Law Office Of William F. Underwood - May 2018

Justice MONTHLY

229-888-0888 • www.puttingpeoplefirst.law

MAY 2018

THE BEGINNINGS OF AN 11-YEAR CAREER WHAT I’VE LEARNED FROM MORE THAN A DECADE IN LAW

I t’s hard to believe, but May 22 marks my 11th year people I’ve had the privilege of serving every day. Each year is its own little milestone, and it’s an opportunity to thank my peers and clients who’ve helped me get where I am today. It’s also a chance to reflect on why I love my job and where it all started. I took the bar exam in late February of 2007. It was a two-day, six-hour-per-day gauntlet of stress that beats an average of 1 in 4 law school students each year. When I stepped outside into the sunshine after spending all day indoors that February afternoon, I tried to let it go and forget it. I knew from experience that sitting down and discussing answers with peers would only invite paranoia. It would be a little over three months before I discovered whether I’d passed (spoiler alert: I did!), but luckily, I was able to secure a job in the interim, starting a position as an assistant to the Dougherty County district attorney just a couple of weeks after taking the test. It was the ideal starting point, allowing me to gain trial experience right from the outset. By the second week, I was the second chair in a felony shoplifting case, engaging myself fully with the courtroom process. I began to master the steep learning curve that comes with practicing law. Thanks to the Graduate Practice Act, which enabled me to start working under a prosecuting attorney before I received my bar results, I started out in juvenile court. I figured that the lower stakes would allow me to learn the ropes without making any grievous mistakes. I appreciated the opportunity, but frankly, I didn’t love working in juvenile court. Since the worst verdict the judge can hand down is 60 days in juvenile detention, it’s not taken very seriously. But within just a few months, I was promoted to the state court, where I worked on simple battery, assault, and disorderly conduct cases, among others. practicing law. Since the beginning, I’ve been dedicated to achieving great outcomes for my clients and have striven to continuously improve my legal expertise. But honestly, I never could have done it without the fantastic

In the last six months of my two-year tenure with the DA’s office, I moved up to felonies, operating in a Georgia Superior Court. Suddenly, as I second-chaired a murder trial, I began to

experience the night- and-day difference in attitudes when the stakes were raised. When something serious like a murder is in the court, everybody drops what they’re doing to get the conviction. We had police testimony, a chemist who came

in to analyze DNA evidence, and a panel of rapt jurors doing everything they could to hand down the correct verdict.

During those early days, I took my father’s advice to always try something new with every trial term. No matter how stacked the odds were against me — win, lose, or draw — I involved myself in as many trials as possible, seeking only to gain the experience that would prepare me to represent my future clients to the best of my ability. My father’s office was just three blocks from the courthouse, and during breaks in trials, I’d often go and have lunch with him, debriefing him on the intricacies of the case. He was an invaluable resource, giving me all kinds of advice that enabled me to try new strategies in the courtroom. I sometimes baffled the more experienced attorneys with my newfound expertise. After those first two years, I joined my dad and began the work I would continue for the rest of my career. Now, even after 11 years, I know that there are always new things to learn and new ways to stay abreast of the law and do right by my clients. It’s been quite the journey so far, and I’m excited to continue learning, growing, and helping clients achieve the compensation they deserve for years to come. -William F. “Trey” Underwood, III

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