Leading the Way: From Student to Statesman

Vol. 42 No. 7

By

Nicole Israel is the student editor of Student Lawyer magazine.

Five days a week Othel Doyle (“Trey”) Kelley III rises in the pre-dawn hours to commute an hour and half to class at Georgia State University College of Law, or head to work at a Cedartown, Georgia, law firm.

But Kelley not only packs his schedule with work and class time, this 3L also serves in the Georgia House of Representatives. He was elected in November 2012.

“I’m not someone who is content to sit on the sidelines, and I knew by serving in the legislature I could help promote policies to improve Georgia’s economy and lower the tax burden for Georgia citizens,” said Kelley.

At 23, Kelley was among the youngest in the nation to pursue a state legislative seat. Topping his 2014 legislative goals is a bill designed to further promote medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) in Georgia. He said these partnerships provide patients more effective treatment by bringing a member of the legal profession into the health-care treatment team. This team is usually formed through voluntary collaborations between legal service organizations and health-care providers.

“Quite often MLPs are designed to treat low-income individuals, who incidentally are on the state Medicaid rolls,” said Kelley. “Treating these individuals within a medical-legal partnership will not only save lives, it will save crucial Medicaid dollars.”

But the idea of politics or even law school did not surface until after working in sales and marketing. He enjoyed working, but the law enticed him. He saw the legal profession as an opportunity to help people in his community. Kelley was particularly drawn to litigation.

“My interest in the practice of law has always revolved around being in the courtroom, trying cases. [A litigation class] gave me my first real opportunity to develop a trial strategy, examine witnesses, and perform a closing argument.”

Kelley said he tries to maintain a balanced curriculum, and naturally gravitated to other classes that sparked his interest, including public policy and business courses. He said honing his analytical skills as a 1L served him well in school and his first weeks as a legislator. But when not in the classroom, Kelley spends his days juggling legislative-related events and communicating with constituents.

Kelley often attends meetings in Atlanta and in his own district. When not in session, Kelley devotes his time to researching and drafting legislation and brainstorming how to address his constituents’ future needs. 

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