Sharnell Simon (J.D. ’19) says growing up, she was always witty with a lively personality, and people were quick to point out she would make a good lawyer. Increasingly noticing the need for change at a young age, while she originally wanted to be a teacher, she set eyes on her goal of becoming an attorney.
After graduating from Spelman College, she knew she wanted to stay in Atlanta given its vibrant culture and thriving legal community, which made Georgia State Law a clear choice for her. Now, a year out from graduation, she’s an associate at Jones Day, where she’s been able to work in different practice groups and get a feel for what type of law she wants to specialize in. Here, she discusses what she’s learned since graduating from Georgia State Law.
What has your day-to-day been like in your first year at Jones Day?
My first-year experience has easily surpassed my expectations of what working at a “big law” firm would be. I’ve negotiated settlement agreements with partners at other big firms. I’ve prepped witnesses for depositions and appeared as counsel in those same depositions. I’ve attended court hearings. I’ve been lead on and solely litigated entire cases for major corporate clients. On the pro bono side, I have clients locally dealing with U-Visa applications and nationally defending asylum claims. It’s been remarkable how much trust my supervising attorneys put in me and I am super grateful. Jones Day hires with the knowledge that its associates are ready and capable, and I have really grown as an attorney because of it.
What classes were most impactful for you at Georgia State Law?
Constitutional Tort Litigation was probably the most important class in law school because it delves into citizens’ civil rights on the oft-overlooked legal side. I also enjoyed Criminal Procedure for its practical implications surrounding police interactions. Lastly, I was able to really hone my skills as a litigator in Advanced Evidence, which was taught by one of the greatest attorneys I know, Richard “Rick” Deane Jr. With that said, more important than the classes themselves were the brilliant minds leading them. Several professors were extremely impactful to my personal and professional growth—including Professors Stephens, Washington, Timmons, Donaldson, Fuse Brown, Chiovaro, Sekhon, Hungeling, and Poulos. They’ve each helped shape the attorney I am today.
Besides coursework, what was important for you to learn while in school?
I think getting out of your comfort zone when you’re in law school is really important. When you start your career, it’s going to be non-stop uncomfortable. Every day there is going to be something that comes across your desk that you’ve never seen before. Starting that journey of getting used to discomfort is important for people who want to graduate and practice law efficiently and effectively. I did this by attending networking events alone, participating in moot court, and externing at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
What’s been your biggest takeaway in your first year as a lawyer?
I’ve learned not to take things personally. Litigation is adversarial, so it can get frustrating. But the key is to remain collegial and professional, no matter what. I’ve also learned when you do good work, there’s going to be more people who want to work with you. As a young attorney starting out, you innately yearn to impress everyone. You want people to see that you can juggle multiple things on your plate, but that can come to the detriment of the client if you become too swamped. So, I’ve learned how to say “no” gracefully, allowing me to always put forth my best work.
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