Feels Like the First Time

Feels Like the First Time
September 14, 2017 admin
Going to court

For whatever reason, our first time doing anything, even something unremarkable, becomes memorable, right? Yes, we all know that. Our first day of school, first kiss (we could go down a rabbit hole here), first car, first time taking the bar (and last hopefully), are all eternal memories. Last week, I had my first day in court as a lawyer!

Like any first, it felt scary, I felt vulnerable, like I didn’t know what I was doing. It happened to be a family law case. Both husband and wife sat across the aisle balling their eyes out. I had no idea law practice would be this emotional, but it was interesting because only a few days after, they had reconciled. Good for them. For some people it takes the brink of divorce to really dig deep down into a serious effort of mending fences.

Before that day, I prepared the best I could, knew what our argument would be and tried to keep things in-depth but simple. As I made my way into the courthouse with a backpack on, wearing a tie, the Sheriff’s deputies looked at me a little be-wildered, then asked in a South-Georgia accent “Ain’t you a lawyer.” “Yes,” I replied. They told me to walk through the metal detector, as it screamed. I stopped. “You go on,” they said, “and keep your phone off in court.” The guy behind me smiled as he carried his phone in, and the Deputy said “No cell phones, take it back outside.” I grinned…I was getting special treatment as a lawyer. I was special.

So the plan was that I would tell everyone I was new, and hopefully somebody would help me. I went straight to the Clerk of Court, and after telling her who I was, explained that this was my FIRST time in court! Her tone changed to a motherly one, and she said “honey, you’ll be great. Joey’s been doing this for 35 years, he’ll help you.” Joey was opposing counsel. Great! I thought sarcastically, wholly shitballs, I’m going up against someone who’s been doing this longer than I’ve been ALIVE. Walking in the courtroom, I was early so I cracked the door, and another Deputy waived me in. I told her I was a new lawyer. She said “No baby, you sit up there, go through those gates and the Judge wants counsel in the first row.” That was pretty cool, I thought, I had officially passed the courthouse bar gates. It was like an literal analogy for passing the bar.

People began to trickle into court. I was watching, eyes peeled, as if I knew what Joey looked like, trying to identify him. Then, a larger man, tall with big stomach said “TJ! Hey, I’m Joey. I’m gonna ask the Judge to let us recess so we can talk this thing out.” “Great!” I responded. I told him I didn’t know what to expect, because this was my first time in court. “I’ll help you out,” he said, as the conversation turned to where I was from and where I went to school. You would’ve thought he was an old family friend. I drove a hard bargain, for my client, but remained respectful to Joey. I appreciate him being cordial and professional, and understanding of my nervousness. I realize, some lawyers would have loved to take advantage of my novice situation, but not Joey. He understood from wisdom and maturity that professionalism trumps winning. Even as opposing counsel, he was a great welcome for me into law society. He made me realize that lawyers can do a great job representing their client, while maintaining integrity, manners, and setting an example. Well done.

Our Values

Hilliard Law Firm is Savannah’s only community-based legal practice, interested in equal access to justice. This means we do lots of pro-bono (free) and low bono AFFORDABLE LEGAL WORK. Being socially-conscious also means we offer many common standard legal forms available for free download from a fun, simple, user-friendly site.

Areas Of Practice

Business Formation

Business formation is often the first major step for entrepreneurs establishing new companies, since your business structure can be used to secure financing, executives and other major pillars holding up a company. We can help you get a solid business structure in place so that you can provide your organization with the best possible chance of success.

Social Security Disability

If you have a medical condition that’s expected to last for a year or more, then you can apply for disability benefits. Social Security Disability pays benefits to an injured person or their family if they have worked long enough and paid social security taxes. We help clients navigate the process of obtaining Social Security Disability.

Workers Compensation

If you’ve been injured on the job, you are entitled to medical treatment, income benefits and compensation if you are left with a permanent impairment from your injuries. If you’ve been injured at your place of work, it is essential to have effective representation so you can receive the financial support you need to keep up with medical bills, loss of wages and more. We work with each of our clients to ensure they receive what is due to them in workers compensation cases.

Contract Disputes

Business deals sometimes go bad. Partners can end up on opposite sides of very large disagreements. Contracts that seem simple in the beginning sometimes end with unfulfilled expectations. We work with each of our clients to reach favorable resolution of disputes, sometimes without even going to court.

Traffic Citations

As upsetting as it may be to get a traffic ticket, it’s more than an inconvenience and an unexpected bill to pay. If you don’t contest the ticket, the fine could be just the beginning of the expenses you may need to pay, including higher insurance rates. If you’ve received a traffic ticket, you should talk to an attorney so you can understand your situation and the best way to proceed. We will work with you to understand what your options when faced with a traffic citation.

Personal Injury

It is important to understand that personal injury cases can be very expensive involving medical expert testimony, legal fees, court reporters, investigators, and other costs. We understand how challenging this time can be, which is why we offer honest, reliable counsel to each of our clients working with them to create the best outcome in personal injury cases.

Landlord-Tenant Disputes

Disputes between landlords and tenants can take many forms — from upkeep and repair issues to non-payment of rent and potential eviction. In addition to looking at the terms of any rental agreement in place, being informed of your rights as either a tenant or a landlord can help save money and avoid frustration. Care should be taken when navigating a dispute with your landlord or your tenant. We work with clients to ensure that both sides attempt to uphold their side of agreements while protecting our client’s interests to the fullest extent allowed by law.

Wills and Trusts

Protecting those you love and the things you treasure. Estate Planning isn’t about how much money you have, it’s about protecting what you have during your life and for those you love after you’re gone. We work with clients to plan their estate in many ways including Last Will and Testaments, setting up Trusts, and giving you Estate Planning advice.


TJ Hilliard, Attorney

Savannah Law School valedictorian, T.J. Hilliard, gave the commencement address to the class of 2017, praising the uniqueness of the intimate law school. “Our part time class of just 10 of us is so small that after 4 years spent together, everyone knows everyone else’s quirks, which makes it a lot of fun, because we became family.”

Before entering law school, Hilliard earned a BBA with a Major in Marketing, and an MBA, both from Georgia Southern University. After, he joined his family business, Carey Hilliard’s Restaurant, and became the graphic designer for all print and web media. He designed the company’s website, receiving over 50,000 views per month, and developed its successful online ordering platform.

Enrolled in the law school’s evening program, while working full time for the restaurant business, Hilliard thrived while juggling both busy worlds successfully. No matter how busy Hilliard was during law school, he always showed depth of preparation, and was a frequent voice in his classes, going head–to-head with his beloved schoolmate, but so-called class adversary, Jack Butler. Hilliard’s commitment to class prep eventually showed as he earned the CALI Award for the top grade in Constitutional Law I, and Employment Discrimination-something he holds dear as his highest achievement.

During his time at Savannah Law he served as treasurer for the Maritime Law Society and was a member of the Federalist Society.

After graduating from law school, and passing the GA bar exam on the same awesome day of May 19, 2017, Hilliard decided to enter the local legal community, opening Hilliard Law Firm. Cheryl Lawrence, his friend, classmate, and future lawyer, will soon join Hilliard Law as Partner. They plan to focus their practice on small business law.

Office: (912) 225-6599 Ext-1000
Email: tj@hilliardlaw.com