As the son of Pakistani immigrants and entrepreneurs, Zain Haq witnessed at an early age the impact that small businesses have on communities. Near his home in Toronto, he saw them provide jobs and services for everyday people. He also saw the important role that lawyers play in helping businesses succeed. From finances and negotiating contracts to employee relations and abiding by laws and regulations, attorneys make all the difference. Haq knew that he wanted to become a lawyer in order to help business owners like his father.
After earning his undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Western Ontario—and starting an entertainment company himself– he applied to more than 30 law schools in the U.S. His grandfather, who practiced law in both Pakistan and Canada, advised him to look for a program that emphasized preparation for practice. Georgia State College of Law quickly rose to the top of his list. Once he enrolled, Haq interned at the Georgia Justice Project and the ACLU. He interned at the DeKalb County Solicitor General’s office, where he prosecuted cases under the student practice rule during his third year. Haq was also a proud member of the Moot Court team and represented the College of Law as a semi-finalist at the Emory Civil Rights and Liberty Competition during his third year.
Now, as a young associate at Swift, Currie, McGhee, and Hiers, he represents companies with worker’s compensation cases, so that they can keep America working.
What was your favorite class at the College of Law?
I really liked Advanced Criminal Prosecution with Professor Brickman. The professor was a former prosecutor and is now a criminal defense attorney. That class was fantastic because it was all practical learning. In each class he would give us the facts from real cases, and we would brainstorm potential arguments for the prosecution and the defense. He also taught us everything from managing clients on the witness stand to developing a rapport with the jury.
Another one of my favorite classes was Legislation with Professor Kinkopf. I didn’t love that class at the time, because it was so difficult and different from any of the classes we took as first year law students. In hindsight it’s the most useful class I took in law school. That class is all about statutory interpretation, which is a lot of what you do as a lawyer. It also gives you the tools you need to not only interpret the law, but change the law for the better.
What’s a typical day like for you? And, how has COVID-19 changed it?
I practice insurance defense litigation, and this particular area of law can be high volume. I have 30 to 40 active cases that I am working on at any given time. On a typical day, I take a lot of depositions, go through medical records, and counsel employers. I always wanted to represent employers, and this is allowing me to get a lot of practical experience. It’s uncommon for a second-year associate to say they’ve taken more than two dozen depositions.
As for COVID-19, technology has started to play a bigger role in my practice. For example, prior to the pandemic, if there was a case in Savannah or Augusta, I would drive down there to take a deposition. Now, I depose people over Zoom, which saves time and money. It makes for more efficient lawyering.
If you could offer a piece of advice to current students, what would it be?
In law school, from your first to last day, professors always like to remind you that your reputation is everything. While it may sound cliché, I have found it to be very true. Students remember whether you were nice to them, whether you worked hard, whether you shared your notes, etc. Your law school reputation follows you when you become a practicing lawyer. It will serve you well beyond your law school years, so make sure you’re professional, kind and hard-working.
Is there anything else that you would like for me to know?
One of the best parts of law school was meeting my wife, Grace Starling, who now practices civil rights and employment law (pictured above at graduation). We became friends our first year, started dating our second year, got engaged right before our third year and got married one week after we passed the bar exam. Professor Timmons and Professor Curcio attended our wedding along with many of our law school friends. It is one of the many reasons I love our law school community.
Interview by Kelundra Smith