Law School Graduate Practice

The Georgia Supreme Court allows recent law school graduates to assist prosecuting attorneys in criminal proceedings in the courts of this State during the period between graduation from law school and publication of the results of the Bar Examination.[1]  The Law school Graduate Program is similar to the provisions that allow third year law students to assist prosecuting attorneys but operates under the exclusive authority of the Supreme Court to regulate the practice of law in Georgia.[2]

Eligibility:
To be eligible for admission under the Law School Graduate Program must meet the following qualifications:

(1) Be a recent graduate of a Georgia law school or of an accredited law school from another state;[3]

(2) Have not yet received the results of his or her first taking of the (Georgia) bar examination.[4]

(3) Have not been denied or tentatively denied certification of fitness to practice law in Georgia, or any other state.[5]

Procedure:
A petition for admission under the Law School Graduate Rule must be submitted to the Clerk of the Supreme Court of Georgia. The form for the petition can be found on the Supreme Court website at http://www.gasupreme.us/law_grad_cert/. This form can be filed out on-line and printed (older forms should not be used). The petition must be signed by the graduate and the Attorney General, district attorney, or solicitor-general that the graduate will be assisting. It also must be accompanied by a copy of the graduate's Certificate of Fitness to Practice Law issued by the Board to Determine Fitness by Bar Applicants (https://www.gabaradmissions.org/certification-of-fitness) or a brief statement setting forth the status of the graduate's fitness application. (The graduate should keep a copy of the completed petition for her or his records.)

If the petition is granted, the Clerk will issue a certificate to the graduate.[6]  The graduate shall present such certificate to the judge of the trial court where the graduate intends to assist in proceedings.[7]  

The judge of the trial court must enter an order prescribing the form and manner in which the law school graduate is allowed to participate in proceedings.[8]  (See sample trial court orders below.) 

The law school graduate must take and subscribe to an oath similar to the oath required by a district attorney, a solicitor general, a solicitor.[9]

A copy of the Supreme Court certificate, the graduate's oath, and the judge's order must be filed with the Clerk of the court in the county where the law school graduate will be assisting.[10]  If the law student will assisting a district attorney in a multi-county circuit, copies of the dean's certificate, the oath of office, and the judge's order should be filed in each Clerk's office.[11]

Authority Of Law School Graduates:
Law school graduates  Amay assist in proceedings within this state as if admitted and licensed to practice law in this state.[12]  In addition they may prepare and co-sign appellate briefs in the Georgia Supreme Court.[13]

Any document co-signed by a law school graduate  must clearly state his or her status and should be co-signed by his or her supervising prosecutor.[14]

Supervision:
Law school graduates must be supervised at all times by a prosecutor who is admitted to the practice of law in Georgia.[15]  All briefs, pleadings and charging instruments must be signed by the district attorney, solicitor-general or a designated assistant.[16]  When a law school graduate  appears in court on behalf of the State, a prosecutor must be physically present.[17]

Law school graduates who receive a Law School Graduate Certificate from the Supreme Court are not admitted to the practice of law; they are authorized to “assist in proceedings within this state as if admitted and licensed to practice law in this state.”[18]  When signing pleadings, they should use the designation “Law School Graduate;” they cannot use a title that implies that they are licensed attorneys such as “assistant district attorney” or “assistant solicitor-general.”[19]

Termination:
The authority of a law school graduate  to practice is terminated:

(1) On the last day of the month (October or May) in which the results of the first Georgia Bar examination given after the petitioner's graduation (are) published;[20]
 

(2) [T]he Board to Determine Fitness of Bar Applicants, or a similar board from another state, denies or tentatively denies the graduate's application;[21] or
 

(3) The graduate is no longer affiliated with the prosecutor's office.[22]

Forms:

Rule 97 - Trial Court Motion (MS Word Format)

Rule 97 - Trial Court Order (MS Word Format)

Rule 97 - Oath DA (MS Word Format)

Rule 97 - Oath SG (MS Word Format)

Supreme Court Rules (Adobe PDF Format)


[1]      Ga. S.Ct. R. 97 through 103.

[2]      GRECCA, Inc. v. Omni Title Servs., Inc., 277 Ga. 312 (2003); Wallace v. Wallace, 225 Ga. 102, cert. denied, 396 U.S. 939, 90 S. Ct. 369, 24 L. Ed. 2d 240 (1969); Sams v. Olah, 225 Ga. 497 (1969); Huber v. State, 234 Ga. 357, 359 (1975).

[3]      Ga. S.Ct. R. 99.

[4]      Ibid.

[5]      Ibid.  While the Rule does not require that the applicant have received the certification of fitness to practice law from the Board to Determine Fitness of Bar Applicants, it is highly recommended that this step be completed before submitting the application.

[6]      Ga. S.Ct. R. 100.

[7]      Ga. S.Ct. R. 101, & 1.

[8]      Ibid.

[9]      Ibid.; R. 101 & 2.

[10]     Ga. S.Ct. R. 101 & 2.

[11]     Ibid.

[12]     Ga. S.Ct. R. 97.

[13]     Ga. S.Ct. R. 4(1).  The rules of the Georgia Court of Appeals do not allow law students or law school graduates to co-sign briefs or motions.

[14]     Ga. S.Ct. R. 4(1); Ga. Rules of Professional Conduct, R. 5.3; St. Bar of Ga. Formal Advisory Op. 00-2; St. Bar Disciplinary Advisory Op. 19.

[15]     Ga. S.Ct. R. 98; Ga. Rules of Professional Conduct, R. 5.3.

[16]     Ga. S.Ct. R. 98.

[17]     Ibid.

[18]      S.Ct. R. 97.

[19]      See O.C.G.A §§ 15-18-21(b); 15-18-72(a); GRPC 5.3 and 5.5(b).

[20]     Ga. S.Ct. R. 100.

[21]     Ga. S.Ct. R. 102.  If this occurs, the law school graduate is required to Anotify the judge of the trial court where he or she is assisting in proceedings immediately.@  Ibid.

[22]     Ga. S.Ct. R. 97.