Is a third year law student, practicing law?

Relevant to this thread, a third year law student working under the “Law School Public Prosecutor Act of 1970,” more commonly called the “Third Year Practice Act” is absolutely, beyond a doubt, not practicing law.

In fact, the legislature classified third year practice under O.C.G.A. § 15-18-22, the Third Year Practice Act, as “a form of legal intern training.”

With the increasing docket in criminal matters, it is in the public interest to provide legal assistance to district attorneys and, in connection therewith, to utilize the services of third-year law students and staff instructors in criminal proceedings as a form of legal intern training which will promote the efficiency of criminal proceedings.

O.C.G.A. § 15-18-22 (Ga. 2007) [Emphasis added].

The statute is very clear that it is “legal intern training” and not the “practice of law.”

In fact:

(a) It only applies to third year students helping prosecuting attorneys in criminal proceedings;

(b) The law student cannot go to court without a district attorney or “his duly appointed assistant” who must also be a licensed attorney “physically present”; and

(c) The law student is not allowed to sign any legal documents.

The fact that the law student cannot sign legal documents is a pretty good indicator that the law student is not, in fact, practicing law, but is, instead, going through legal intern training. According to the rules of the State of Georgia, one cannot sign a legal document of record unless the person is practicing law, which means the person has passed the bar exam and been admitted to practice in the state.

Regardless of the language that the legislature and courts consider this program a form of “legal intern training,” even without that language, the prohibition on signing legal documents of record make is absolutely clear third year students are not considered to be practicing law.


  1. Icarus says:


    I can’t belive you are continuing to make all these juvenile personal attacks like this.

    And by juvenile personal attacks, I mean citing the code of GA that specifically disagrees with the sixth year lawyer that wants to start redefining what words mean BEFORE he gets elected/appointed to an activist judicial postion.

  2. Erick says:

    Hahahaha. Icarus, I have nothing against him and expect, next time around, he’ll run and probably, with this much ambition and enthusiasm, win and do quite well.

    But I think he has, charitably, a very weak argument for saying he meets the qualifications right now.

  3. Taft Republican says:

    When does a lawyer finally stop practicing the dang law, and get it right? Sheesh…

  4. bucky says:

    I’m usually just a lurker here on PP, but I had to chime in this time. This is INSANE. Mr. Rothenberg has by no stretch of anyone’s reasonable interpretation of the phrase “been admitted to practice law for seven years” as required by Ga. Const. 1983 Art. VI, Sec. VII, Para. II. “Seven years” obviously means “reached the seventh anniversary of” the date one began properly practicing law. See Poythress v. Moses, 250 Ga. 452 (Ga. 1983). Even if the Third Year Practice Act were applicable, it appears Mr. Rothenberg attended and graduated from law school in Texas and, “beginning in May 2001[, h]e worked on cases pro bono for indigents who could not afford lawyers and he handled all types of cases, including civil rights, consumer rights, contract disputes, post conviction work, etc.” Since he apparently wasn’t a prosecutor, 15-18-22 doesn’t apply. OCGA 15-20-3 does allow third year students to “practice legal aid” by performing supervised civil and criminal work for indigents as part of a legal clinic, but the law allows that exception only for law students who are enrolled at a law school IN THIS STATE. Therefore, anything he did in Texas is irrelevant.

    What really bugs me here is that lawyers have an obligation to understand the limits of the law and to confine themselves within those limits unless there’s a reasonable chance of changing the law. I’m not sure how Mr. Rothenberg thinks he has a chance of having the Georgia Constitution’s minimum experience requirements declared unconstitutional. If it comes down to a court battle, someone should be asking for attorney fees. And it shouldn’t be him.

    O.C.G.A. § 15-20-3

  5. AubieTurtle says:

    Taft, they stop practicing law when their doctor practicing medicine doesn’t get it quite right.

  6. Erick says:


    Yes and no. He is clearly practicing law, but not engaged in the “practice of law” in the ordinary sense.

  7. Doug Deal says:

    Bucky, since I am away from home, I am relying on memory since I have no ability to do any real research, since I have pathetic at best internet.

    However, if the Const actually uses “been admitted to practice” then it is clear he is not eligible, since “admitted” clearly means joining the bar.

    As for it being in Texas, that is a compelling point, yet with no tools to research the particulars, it is unclear to me if that is definitive.

    If nothing else, it is an interesting discussion.

  8. bucky says:

    Doug, here’s the whole provision of the constitution –

    PARAGRAPH II. Qualifications

    (a) Appellate and superior court judges shall have been admitted to practice law for seven years.

    (b) State court judges shall have been admitted to practice law for seven years, provided that this requirement shall be five years in the case of state court judges elected or appointed in the year 2000 or earlier. Juvenile court judges shall have been admitted to practice law for five years.

    (c) Probate and magistrate judges shall have such qualifications as provided by law.

    (d) All judges shall reside in the geographical area in which they are selected to serve.

    (e) The General Assembly may provide by law for additional qualifications, including, but not limited to, minimum residency

    Ga. Const. Art. VI, § VII, Para. II

  9. Doug Deal says:

    Ok, then I am wit you guys. For some reason, I remembered it saying “…has practiced law..” and not “…admitted to practice law…”. The dispute ends there. I do still think a 3rd year pactice participant is indeed practicing law, but that is irrelevant by the above provision.

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