Margaret Hughes Vath is a senior lecturer at Georgia State University College of Law in Atlanta, Georgia. She is a faculty member in the Lawyering: Foundations Program where she teaches a two-semester, 6-credit hour writing course for first-year students. Professor Vath also developed, and teaches, a legal writing and analysis course for foreign-trained lawyers as part of GSU’s LL. M. Program. Additionally, she was awarded a 2014 Teaching Innovation Grant to co-develop Lawyering: Practice Ready Writing, a third-year skills course, which she piloted in Summer 2015. A practitioner as well as an academic, Professor Vath has over ten years of experience as both a civil litigator and transactional lawyer. Outside of the office, Professor Vath is a mom to an amazing kid and is an avid volunteer. She is the President-Elect of the Atlanta Bar Association, the producer of the Atlanta Bar Foundation’s charity all-lawyer musical, and a past-board member of the Junior League of Atlanta. Always learning, Professor Vath is pursuing a Composition & Rhetoric doctorate degree with Georgia State University’s English department.
MARGARET HUGHES VATH
Georgia State University College of Law, Atlanta, GA
Legal Writing Professor,
Full-Time Faculty, July 2006−July 2008; August 2012–present
Part-Time Faculty, July 2009–July 2012
- Lawyering: Foundations
- Summer Skills
- Lawyering: Practice-Ready Writing
- Legal Writing and Analysis for LLM Students
Vath Law, LLC, and Gaddis Vath Lanier, LLC, Atlanta, GA
Founding Partner, February 2011 – August 2012; October 2009 – February, 2011
Corporate contracts and transactions, civil litigation, and research and writing practice.
Weissman, Nowack, Curry & Wilco, P.C., Atlanta, GA
Of Counsel, October 2008 – 2009
Senior Associate, January 2002 – July 2006
Corporate contracts and transactions, civil litigation, and real estate practice including representation and case management for 80 non-profit corporations as lead counsel. Practice includes interpretation and enforcement of corporate governing documents and rules; meetings with directors and members; reviewing, revising and negotiating contracts; recommending preventative measures and changes to corporate practices; and revising governing legal documents and contracts to reduce legal exposure.
Weinstock & Scavo, P.C., Atlanta, GA
Associate, September 1998 – January 2002
Diverse litigation practice with a broad variety of cases and clientele, including commercial contract disputes, employment discrimination, trust interpretation, construction defects, banking, and trademarking. Involvement in all aspects of civil litigation from witness interviews and extensive pre-trial motions through depositions, trial, and post-trial appellate work in state and federal courts.
Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
English PhD Program, Rhetoric and Composition Concentration
In Progress 4.0 GPA
Villanova University School of Law, Villanova, PA
Juris Doctor, 1998
Honors & Activities: Theodore Reimel Moot Court Competition; Villanova Community Legal Services Externship; Phi Delta Phi Honor Society Vice-President; Student Bar Association Colleague; Villanova Law Library Research Assistant.
University of Delaware, Newark, DE
Bachelor of Arts, Cum Laude, English/ Journalism Major, Music Minor, 1995
Honors & Activities: Phi Kappa Phi, Golden Key, Sigma Tau Delta, and Order of Omega Honor Societies; Amy Overdeer, J.H. Paynter, and Delaware Students Academic Scholarships; Kappa Delta Sorority Secretary; The Review Copy Editor and News Reporter; Choral Union President; Harrington Theatre Arts Company Board Member; Music House Vice-President.
Nikki Williams: In Memoriam, LWI Lives (Fall 2015)
Drama, Crafts, & Fun with Georgia Shakespeare, Peachtree Papers Magazine (Summer 2012)
A Century of Service with the Red Cross, Peachtree Papers Magazine (Spring 2012)
How to Manage Conflict, Peachtree Papers Magazine (Winter 2012)
Legislative Update: Comply with the Pool Safety Act, Community Advisor (Summer 2009)
Criminal Offenses & Defenses in Tennessee, Supplement, West Publishing Company (2004)
Criminal Offenses & Defenses in Tennessee, Supplement, West Publishing Company (2003)
Criminal Offenses & Defenses in Tennessee, Supplement, The Harrison Company (2002)
Struggles & Strategies, Teaching 1L and LLM Students Contemporaneously, Global Legal Skills Conference, 2017
Creating A Legal Writing Simulation Course To Comply With The New ABA Standard 304, Legal Writing Institute National Conference, 2016
Legal Writing Professional Development Panel, Southeast Regional Legal Writing Conference, 2016
“Practicing” Practicing Law, Southeast Regional Legal Writing Conference, 2016
Habits of Highly Effective Boards, The Junior League of Atlanta Leadership Institute, 2014
Best Practices and Parliamentary Procedures for Non-Profit Boards, Atlanta Bar Association Retreat, 2014
How GSU COL Revamped Its Legal Writing Program, Southeast Regional Legal Writing Conference, 2013
Legal Writing and Law School Success, Council on Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO) June-July 2013
Nuts and Bolts of Corporate Governance, National Business Institute/ IPE, 2011
Third Party Contracts / Ethics, National Business Institute, 2011
Running Your Meeting with Robert’s Rules, Junior League of Atlanta, 2010
Nuts and Bolts of Corporate Governance, National Business Institute/ IPE, 2009
Legal Aspects of Condominium Development and Homeowners’ Assocs., National Business Institute, 2009
Ethics: A Review of the Basics, In-House CLE, 2009
Atlanta Bar Association: President-Elect (2016-2017); Secretary (2015-2016); Treasurer (2014-2015); Distinguished Service Award recipient (2013); Board of Directors (2009-present); Executive Committee (2010-present); Executive Director Search Committee (2011-2012); Law School Outreach Committee Co-Chair (2012); Bard Committee Producer (1999-present); Member (1999-present)
American Bar Association: American Bar Foundation Fellow (2016); Member (2013-present)
The Junior League of Atlanta: Parliamentarian, Board of Directors (2010 – 2011); Assistant to Vice-President of Internal Operations (2004- 2005); Member (2000- present)
Legal Writing Institute (2006-present)
Georgia Association For Women Lawyers (2012 – present)
Georgia Bar Association (1998-present) Admitted to practice in all state courts, including the Georgia Court of Appeals and Georgia Supreme Court; admitted to practice in the Northern District of Georgia, Middle District of Georgia, and Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
TEACHING PHILOSOPHY STATEMENT
My teaching philosophy begins with student engagement. If students aren’t present and paying attention, they aren’t listening and learning. Or as we say in the theater, it all starts with putting butts in the seats. My teaching philosophy is grounded in the legal discipline, and is based in process pedagogy. By way of example, I incorporate peer responses, methodology discussions, and a variety of writing exercises and invention work. Moreover, I aim to allow ample time for revision and polishing, reminding students at each step that their main goal should be to improve, not to perfect. Because legal writing is primarily a communication tool, audience-based rhetorical and argument philosophies are an essential component of my teaching philosophy. To this end, I explore audience, author, and tone with my students via a variety of genres. The content includes not only writing skills, but also critical thinking and analysis skills. The writing assignments anticipate multiple drafts to reinforce the need to revise and polish.
Beyond the foundation of process pedagogy, my pedagogical choices are informed by the rhetorical, feminist, and collaborative theories. The subject matter of legal writing is, of course, grounded in rhetoric. Rhetorical theory is evidenced by my use of invention as I ask students to perform legal research and fact-investigation by interviewing fictional witnesses or clients. Additionally, as much of the focus of rhetorical theory is arrangement-based, I concentrate on organization on macro and micro levels. Specifically, I explain how a large project must be broken down into sections, such as how the main body (argument) portion of a document should be a “sandwich” using CRExAC – Conclusion, Rule, Rule Explanation, Rule Application, and Conclusion again. I continue by addressing organization at increasingly smaller scales by allowing students to evaluate how sentences best fit in a paragraph, and how words best fit in a sentence depending on what the student wants to emphasize or convey.
My teaching philosophy also incorporates feminist theory. My philosophy overlaps with a feminist outlook in the following ways: I embrace conflict, teach with my whole self (spiritual, emotional, and intellectual), integrate theory and practice, engage students, bring passion, joy and fun to the classroom, and strive to maintain awareness of voices and silences in the classroom. I also bring my own unique touches to my classroom. In what is quite a divergence from the typical law school experience, I incorporate music, movement, laughter and pop-culture references to engage and entertain my students.
To continue my professional development, I stay abreast of the current trends in legal and writing studies’ scholarship by reviewing the Association of American Law Schools’ (AALS) Journal of Legal Education and The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute (LWI). Additionally, I follow the LWI list-servs, along with several legal and writing blogs.
It is my opinion that writing students should be required, of course, to write; not merely to learn theory or literature, but to spend extensive time writing. “People learn to write by writing.” National Council of Teachers of English, NCTE Beliefs about the Teaching of Writing. Specifically, students should write at least one draft of each major paper and papers should be sequenced throughout the semester. For example, the semester should begin with an outline of a major project to be written in small, discrete sections. The semester would then conclude by putting the smaller pieces together and supplementing based on revision and additional components, which would result in a complete, final paper. Moreover, students will experience peer reviews designed to assist not only the subject’s work product, but also the reviewer’s.
Beyond writing, I consider it to be part of my role – and obligation – to incorporate professionalism and ethics lessons into classes. Most opportunities occur organically, in that I am reminded of a “war story” or read a story in the newspaper that is related to the classroom topic at hand. I use those real-life lessons to reinforce the professionalism and ethics training they receive in other classes. The learning outcomes for my students, on a very general level, are to assist them in becoming “practice-ready” lawyers. Before graduation, students should be exposed to as many different genres of legal writing as practical: letters, emails, memos, motions and related briefs, deposition summaries, contracts, agreements, and real estate documents such as deeds, and purchase and sale agreements. While it is not possible to thoroughly examine each of these documents in a single introductory writing class, a minimum level of familiarity is vital. Then, a few key documents can be the focus of each semester.
Moreover, students should have experience with a variety of audiences: clients (each with their varied requisite levels of sophistication and knowledge), opposing counsel, judges, jurors, witnesses, the press, and other third parties. Students should be comfortable with their own professional persona and tone. The learning outcomes and objectives of each specific assignment are based on the audience and genre of each piece.
My role in the classroom is to prepare students to be professional and practice-ready lawyers: lawyers who are able to communicate effectively orally and in writing.