Antonio DelCampo (J.D. ’94) remembers the early days of his marriage when sometimes a dinner out with his wife would be a double cheeseburger meal from McDonalds. While DelCampo looks back fondly on those memories, he is grateful for the success he has had in the law, and credits attending Georgia State Law with being the first right move in his professional career.
DelCampo currently has his own litigation firm, works as a mediator and sits on the Executive Committee of the State Bar of Georgia, as the incoming Treasurer. For nearly ten years, he also served as a trial judge in the State Court of DeKalb County, presiding over complex civil and criminal cases, making him the first Latino trial judge in the state of Georgia. Here, he discusses the steps he made which allowed him to have such a successful career, and the advice for students as they prepare to join the legal community.
Why did you choose Georgia State Law?
I attended Emory University for my undergraduate studies, and I wanted to stay in Atlanta for my legal studies. Georgia State University provided the best of both worlds: a top-notch legal education in Atlanta at a very reasonable cost. Moreover, the contacts you make at the College of Law are significant, as most students stay in-state once they graduate. These are all important attributes of the law school which I imparted on my son, as he was deciding on where to attend law school (he wisely chose to attend Georgia State Law).
What are some of the big takeaways from your time on the bench?
Being on the bench really gave me an insight as to what works and what does not work in a courtroom setting. I made it a practice to talk to every one of my jurors after each and every trial. Not to talk with them about whether they made the right decision or the wrong decision, because it was their decision to make, but rather to discuss their take on the legal process and what they liked and did not like about it. That was very illuminating, and now, having had that experience, I am able to use it for the benefit of my clients.
Presiding as a trial judge also shaped a lot of who I am as an attorney, because I got to see some outstanding advocates and some who were not particularly effective in their court presentation. While on the bench, I handled some of the biggest and most complex cases in Georgia, including the civil lawsuits surrounding the courthouse murder of Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes, and several other products liability and medical malpractice cases. Being a trial judge was an honor and privilege and one of the best jobs I have ever had. I thoroughly enjoyed the courtroom setting and getting to interact with members of my community on a daily basis.
What advice do you have for students?
What I tell law students is to get involved in their law schools, in their communities, in their civic organizations, etc. I am always amazed how the return on investment from getting involved is not only good for your soul, it is not only good for doing what is right, but it is also good for business. It is very helpful for young lawyers to know that your colleagues will help you, your colleagues will give you advice, and your colleagues will send you work, if you just get out there and get involved.
It is often said that a lawyer’s reputation is their stock in trade, and I have found this to be very true in my professional life. It is critically important because you are trading your reputation every time you sign a letter, every time you send an email, and every time you sign a pleading. And, this professional reputation starts developing in law school, not after you take the bar. So, be careful what you do, what you say, and how you act, because people will remember.
Interview by Mara Thompson