Judge Reese, ’96, took an untraditional path to becoming a judge. After completing his undergraduate degree, he worked in real estate until making the decision to go to law school at the age of 32. He had three small children at the time and wanted to provide better for them as a real estate closing attorney. He decided to attend Mercer Law because of its welcoming environment.
“I was determined to be successful at it,” Judge Reese said. “I built an approach that failure was not an option.” And has not looked back since. He was able to continue being an engaged father to his children while treating law school as a full-time job, something he was gratified to be able to do. He is appreciative of the support of his family and Mercer Law School as he made his way to a law degree.
Trekking down the path to becoming a judge was not a part of his initial plan. When he graduated, becoming a judge was not a defined career goal. He was working for Georgia Governor Nathan Deal when the opportunity presented itself to start the process to become a judge. While he began yet another successful life path he says that being a “new judge” was really the only thing that was new about him, as he brought a lot of experience and perspectives to the table.
When reflecting on his career, Judge Reese feels rewarded and pleased with his work to provide safer environments for children brought into state care custody versus reducing the number of children in care at the Department of Human Services. At the Department of Community Health, he began to take interest in those in rural areas and their access to basic healthcare. He worked closely with the Office of Rural Health to help build recognition and awareness about the cause. He would love to see a push beyond healthcare into increased legal representation in the rural areas of our state.
Judge Reese noted that he is very excited to have Cathy Cox as the dean of the Law School. “Since my time in Law School, the number of student applications and the job market has changed tremendously,” said Reese. He believes Dean Cox will help prepare Mercer Law students to face the world and be real problem solvers. Not only is it important to navigate law school, but also navigate the real world.
While Judge Reese’s path is a hard one to replicate, he advises current students and recent graduates to look at things positively even when they don’t work out the way they wanted them to. “Your attained skills will be applied in ways that may be different than how you initially imagined. You never know what opportunities will present themselves to you, be ready to always present yourself positively,” says Judge Reese. Although he was not able to participate in many extracurricular activities; he was able to develop relationships with his classmates that will last a lifetime.
He recalled a moment during law school when a certain professor, who most students were intimidated by, really supported him as he was called away for a family emergency. As a nontraditional student, he was glad he was not given special treatment for having a family and being at a different place in life, but it was times like those when Mercer provided compassion and really reinforced his choice in a law school like Mercer Law.