If there is one constant for senior lecturer of law Margaret Hughes Vath, it’s her love of being in the classroom. From the time she was young, she knew she wanted to attend law school. She majored in English and Journalism during undergrad at the University of Delaware to prepare her for the amount of writing she would do as a lawyer.
After graduating from Villanova University School of Law, Vath practiced civil litigation at law firms in Atlanta for a number of years, where she was the go-to attorney for legal writing. It wasn’t until she began to grow her family that she re-evaluated her schedule. At the same time, a position for a legal writing professor opened at Georgia State Law.
“I loved school, so the idea of staying in school, and always being in school was very attractive to me,” Vath said.
It’s been nearly 15 years since Vath joined the faculty at Georgia State Law, where she is currently the director for the Lawyering: Foundations program. But teaching in that program is not the only time Vath enters a classroom at Georgia State University, she is also working towards earning her Ph.D. in English, Composition & Rhetoric.
“I love learning, and really, I started taking classes because I wanted to be better at my job,” Vath said. “I knew the writing part, I knew the legal part, but I had no formal training in how to teach. I want to excel at what I do and learning from experts helps me achieve that goal.”
Pursuing a doctorate also helps inform Vath’s teaching, since she can relate to being a student. She calls on that when she’s teaching both LL.M. students in Legal Writing & Analysis and J.D. students in Lawyering: Foundations. The skills-based course for 1L students is their first opportunity in law school to get a lot of feedback. While the class is challenging, Vath enjoys teaching students during their first year because she can help allay their fears, not just about legal writing, but about law school in general.
“It’s a prime opportunity to encourage students to consider what their professional persona will be,” Vath said. “Early on, they’re able to start thinking about their professional responsibilities and ethical obligations. Even though that’s discussed more during the final years of law school, I strive to incorporate these important lessons in the beginning.”
While Vath hasn’t practiced for several years, she remains well connected in the Atlanta legal community. She is still licensed in the state and is a Past-President of the Atlanta Bar Association while remaining on the board of their charitable foundation. She enjoys keeping her legal network strong, and says it benefits her students and herself.
“I’m not teaching stories about how law was practiced in the olden days,” she said. “I still understand when there are changes in the law, the courts or even in the filing system. I need to know that to keep my students apprised. Plus, after practicing for many years, these are my friends and my social network.”
Written by Mara Thompson