Jacob Cohen’s desire to pursue a career as an attorney started when he was a kid in Alpharetta, Ga. watching television shows such as “Alaska State Troopers” and “CSI: Miami.” He was drawn to the idea of answering the question, “What does it mean to give a person a just outcome?” When it was time for college, he went to the University of Georgia and majored in finance with a minor in political science. As soon as he graduated from there in 2018, he had his sights set on Atlanta for law school. Now, in his second year at the Georgia State College of Law, Cohen is soaking up every experience he can with the hopes of becoming a formidable district attorney.
What made you choose Georgia State College of Law?
I knew I wanted to stay in-state and everybody talked about how great Georgia State lawyers are. I also liked the idea of being so close to a lot of law firms and within walking distance of the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, because that’s ultimately where I want to work upon graduation. I interned there in undergrad and the summer after my first year of law school.
How has interning in the district attorney’s office impacted your view of the justice system?
In the past three months with all of the conversations that have been occurring about the criminal justice system, I’ve been thinking that change begins at the DA’s office because the ultimate discretion about which charges to bring and whether the charges are binding ends with them. After graduation, I have the intention of insuring that each defendant that comes onto my desk, I treat them not as a number, but as a person and think about their future and give them a just outcome.
You participated in a virtual judicial clerkship this summer. Tell me about that experience.
I worked with Judge J. Wade Padgett, who is a Superior Court judge in Augusta. My major project is that a wrote an order denying a motion for a new trial, which as a 2L I obviously had never done before. The issue that was being contested was ineffective assistance of counsel in Georgia. Judge Padgett and I sat down for an hour or two every week and he mentored me on evidence, how to explain witness credibility to juries and he taught me how to develop a trial outline. When courts transitioned from in-person hearings to online, I was also able to observe a variety of online hearings. I learned how the trial process works from start to sentencing.
Through the clerkship, I was also able to receive mentorship with other Georgia State Law graduates. I had lunch with Devin Rafus and Manubir “Manny” Arora, who are both criminal defense attorneys. I consulted Mr. Rafus about the work I was doing, my career goals, how to achieve those career goals and developed a lasting professional relationship.
In addition to opportunities such as the virtual clerkships, what are other unique experiences have you had at the College of Law?
From the beginning, I’ve been excited about the opportunities to get exposure to the profession outside of the classroom. I took advantage of the externship program and I interned in the Veterans Affairs Office of the General Counsel, and I also interned at the DeKalb Volunteer Lawyers Foundation. Being within 15 minutes of school, it was easy to go to work and then go to class. You need to do well in school, but also develop practical skills outside of the classroom. The proximity to a variety of places to work around Atlanta make Georgia State one of the best law schools in the state. Even if you’re not at the top of your class you can set yourself apart by taking advantage of every opportunity that comes to you.
Interview by Kelundra Smith