Michael Maxwell (J.D. ’88) is proof that attorneys are able to do much more than just practice law. Before he was in the third graduating class from Georgia State College of Law, Maxwell was a band director, school administrator, and builder of kitchen cabinets.
“My grandfather was my hero and I wanted to be like him, and he went to law school,” said Maxwell. “So, I followed in his footsteps.”
A student in the part-time program, Maxwell spent his days as an assistant principal in Fayette County and attended classes at the College of Law at night. Having fully booked days didn’t stop Maxwell from being involved; he was treasurer of the Student Bar Association and helped run a used bookstore for students to sell back their textbooks.
After graduating Maxwell planned on going into private practice but was offered a principal position at an elementary school and decided to continue his path in educational administration.
He practiced some on the side, mostly doing wills, trusts and pro bono work in Fayette and Carroll County. It wasn’t until he retired from his career in education administration that Maxwell worked full time as a lawyer.
“I went to go see the district attorney in Fayette County because I wanted to get a reduced sentence for a client,” Maxwell said. “He said ‘I won’t do that, but I’ll hire you.’ So, I was hired as an assistant district attorney for five years after I retired from the school system.”
Maxwell now claims he is retired, though he teaches private bassoon lessons to dozens of middle and high school students.
He is also responsible for his 780-acre farm in Carroll County, where he manages 21 honeybee hives and sells the honey at craft fairs all year. The farm is filled with mostly trees, has four ponds, and lots of wild turkey and deer.
“I have the original deed from our farm from 1830 when they did the land lottery,” he said. “I inherited that portion of our farm from my mother and father and have 250 acres of that raw land.”
His commitment to preserving his family’s farm led to him earning the West Georgia Soil and Water Conservation District Conservationist of the Year award in 2021.
“It’s a real honor, at this time of my life I appreciate being recognized,” he said. “It just confirms that what we’re doing on our farm is right to preserve the heritage and preserve the woods.”
Though Maxwell’s life has been filled with much more than law, he’s grateful for the legal education he earned as part of his career’s journey.
“Why I went to law school is I wanted a legal education,” said Maxwell. “It trains you to think differently, it opens up different doors, so I am so glad I did.”
Written by Mara Thompson