From flipping burgers at The Varsity to practicing law for 20 years, it’s hard to believe that the majority of Donarell Green’s career has not left the two blocks between his original high school job and his current one at the Green & Green Firm off Hancock Avenue.
“That’s the thing about Athens. There’s an opportunity here, and a lot of people don’t take advantage of it,” Green, a 1989 Clarke Central graduate, said.
Green attributes his success to his diverse upbringing.
“There is an opportunity to be exposed to a really large cross section of our society as a whole,” Green said. “I credit my public school experience and childhood in Athens for giving me that, and it has helped me as a lawyer.”
Becoming a lawyer was not a lifelong passion for Green. Saturday morning cartoons originally interested him more than courtrooms or public speaking. He recalls drawing his own comic books before studying art at Morris Brown College in Atlanta after high school.
“I was more of a social person, and I didn’t really get involved in high school,” Green said.
In college, Green found his niche.
“Public speaking and student government at Morris Brown exposed me to different things, and that’s when my interest in law developed,” Green said.
After spending a year working odd jobs while applying to graduate school, Green was accepted to Stetson University’s law school in Central Florida. Green’s roommate at Stetson was someone he could trust and whose influence would push him further in his legal studies: his twin brother, Freddrell Green.
“We just kept that up (working together), throughout college, throughout law school, and even professionally,” said Donarell Green.
One year after receiving their law degrees, the Green brothers opened their practice in 1999.
“I wanted the challenge,” said Donarell, who spoke about the risk of starting his own business rather than taking the traditional route of working for another firm first. “I had faith in my hard work and God, and I felt like with those two things I could do it.”
KEEPING THE FAITH: “You have to have the right perspective when it comes to that, any discrimination. You just have to work hard and have faith,” Donarell Green said. Photo by Jackie Wright.
On a first glance, the Green brothers look completely alike, but they are defined by distinct differences in their personalities.
“He’s a little more sedentary than I am,” said Donarell. “I’m more interactive. I like to get out and talk to people, but he’s kind of more subdued and to himself. Sweetest guy, of course, but definitely more private.”
Fredrell’s path to becoming a lawyer was different than Donarell’s, starting off in high school when he had heart surgery that set him back a year academically. During his first semester in graduate school, Donarell spoke with Freddrell, who was still finishing his bachelor’s degree, to shift his career from his original intent to become an Atlanta public school teacher.
“I remember we were talking one night, I was like, ‘Man, you should just apply to law school. It would be cool, we would be partners and we can practice together,’” said Donarell Green. “I would like to think that I was somewhat of an inspiration for him, but he might discount that anyways.”
When the firm first took flight, the duo tinkered with a wide variety of cases before they found their focus. From probate law to real estate, labor and discrimination, the Greens took on everything that came their way.
“You’re brand new, nobody knows you, so you’ve got to take cases like that to build a client base,” Donarell Green said. “They refer friends, or they come back to you if you need a lawyer again one day, or they refer family.”
Gaining a community network and valuable experience allowed them to distinguish the business’ strong suit to focus on three specialities: criminal law, personal injury and family law. Their original broad-case training gives the Green brothers’ present-day work an edge over other lawyers.
“We’re country lawyers, but even if you come to us with the most complicated thing, we have relationships and we can bring in specialists,” Donarell said. Even with their “rural” status because of their location in Athens, they provide benefits like the big city firms in Atlanta.
The Greens compare their unique ability to gather experts for their cases to the same comic superheroes that inspired them to seek justice in their youth.
“If you need to create the Avengers and in this adventure you need Ant Man, or you need Iron Man for this adventure and you’re only Spider-Man but you need the expertise that Iron Man brings, that Spider-Man can jump on the phone and get Iron Man in there,” Donarell said.
Aside from their power to assemble, the twins have learned how to balance out their personalities effectively, showcasing strengths and diminishing weaknesses.
“We do good cop and bad cop all the time,” joked Donarell, who hinted at himself being the devil’s advocate. “It gives depth to our practice, and it gives depth to the representation that we provide to clients. They get my perspective and they get his, which is different.”
These differences rarely causes strife within the firm.
“We’ve had our disputes and we still do, but the one thing since childhood we’ve been able to accomplish is the backing up and supporting each other. That’s the big picture at the end of the day.”
– Donarell Green
“We’ve had our disputes and we still do, but the one thing since childhood we’ve been able to accomplish is the backing up and supporting each other. That’s the big picture at the end of the day,” said Donarell Green.
Gregory Green, the twins’ younger brother, is the firm’s senior paralegal.
“It was challenging in the beginning,” Gregory Green said about working alongside family. “Of course with being siblings we’ll butt heads, but it’s good though, especially when you want to try to get the best outcome.”
Successful business-mindedness runs in the Green family. Donarell Green III, the twins’ father, was the director of the Human and Economic Development Department in Athens, and their grandfather, Dr. Donarell Green Jr., was one of the first black physicians in the area.
“He (Green Jr.) was quiet and he loved his family,” said Donarell IV. “He had an office in his house where patients would come and he’d give them their shots.”
Bought from Dr. Edward Jones in 1946, Green Jr. ran The Susan Medical office until the late 1970s when former state house representative and current Dekalb County CEO Michael Thurmond leased the building for his practice. After renovating and converting the building into a law firm, the Green twins took over their grandfather’s new place following Thurmond’s departure.
Donarell’s best impression of his grandfather includes a vivid childhood memory with his twin brother in the backyard of his house.
“A bird nest had fallen down from the top of the house and there was this mama bird flying around going crazy because her babies were in the nest,” Donarell said.
Because of their youth and fear of getting pecked, the twins ran inside to grab their grandfather to deal with the situation.
“He just quietly got up, walked outside and put the nest back,” Donarell said. “As he was picking it up though, man, was that baby bird (pecking) at his head. He did not move one time, and me and my brother were sitting there trying to figure out what we were seeing.”
That moment serves as a catalyst for Green Jr.’s character.
“That was a lesson of strength that just stays with me to this day because he was so calm, sympathetic, and compassionate,” Donarell said.