They became partners in life and law, thanks to ONU. Meet two outstanding power couples with successful law practices.
Parag Shah, JD ’06, and Elizabeth “Liz” George, JD ’06, are rising stars in the Georgia legal community, tackling some of the most visible criminal defense and personal injury cases in the South at their boutique firm in Atlanta, Ga.
The formidable husband-and-wife legal team didn’t establish the Shah Law Firm for money or media attention (although they’ve achieved both), but to positively impact people’s lives and to be the masters of their future.
“We only take cases where we like the clients and want to help them, and we don’t compromise,”says Liz. “We do absolutely no advertising, and we keep a small caseload of around 40 cases. By doing this, we enjoy our work, can give it 110 percent, and, at the same time, have a great work-life balance that leaves us
plenty of time for ourselves and our family.”
Parag, the son of a successful entrepreneur, grew up in Arkansas and received his undergraduate degree from Rhodes College in Tennessee. Liz, who spent her childhood in the Pittsburgh area, graduated from Waynesburg University in Waynesburg, Pa. Neither planned to pursue a law career when they started their educational journey. They both came to ONU with the intention of giving law school a try and discovered, somewhat unexpectedly, that the field of law was a great fit.
They met each other their first week at ONU during a pickup basketball game in the gym. Liz had her hair pulled back in a ponytail and was dressed comfortably (and colorfully) in a tie-dye shirt, red shorts, and bright yellow smiley-face socks. The next day, now wearing business attire and sporting a more sophisticated hairdo, Liz invited Parag to sit next to her in class. Parag called his best friend to tell him that law school was going better than expected, because in just two days, he had met two girls who seemed to like him. Only later did he realize that both girls were Liz!
ONU’s supportive and peaceful campus provided an ideal environment for the couple to grow their relationship and their knowledge of the law. They excelled in their coursework, and Liz graduated with distinction in the top 10 percent of her class. “I had friends at Ivy League law schools who talked about the competitiveness and fighting,” says Parag.
“At ONU, the atmosphere was one in which ‘we are all in this together’ and ‘we need to help each other out.’ And we (Liz and I) have continued to have this outlook in our professional careers.”
The couple moved south after graduation and married in 2007. They immediately felt at home in Atlanta, which they describe as having all the amenities of a big city with all the comforts of a small town. Parag began his career as a public defender and then worked in a law office as a trial attorney before embarking on his own in 2011. Liz worked her way up to partner at a large firm, representing corporate clients in real estate and mortgage banking litigation.
By society’s measure, Liz had reached the pinnacle of success as an attorney. But her prestigious position didn’t lead to happiness.
In fact, she felt miserable. She hated the long hours and demanding workload. She felt uninspired and unfulfilled in her work representing corporate interests. She recalls how disheartening it was to get booed in court during the height of the mortgage meltdown when she would announce that she was representing a
large mortgage lender or investment bank.
With prodding from Parag, Liz quit her job to focus on her passion for running and nutrition. By her own admission, the former track athlete runs “a lot.” In fact, her friends nicknamed her the “urban mountain goat” for her penchant for trail running. To fill her time, Liz started to help Parag with his expanding client base at the fledgling Shah Law Firm.
“It was the right time and the right fit,” she says. “I knew after a year that it was permanent. We are both invested in the business and want the same things for it.”
Liz and Parag continue to work hard, but under their own terms. Their caseload consists of about 50 percent personal injury cases and 50 percent criminal defense cases, including drug trafficking, Medicaid fraud, and murder. They’ve represented some well-known clients in cases that attract media attention. Their clients have included 14 former NFL players in the concussion lawsuit, a senator’s son, and a vehicular homicide involving the Georgia governor’s intern.
One client Parag represented in a dog-bite case – a producer of the Nancy Grace television show – later invited him to appear on the show. A natural on camera, Parag is now a regular guest star on the show, fielding questions and providing legal commentary on the latest court cases making national headlines.
As a legal duo, Parag and Liz complement each other perfectly. Parag enjoys the spotlight; he’s vocal, outgoing, and personable. He gravitates toward networking, client
meetings, and court appearances. Liz is more introverted and prefers to work in the office on legal research and document preparation. “It’s just the two of us, so we pretty much do everything top to bottom,” says Liz.
They are both committed to exceptional client service. They interview all prospective clients and only represent those clients with whom they feel a connection. They make themselves accessible to clients at every hour of the day or night and become thoroughly invested in each and every case. “It can be emotional and rewarding to be able to help clients through very difficult situations,” says Parag. “We get to know our clients as family. And at the end of the day, we all win or we all lose together.”
The couple’s outstanding track record has resulted in many referrals and increasingly complex cases. “That’s the challenging part,” says Parag. “The better you get, the harder your cases become. You put yourself out there as a person who can get results, and you get more pressure to perform.”
And Parag and Liz both hate to lose, not because of pride, but because they feel the full weight of what’s at stake for their clients.
“You have to be at the top of your game at all times,” says Parag. “Every person matters, and people’s lives are on the line.”
Although work still consumes a big part of their lives, they love the flexibility and independence that comes with having their own firm. Their home is located just a mile from their office, so they can seamlessly blend home and work life. Liz appreciates being able to run whenever she wants, with time to spare for experimenting with new vegetarian and gluten-free recipes. Parag likes coming and going as he pleases. They both give back to the community, volunteering at organizations like Dress for Success and Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute and mentoring young attorneys. In fact, Parag even created a series of pocket-sized reference guides that provide neutral and simplified information on Georgia law.
The books are available at http://www.iclega.org/thecode/ and are used by students, judges, district attorneys, public defenders, and private attorneys at all levels of practice.
“We’ve both learned that you just need to do good for others and do what you feel is right, and the rest will follow,” says Liz. “Honestly, what we’re most proud of is the fact that we’ve stayed true to ourselves and are living life our way.”