Teilhet is a former state legislator who now represents victims of personal injury and handles family law issues.
Although Teilhet was previously with a local firm, it has been a couple of years since he practiced law. Teilhet said he was originally concerned about getting referrals, but has been given a great reception in Marietta.
Teilhet said most of his cases have an element of physical or emotional pain. He added the Teilhet Firm is focused on everyday people in need of help.
“My heart is really in representing regular folks,” Teilhet said. “I enjoy those battles the most.”
Teilhet said running his own practice gives him the chance to develop a relationship with a person having a rough time.
For instance, Teilhet, 39, met with a lady in Douglasville last week.
“I sat in the Applebee’s and talked to her a long time about what her options were,” Teilhet said.
Teilhet does admit there is a large amount of pressure when fighting for personal issues. He said unlike representing a giant company that will continue to exist no matter the ruling, it can devastate a life if he loses.
Mostly, Teilhet said civil court is about fixing a problem, which often takes finding a middle ground between two parties. He said that his clients recognize his best attempts at giving them a voice.
“I tell clients this is not a movie. This story won’t end on the courthouse steps with swelling music,” Teilhet said.
Teilhet recognizes most people have access to legal information online, but said that lawyers are needed to navigate the court system where a bad judgment cannot be reversed.
For small matters, Teilhet said he loves telling potential clients to save their money and not hire him, but only after a discussion.
As a trial lawyer, Teilhet said he can take cases throughout the state.
“I’ll go anywhere,” Teilhet said.
One of the side benefits of this, he said, is he gets to see all the historic courthouses around the state.
the political tide
Teilhet’s love of Georgia, past and present, is evident by his professional history in politics.
As a Democrat, Teilhet represented Smyrna in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2003 to 2010.
At the beginning of his first term, the Democrats controlled the state Legislature. Teilhet said he expected to be joining a majority party where “others had blazed the path.”
Instead, that time was a period of transition when Republicans took over after the 2004 election.
“I had a different career than I anticipated,” Teilhet said. “I thought I would retire an old gray man with a whole list of things that I did.”
Instead, Teilhet said his role in the minority was to make symbolic arguments to the public.
“You have to choose your spots. You aren’t going to have as many opportunities to pass a law and see it signed into a bill,” Teilhet said.
Then, at 36 years old, Teilhet ran in the 2010 primary for state attorney general, but lost what he said was a once-in-a-life-time opportunity he had to take.
After that election, Teilhet was appointed executive director of the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council. His time leading a state agency was cut short when Gov. Nathan Deal selected a different man.
Teilhet said Cobb County, like the rest of the state and nation, has become more polarized.
“You don’t see a lot of that crossover type of appeal of many candidates anymore,” Teilhet said.
For the last two years, Teilhet has led Georgia Conservation Voters, an environmental nonprofit advocacy group.
“I think there are values that are related to environmental protection that are universal, that are not really subject to partisan back and forth,” said Teilhet. “But, the fact that the General Assembly is as Republican as it is, makes running an environmental organization more difficult.”
Unlike the policy-making years, Teilhet’s role at the advocacy group was meant to be short-term with specific goals.
Teilhet was a fixer. His job was to restore financial stability and strategically place Georgia Conservation Voters as “the voice of the environmental movement in Georgia for many years to come,” Teilhet said.
Teaching law at UGA
After a decade trying to frame Georgia laws, Teilhet is now framing young lawyer minds.
As an instructor at the University of Georgia Law School, his most recent class was on election law.
“In my opinion, law school is the best liberal arts education you can get,” Teilhet said. He believes the program teaches students how to think critically.
Teilhet said it is true that a large number of law students are graduating, but said the various careers available to them speaks to the high value of the degree.
Teilhet tells his students, “What you want is to have your own practice … as opposed to being in a big shop,” where you are dependent on partners for billing hours.
Preserving family time
Taking his own advice, Teilhet’s decision to be his own boss is perfectly timed with the arrival of his newborn baby. He also has 5-year-old twin girls.
After the attorney general race cut severely into his time with family, Teilhet did not want to dedicate a large amount of time at a downtown Atlanta firm.
As a resident of Smyrna, who calls Marietta his professional home, Teilhet said, “Now, one of the great blessings is I take my girls to school.”
Teilhet said he has received great support from other young successful Marietta lawyers “about how to structure a life with young kids.”
Teilhet said Marietta is a “rare beast.” It is close enough to metro Atlanta that there is sophisticated legal work, but a legal community that is tight knit like a small town.
Although no promises have been made to his supportive wife, Heather, Teilhet said he is unsure if he will run for another political office.
His Twitter profile uses the phrase “recovering politician.” And, Teilhet said, he is proud of his public service career, and has nothing left to prove.
“The same thing that drove me in politics is the same thing that drives me in law practice,” Teilhet said.