Not exactly to do with books, but PG suspects a TV program will be coming.
I don’t ever network,” 28-year-old criminal defense attorney Nicole Fegan tells me on the phone, a sentiment that resonates. An attorney myself, I’ve always found “networking” unnatural and uncomfortable, particularly when other lawyers are involved, most of whom are conservative white men — not my ideal audience. But Fegan is changing the game, providing hope where not much existed before, particularly not in law, and especially not in this column.
“I just do Instagram marketing,” Fegan tells me on her client-outreach strategy. And in fact, it was after a friend alerted me to Fegan’s Instagram that I became fascinated by her. All my lawyer friends are secretive as hell on the Internet. We’re constantly monitored by our local bar associations; to pass, we must pass a “moral character” test. This renders us paranoid to share anything on the internet that might jeopardize our careers. In sharp contrast, Fegan Instagram’s feed features her posing with guns and large stacks of money — props, she assures me (“I know the best prop guy in Atlanta”) — and wearing merch promoting her trademark slogan “Got Proof” over blunt-smoking red lips. In Atlanta, Fegan is frequently known as “Ms. Got Proof” — a moniker that took off after she represented rapper Peewee Longway.
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Fegan decided to go to law school after catching her own criminal charges for “intent to distribute” in college. The experience highlighted to her the unfairness of the system. “The state prosecutor really puts your back against the wall,” she tells me. “You either have to do what they say or you fight, and if you fight there’s such a risk involved that most people don’t.”
“So you took a plea?” I ask.
“No I fought it.” She won the trial, which “fueled” her. Afterwards, she “switched it all the way up.” A self-proclaimed “bum” in college, Fegan graduated magna cum laude at John Marshall Law School. In law school, she interned for Parag Shah, a well-known Atlanta criminal defense attorney, judge, and adjunct law professor. They met when she invited him to speak at a Georgia Association for Women Lawyers event in law school, and his brazen attitude made her want to work with him. “He’s different now because he’s a judge,” Fegan told me. “But after a few drinks at the strip club, he’ll be eating chicken wings with you.”
After she graduated, Shah helped Fegan “set up shop” on her own. But first, Fegan had to join the bar, which involved being questioned about her criminal past before 10 lawyers, a psychologist, and a stenographer. When they asked her why she thought she was searched for drugs, she responded “because I had a black man with me.”
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“My client is my co-counsel,” she tells me, explaining that her firm is just her. “Two things,” she tells me regarding her decision to work closely with her clients throughout every stage of the trial. “There is nobody better to know their case than themselves. And there is nobody better to beat a criminal case than a criminal.”
She says that what separates her from the old white men who saturate the field is her passion, and the fact that she always listens to her clients. She spends hours before trial going to jail for visits, even if she has nothing specific to discuss. “I just know they wanna know that someone is thinking about them.”
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When I asked Shah about Fegan’s Instagram, he responded, simply, “I love it.” For a client to trust you, he told me, they have to know you and be able to connect with you. “Social media has allowed an avenue for clients to develop that trust with their lawyers.” Fegan’s Instagram gives her clients a glimpse at how hardworking, passionate, and charming she is.