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your first year of law practice?
My biggest lesson has been to remain confident, but humble. I listened to some witness interviews I did, and I could hear the hesitancy in my voice. My job is to be firm in what I’m saying and confident in my advice, so that the person listening is also confident in me. The other thing we learn in law school is that professors break down your writing style, but then your employer is going to do the same.
An important topic in the legal profession right now is about mindfulness and alleviating stress. With all that you encounter on a daily basis, how do you wind down?
I work at Pure Barre, so that’s a sanctuary I go to for my me time. If you have a stressful caseload, you need to process that. You have to be in-tune with how your clients’ problems are affecting you, and be able to separate those two things. I want Georgia State Law students and recent graduates to know that our network is so strong, and we’re all here for them. You should never be embarrassed to reach out for help.
Interview by Kelundra Smith