Carol Morgan grew up wanting to be a teacher, but her path to the classroom was not direct. In fact it was after a successful legal and business career that she made her way back to Georgia Law, where she earned her law degree in 1979.
Approximately seven years ago she found herself at a crossroad when she retired from her post as president of National Service Industries—a former Fortune 500 company—where she worked for more than 25 years in various capacities in the legal department and in management.
“I did not plan for my current position at the law school, but it has turned out to be a real dream for me,” Morgan said. “I realize now that my diverse and rewarding career was actually preparing me for this position. The courses I teach—Business Negotiations, Anatomy of a Mergers and Acquisitions Deal, Corporate Counsel Seminar and Business Ethics Seminar—allow for more practical learning to happen during law school.”
Morgan was brought on to design and lead the law school’s Business Law and Ethics Program. In this role, she has been instrumental in the development of an educational initiative that provides more skills-based learning and links classroom legal theory to the practice of law, with an emphasis on transactional work. Key components of the program are practice-based courses, experiential learning opportunities and a business ethics focus.
“The business ethics focus distinguishes our program from those at other law schools,” she said. “We want our students to understand their role in counseling clients on issues that may go beyond purely legal matters and relate to ethical issues that companies face daily. Lawyers are often at the table for those discussions.”
The experiential learning opportunities in the Business Law and Ethics Program allow law students to get out into the community and develop their skills.
A signature feature of the program is the Corporate Counsel Externship, where “students work in legal departments of for-profit and nonprofit organizations and gain unique insights into both the practice of law and the needs of clients,” Morgan said.
In spring 2013, the law school launched a Business Law Clinic, where students provide direct assistance to small business owners who are unable to afford legal services about such issues as formation, contracts and corporate governance.
Law students also develop valuable and essential “tools” by participating on the school’s negotiation competition team, according to Morgan. “It is a highly selective process” as only eight students are chosen from approximately 70 who apply each year. Notably in the first five years of competition for Georgia Law and under Morgan’s tutelage, the team has won two national championships.
“The students who participate in these hands-on, interactive learning experiences gain confidence and poise and sharpen their ability to think on their feet, to problem solve, to analyze, to issue spot, to grow in all those skills that are necessary for a good attorney,” she said.
One of Morgan’s favorite aspects of being in academia is being challenged by and interacting with her students as well as watching them develop.
Morgan added that she feels today’s law students are “more intentional” in their course selection choices and are seeking ways to “distinguish” themselves.
“I tell my students that I want them to be the ‘go-to’ people at their workplace. I want their co-workers and clients to come to them because they have confidence that the students are going to do quality work, have a commitment to excellence, have attention to detail and have all the skills of very effective lawyers,” Morgan said. “I want our students to have an edge, and I want lawyers who interact with our students to realize that something special is going on at Georgia Law.”