Furhawn Shah (J.D. ’19) has had his sights set on a career as a prosecutor for a long time. While the Dunwoody, Ga. native was earning his bachelor’s degree in political science from Georgia State, he interned in the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office. While there, he had the opportunity to work on a case against a serial rapist that resulted in a guilty verdict. The look of relief on the survivors’ faces was all Shah needed to know that he wanted to become a prosecutor.
He enrolled at Georgia State College of Law with the goal of returning to the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office. He took advocacy classes and participation in Moot Court, aiming to prosecute domestic violence cases. Now, as an assistant district attorney in Fulton County, Shah reflects on how law school prepared him to take his first felony case to trial.
How has your experience at your job compared to what you expected coming out of school?
It’s been crazy, obviously, because of COVID-19. Entering in, I didn’t really know what I was doing. If you get into a job like I have at the D.A.’s office, they just kind of throw you in the fire, and you’re expected to know what you’re doing. Going to court every day has been crazy. Participating in moot court and taking advocacy classes definitely help me daily in being confident and composed when the court starts asking me rapid fire questions, so I’m glad I took classes like that.
Now that you have started your career in the field you wanted in school, have your aspirations changed at all?
I wouldn’t say they’ve changed much. I wanted to prosecute domestic violence cases. I’ve gotten to do a bunch of those right off the bat in my first year. I will say those cases are much, much harder to prosecute than I realized. You have to work with survivors that sometimes have never been part of the criminal justice system and don’t know what all the steps mean. You have to be diligent with everyone, but especially domestic violence survivors given the trauma and injuries they have endured. I tried my first case not even a year out of law school from start to finish. It was tiring, but it was awesome. It was a great experience. The person was crying and hugging me. We got a guilty verdict, so it’s nice to see that after you put in work.
If you could offer one piece of advice to a current student, what would it be?
There’s no such thing as being over prepared. In law school I had those days where I didn’t read for class, read five minutes before, or pulled up the “Quimbee” case brief while being in the middle of a cold call. I can promise you one thing: when you are in a courtroom there is no “Quimbee” and when the judge wants answers, I really really hope you read the case or you will lose your credibility. If you want to go into litigation, take as many classes as you can that have simulations of litigation. I will say you cannot account for everything because you’ll get to court one day, and the judge will ask you the one question you weren’t prepared for. You have to think on your feet and have an open mind. You have to have common sense. There are curveballs at every stage. The College of Law and those simulation classes prepared me really, really well for those curveballs.
Interview by Alex Resnak