Charles Theodore (J.D. ’19) was always interested in having a career rooted in public interest, but did not have a clear path on how to do that. While pursuing a career in law seemed like a good choice, he wasn’t always sure he’d be able to make that happen, and gave up on it during a period of time after high school when he wasn’t in school. He says continuing to witness the state of society pushed him to step up and go after his goals.
After finishing out his undergrad degree at Georgia State University, Theodore had his eyes set on Georgia State Law because he had grown to love Atlanta and the opportunities the city was filled with. Now, one year after graduation, he’s working as an Equal Opportunity Specialist for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Here, he talks about how Georgia State Law helped him start the career he always wanted.
What opportunities at Georgia State Law helped you get where you are today?
I knew I wanted to do something public interest related, but I didn’t know what. During my first year, they introduced the Alternative Spring Break through the Center for Access to Justice. We spent the week working with Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation and low-income tenants helping them with landlord issues. After that I did an externship as a mediator for the Fulton County Court. I was mediating landlord and tenant eviction cases, which really helped me when going to HUD because I do a lot of mediating and negotiating with my job today. Then my second year they asked me to lead the Alternative Spring Break, so that’s where my interest started and it just fit perfectly for me to continue on with a focus on housing.
What does your day-to-day look like at HUD?
I work in the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity in the enforcement branch so I investigate complaints. It could range from having 10 to 15 open cases. I interview different parties, interview witnesses, make data requests, and then once we’re in the middle of the case I try to negotiate to see if we can reach a settlement between the parties.
How has the transition into being a full-time lawyer been?
It’s been pretty smooth because I began an internship at HUD after my second year of law school, and continued working there part-time until I graduated. They let me get experience in most areas when I was interning but we were a little light on staff when I was first started. I had to take on more cases than what they originally intended. It was helpful to use the skills I learned in law school of having different projects and being able to juggle everything. So while I wasn’t necessarily expecting taking on as much as I have since starting, it’s been a good thing.
Are you glad you chose Georgia State Law?
Absolutely. Georgia State Law was a great experience with a community focus I wasn’t expecting. I didn’t come from a background of people going to law school or even really graduating from college, that was kind of new for me. Now, my sister is following in my footsteps and starting at Georgia State Law this fall, and I am sure she’ll be even better than I am so that’s exciting. I love Georgia State and getting do a lot of work with the Center for Access to Justice, Lauren Sudeall and Darcy Meals. Those experiences really helped shape my career.
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