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Blog
An Interview with Patrise Perkins-Hooker, President of the State Bar of Georgia
posted in Atlanta BeltLine News // 09/03/14

On June 7, 2014, Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.’s Vice President and General Counsel made history when she was installed as the first African-American and third woman President of the State Bar of Georgia. Shortly after her installation, we sat down with her to talk about this historic achievement and what it meant to her as someone who grew up in Atlanta. 

Q: Your installation as President is an historic moment for the legal profession in Georgia. How do you feel?

A: To say that this is a tremendous honor and that I am delighted that my peers elected me to this position is an understatement. I am the first person of color to hold any office in the State Bar and I have taken on progressively higher levels of leadership over the last 3 years. I feel that 17 years of experience with the Bar have prepared me for this role.

Q: Can you describe the scene at your Installation and what it meant?

A: The scene was absolutely unreal at the Installation. The attendance at the annual meeting where the installation occurs was double what it usually is with ten times the number of people of color– everyone showed up to participate and be a part of history, and all of that was incredibly overwhelming. I started my speech with “Wow!” because it was so awesome.

The audience was comprised of people from different generations. The older African-Americans were crying out of an overwhelming sense of fulfillment, recognition and validation of them and their role in the Bar, because 52 years ago they could not be members. The younger people were crying because they saw this as something they can now do – they felt pride in the accomplishments of someone they see as a role model.

The other thing that was unique about my election was that I had the support of a lot of people of different races and I wouldn’t be here but for those people’s involvement in my legal career. In addition to the role Marvin Arrington had in helping me to understand the obligation of an attorney to give back to the community, Linda Klein was the person who introduced me to the Bar and appointed me to my first committee in 1996. She’s going to be President of the American Bar Association in two years. Brian Cavan, a past president of the Bar, challenged me to run for the executive committee, and I never would have thought of that without his urging.

Q: What are your goals during your term as President of the State Bar?

A: I am going to do my best to help introduce, encourage and foster the participation of all attorneys in Georgia in the Bar. I started with my committee appointments, which are as diverse as there have ever been in history on all fronts in terms of age, ethnicity, geography and sexual orientation – we have everyone at the table.

My platform is to work to improve access to justice and the legal system for people who are indigent and marginally employed. We are going to make sure we have a lawyer in every county in GA – right now we have six counties without lawyers. I am also working with middle and high school students to introduce an iCivics program which allows them to learn about civics through an interactive software program. We also have an attorney coming into the classroom once a month to help make it real for the students. For our pilot program, we will be working with five different schools systems.

Q: Helping minority businesses grow and thrive is a passion of yours. Can you discuss how you have developed this passion through your professional and legal career?

A: Everyone in my family is a teacher. I was the first lawyer in my family. During law school, I remember speaking to a third year law student. I was going to be a consultant for minority businesses. The advice he gave me was that businesses needed more competent African American lawyers to show them the ropes, so I got two degrees, an MBA and a JD.

I have always had a passion for giving back to our community. When I started, I marketed my firm as helping people fulfill their dreams. I think the environment that we have at the Atlanta BeltLine helps people be as creative and talented as they can be. I like coming to work every day, tired some days as I am. I am going to export some of our teamwork over to the State Bar.

Q: What does this mean to you as someone who grew up in Atlanta?

A: Growing up in Atlanta was the greatest blessing I’ve had in my life. The civil rights movement had come to an end and leaders like Maynard Jackson and Andrew Young stayed around. They were translating the business and economic successes of African-Americans in the city. You had people like Herman Russell and others who were small businesses growing, creating an environment in which to dream and to see things in a different light than previous generations.

I didn’t know how significant it was that I was stayed at home to attend Georgia Tech for college. I thought I had the right to compete and participate on a level playing field, and I think that’s what Atlanta does for you, it gives you a different mindset.

 

Mrs. Perkins-Hooker has served on the Board of Governors and Executive Committee of the State Bar and as secretary (2011-12), treasurer (2012-13) and president-elect (2013-14). She is also a past chair of the Bar’s Real Property Law Section, former parliamentarian of the Atlanta Planning and Advisory Board, and the founding chair of Neighborhood Planning Unit-Q. She is also the immediate past chair of Hosea Feed the Hungry’s Board of Directors. Perkins-Hooker is a graduate of Georgia Tech and the Emory University Law and Business Schools. She was admitted to the Bar in 1984.

Join the Discussion

  1. Angela Henderson says:

    Patrise Perkins-Hooker

    I am so proud of you and all of your accomplishments! It is so wonderful to see someone live out their dreams. From our days at FDH to now you stayed the course proving that public school, great teachers, positive friends, supportive parents and family can work! I have attended the walking beltline tour and now want to take my 82 year old mother on the bus tour in October. Again Congrats, an Astro reached for the stars and made it!

    Angela Henderson
    c/o 76

    Reply | September 5, 2014 at 10:32 pm
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