At the beginning of her 2L year at the College of Law, Ana Marcela Rountree (J.D. ’95) noticed a new student in one of her classes. Being the smaller, community-focused law school that it is, “Everybody knew everybody,” she said. “So, he kind of stuck out.”
The student was Mason Rountree (J.D. ’95), who transferred to Georgia State Law from out of state. He went to undergrad at the University of Georgia and knew he wanted to practice in Georgia, so he made the switch to be closer to home.
“Part of the humor is I think we had six classes that we were taking that fall,” Mason said. “Every time I went to a new class, she was in the class. Every single time.”
The pair quickly became study partners, and the year after graduating from the College of Law they were married. Now 26 years later, the couple runs Rountree Law Firm out of Dallas, Georgia together. It was originally a clerkship Mason landed with the Superior Court Judges of Paulding, Polk and Haralson Counties that introduced the couple to that area.
After Mason completed the clerkship, he began practicing in Marietta at a mid-sized law firm. Ana then also clerked for the same Superior Court Judges while she was pregnant with their daughter. With little downtime after Ana gave birth, Mason approached Ana about opening the firm together in Dallas.
“I think I was one week into my maternity leave,” Ana said humorously. “We had just brought her home and Mason said, ‘I think we need to open an office,’ so we opened in January of 1999.”
Their practice has evolved over the years to meet the needs of their community but covers most kinds of non-domestic litigation, along with estate planning. Ana also serves as the County Conservator for Paulding Probate Court. As far as owning a practice together, the two say they each have strengths they bring that allows them to tackle most anything that comes across their desks.
“When asked how it is to practice law with my wife, I like to point out that she’s on the opposite end of the building,” Mason joked. “We have very different practices, so our work doesn’t combine a lot, but we eat lunch together probably three to four times a week. We’ve been able to find a good balance.”
The couple is grateful for their decision to stay in Paulding County and credit much of that to Judge Bill Foster, who both Ana and Mason clerked for and have retained a relationship with to this day.
Above their careers, Ana and Mason prioritize their family, faith, and giving back. One of their favorite projects is a piece of property in Polk County they bought in 2007. On the property is a cave with hundreds of bats. Since purchasing the property, they have installed a bat-friendly gate and worked with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to protect the wildlife and survey the bats. Researchers into White Nose Syndrome from Georgia State have also used the cave looking for a cure to the disease that has caused at least 95% mortality of bats in Georgia over the past decade. Their four children have frequently helped with cleaning up the cave, exploring, and participating in research, which has inspired two of their children to pursue careers in animal conservation and environmental protection.
The Rountrees are also intentional about where they focus their giving efforts, with the College of Law being one of the institutions they prioritize. The couple was instrumental with the development of the new College of Law building in 2015 and are now focusing their giving on scholarships for recent graduates looking to practice in more rural areas.
“One of the greatest things from Georgia State Law is that it has pushed us to grow,” Ana said. “In a way, we’ve grown in our faith because Dean Kaminshine and others at the law school pushed us by letting us know what they need from us and us realizing we can help make a real impact by giving to causes that are consistent with our faith.”
Written by Mara Thompson