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Living and Practicing Law in Atlanta

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					CAREER COUNSEL                                                                                                                     1. 800. 973.1177




                                    Living and Practicing Law in Atlanta
                                    [by Erica Winter]
                                    Wondering what life is like for your colleagues in Atlanta? We talked to several practicing attorneys in Atlanta, and, in
                                    general, it’s pretty good. Find out the many advantages and the few disadvantages about practicing in the largest me-
                                    tropolis in the Southeastern United States.




Atlanta is not what you think it is. That is - if    his quality of life. His wife is from Atlanta, so    says. He has seen this not just in the North-
you are thinking of “The South” that many            the family relocated south. Iarocci joined a         east, but also in the Northwest, and the West.
people who live in other parts of the U.S.           small Atlanta firm as a partner, then moved
imagine.                                             to his current position with CARE in 998.           Prosecutors in Atlanta are no slouches,
                                                                                                          McNabb says, but they do not refuse to take a
In the real Atlanta, business is booming,            Now Iarocci is the head of a three-lawyer            meeting with defense counsel, or ignore your
minds are open, and most people who live             team at CARE, which has 2,000 employ-               calls, for example.
here are from somewhere else.                        ees and $50 million in revenues, serving 45
                                                     million people worldwide in its mission to           This legal civility is not necessarily because
But do you have to be a native to get hired          alleviate poverty.                                   Atlanta is in the South.
and admired in the legal profession in this
town? No, say the insiders we talked to              Iarocci works with government contracts,             “People are extraordinarily accepting” in
- most of whom were originally outsiders.            government relations, and personnel issues.          Atlanta says Harry Harkins, Jr., who has
While not the “place to be” to practice one          He travels a lot, sometimes helping out CARE         been practicing law for 28 years, 2 of which
specific type of law (Houston - oil, Hartford        staffers overseas. He recently won a case            were spent in Atlanta. He still maintains an
- insurance), Atlanta could be the place to          in Kosovo, defending a CARE staff member             office in Durham, N.C., where law practice is
practice practically any type of law.                against false charges, and then fishing the          “tougher than in Georgia.”
                                                     staffer out of jail and the country. “I have a
Practicing here.                                     great, great job,” he says.                          “Not that Georgia is not tough, but North
                                                                                                          Carolina is a particularly strict state,” Har-
“Civility.” “Congeniality.” “Reputation.” These      “The congeniality of the opposing counsel”           kins says.
are the three words that kept coming up              is what stands out about Atlanta for attorney
again and again in our conversations with            Douglas McNabb, who heads a Houston-                 Harkins has a solo practice handling appeals
attorneys practicing in Atlanta.                     based firm working for clients charged with          for professionals facing disciplinary hearings
                                                     white-collar federal crimes, such as securi-         - mostly for attorneys, but also for physicians
Compared to larger cities like New York              ties fraud.                                          and CPAs. He is also expanding his practice
or Los Angeles, Atlanta’s legal community                                                                 to work on wills and estate planning in the
is “smaller and tighter,” says Joe Iarocci,          Having worked on cases in 40 states and 80           gay community.
General Counsel for CARE, (Cooperative for           different cities, McNabb says that some US
Assistance and Relief Everywhere, Inc.), one         attorney offices are “less professional” than        Here’s where “Reputation” comes in: Most
of the largest nonprofits in the world. Your         others. In the cases he has worked on in At-         of Harkins’s business comes from word-of-
reputation as a lawyer is more important             lanta, however, the federal prosecutors have         mouth referrals, he says, as does attorney
here, Iarocci says, because you work with            been “tough but fair.”                               David Davenport’s.
many of the same opposing counsel and
judges again and again.                              “Rambo lawyering is looked down on in                Davenport works on both sides of the civil
                                                     Atlanta,” says McNabb. Sometimes, in other           litigation front with the firm Lamar, Archer
Iarocci was practicing antitrust law with a          parts of the country, McNabb encounters              & Cofrin. Most of his referred clients come
firm in New York, living there with his wife         prosecutors who seem to take cases person-           from other lawyers, and his firm does the
and small children, and wanted to improve            ally, and come out “with guns blazing,” he           same for other attorneys with whom they




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CAREER COUNSEL                                                                                                             1.800. 973. 1177




have good relationships. Davenport does not,     software to allow financial information to be     to be optimistic for you) above $350,000.
for example, do domestic cases, so he refers     sent state to state legally and confidentially.   We got over 700 possibilities, all of which
those cases on to trusted local colleagues.      Green works with programmers to help them         were single-family detached houses, and
                                                 navigate necessary laws, and also works with      many of which had yards and trees. Most of
The civility in Atlanta’s legal atmosphere not   loan accounts that are not being paid. “I wear    the houses were under $800,000 - a near
only makes your work day more enjoyable,         a lot of hats,” he says.                          impossibility for a large house with a yard in
but can be an essential part of bringing in                                                        a major Northeastern city.
business as well.                                There is a lot of international law to be done
                                                 in Atlanta, with branch offices of large firms    Living here.
Still, Davenport agrees, you definitely do not   in town, including a branch of intellectual
have to be a native to find success. Atlanta     property law firm Finnegan, Henderson,            Does he miss the snow of his native Massa-
is a “boom town,” he says; you won’t face        Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, which also has         chusetts? “I miss it coming down on a Friday,
any roadblocks for not being a native son or     offices in Tokyo and Taipei.                      but not on the ground on a Monday,” says Joe
daughter.                                                                                          Iarocci.
                                                 Looking for a big firm? The top five Atlanta-
The congenial atmosphere covers commu-           based law firms are, according to the June        “Today [March 26], the sun is shining, the sky
nity service as well, with many of the large     2003 Atlanta Business Chronicle:                  is blue, it’s 75 degrees and the dogwoods are
firms in town giving a lot of support to pro                                                       blooming,” says Susan McAvoy.
bono work, says Susan McAvoy, Director of        . Alston & Bird (447 lawyers)
the Office of Career Services at the Emory                                                         And the people? “I love the diversity of people
University School of Law.                        2. King & Spalding (428 lawyers)                  here,” says Iarocci. The city is “very cosmo-
                                                                                                   politan and diverse,” says McAvoy; it does not
Company town.                                    3. Troutman & Sanders (282 lawyers)               live up to an “antiquated view of the South.”


CARE is not the only big player in Atlanta.      4. Kilpatrick & Stockton (250 lawyers)            Atlanta has about 430,000 residents inside
The Carter Center and the American Cancer                                                          the city limits, and over 4 million people in
Society are other large national and inter-      5. Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy (27        the region.
national nonprofits based here. The federal      lawyers)
government has many offices here, too. The                                                         The city itself is “surprisingly integrated,”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention       Money.                                            says David Davenport. There is a very well
is based in Atlanta, and the EPA, IRS, and the                                                     established, African-American middle and
EEOC all have regional offices here.             Your salary might be lower than in New York       upper class in Atlanta, making it “quite a
                                                 City or Los Angeles, but the cost of living in    mecca” for many African-American profes-
As the state capitol, Atlanta also has the       Atlanta is far less, as well. The Bureau of       sionals, says McAvoy.
state legislature, and all state agencies.       Labor Statistics says that for 2002 (the most
                                                 recent data available) the mean hourly wage       There are lots of things to do in and near the
According to a March 22 Associated Press         for lawyers in Atlanta is $45.94, and the         city, say all our experts - hiking and back-
report, 6 Fortune 500 companies are based       mean yearly salary is $95,550.                    packing in the nearby mountains, arts and
in Atlanta. These include: Home Depot,                                                             entertainment in town. “It’s a great city - but
UPS, BellSouth, Coca-Cola, Georgia Pacific,      Keep in mind, these numbers are at the cen-       not too much of it,” says Iarocci.
Delta Airlines and SunTrust bank. Plus, CNN      ter of earnings, with many earning far more.
broadcasts from downtown, and has its home       Also, the hourly rate may give a better sense     You could have a house with a yard and trees
office here.                                     of earnings - the yearly salary was calculated    and be in the middle of Atlanta, ten minutes
                                                 based on a 40-hour week, something attor-         from your office, says Harry Harkins. Neigh-
Atlanta also has a “very strong” and growing     neys rarely see.                                  borhoods our experts recommended include:
technology sector, says Jason Green, who                                                           Druid Hills, Cascade, Morningside, Virginia
has been practicing law for 4 years. Green is   We did a quick internet search for houses         Highlands and Buckhead.
an in-house attorney for a company that buys     in the city of Atlanta with four or more
up existing loans, and which is also creating    bedrooms and two or more baths (we want           Like most major cities, public schools in At-



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CAREER COUNSEL                                                                                       1.800. 973. 1177




lanta vary in quality. There are neighborhood     nization: pro bono work, volunteering in the
schools that are very good and see great loy-     community, time in the Peace Corps working
alty, says Susan McAvoy; still, most lawyers      overseas - these would all bolster your ap-
probably have their kids in private schools,      plication to nonprofits - both in Atlanta and
or move to the suburbs for the public schools     elsewhere.
there.
                                                  5. “Come on down!” says Harry Harkins.
The downside? “God-awful traffic,” says Ja-       Atlanta is a great place to live. Both the legal
son Green. About 2 million new people have        and metropolitan community will welcome
moved into the Atlanta area since the 996        you.
Summer Olympics, he estimates. The result-
ing housing boom has brought more people          6. Interested in Atlanta? There are ,272 le-
driving from the suburbs, but not many more       gal jobs in Atlanta on LawCrossing right now.
roads for them to drive on. (You could avoid
this, however, by getting a place in town.)


Atlanta advice.


. “Visit,” says Vickie Brown, Director
of Career Services at the Georgia State
University’s College of Law (and the only na-
tive Atlantan we found!). Check out the town
and do some networking while you’re there
- especially if you haven’t landed a specific
position yet, she recommends. Susan McAvoy
concurs. “You just can’t put enough stock in
talking to people,” she says.


2. Don’t think that Atlanta is insular - if
you’re good, you have a shot. Legal employ-
ers in Atlanta actively seek out candidates
from other regions, says Brown. Most impor-
tant: a good law school and/or good standing
at law school, and a good track record after-
wards. For attorneys, Atlanta has a “more
open market than other places,” says Brown.


3. When you get here, get involved in the Bar;
it’s important to get to know as many other
attorneys as possible to build that reputation,
says David Davenport.


4. Caution: many lawyers, dissatisfied with
their work, start sending out résumés to
large, well-known nonprofits in an effort to
do “good work,” says Joe Iarocci. While ad-
mirable, charity begins at home, so to speak.
You need to have demonstrated that you care
about the same issues as your targeted orga-



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Description: We talked to several practicing attorneys in Atlanta, and, in general, its pretty good. The congeniality of the opposing counsel is what stands out about Atlanta for attorney Douglas McNabb.
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