You have been practicing law in Athens, but much of your caseload is in Columbus. How does that work?
Most of my cases are in Columbus. When you start a small business, much of your work is going to come from friends and family. People want to hire a lawyer they trust -- especially with important cases, so they go with who they know. The people I know are in Columbus, which puts me and my work here. Technology helps to manage things, but I still spend a lot of time on the road.
You dropped out of high school, but were still able to regroup and get a college degree and law degree. How did you do that?
I failed the 10th grade twice before dropping out. After my ninth grade year in the Columbus High magnet program, my house burned down and my mother and longtime stepfather were in the midst of a messy divorce. I moved in with my grandparents in Smiths Station. That, combined with typical teenage tumult, led me to miss too many days of school. After failing 10th grade at CHS, I went to Jordan High. I had great friends at Jordan, but failing and being separated from my CHS peers was very discouraging. I failed again. During my third 10th year, I had a teacher named Mrs. Cole. One day, Mrs. Cole came to me during homeroom and sat down in the desk in front of me. I had my head down on the desk -- depressed, discouraged -- I was six weeks from my 18th birthday and still in 10th grade. Mrs. Cole, always honest and always willing to "tell it like it is," looked at me and said, "What are you doing?" I said, "What do you mean?" She said, "You're wasting your time and you're wasting our time. You need to get out of here. Get a GED. Go to college. Get a job. Just do something." That was the single greatest life-changing moment of my life. I'm almost in tears talking about it. Here was petite, red-headed, 25-year veteran teacher Mrs. Cole telling me to drop out. It was the single best piece of advice I've ever received. It was a ray of light that blasted me out a deep, dark, long-standing depression. She offered me a solution to the riddle I couldn't solve. For the next six weeks, I said nothing to nobody. On my 18th birthday, I woke up, went to the front office at Jordan and withdrew myself. Mrs. Cole taught me that you don't have to do things like everyone else does, that it's never too late and you never give up. Two months later, I went to Tilinghurst Adult Education Center with my grandmother, paid $45 and took the GED. Few months after that, I started college at Chattahoochee Valley Community College while working as a merchandiser for Buffalo Rock Pepsi. Then transferred to Southern Union, then Columbus Tech College. After earning a full year's worth of credits, I transferred to Columbus State University. My year at CSU was the greatest year of my collegiate career. Written off by many as a failure, I had finally earned my way into a "real" university-level college. I knew better than to squander the opportunity and finished the year with a 3.9 GPA. I applied to the University of Georgia and received a Franklin College of Arts and Sciences scholarship. Transferred to UGA, graduated with a degree in political philosophy, then continued to the University of Georgia School of Law. The rest, as they say, is history.
What do you like most about Columbus?
This may be kind of selfish, but I love my family and friends. Columbus holds the people that are most dear to me, particularly my grandparents who were always my rock in the storm. As you get older, it's that small group of people in your life that become most important. I love Columbus because it holds my brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins and best friends.
As you build a law practice, how do you balance family with the demands of work?
It's not easy. "Balance" may be a generous term. My main squeeze, high school sweetheart and mother of my two children, Hannah Davenport, picks up much of the slack now that I'm busy as a trial lawyer. She is the director of staff development at St. Mary's Hospital in Athens, so she has her own work, too. When my son, Christopher, was born, Hannah and I were ages 19 and 20. During college, through the HOPE scholarship, PELL grants and student loans we were able to work less and focus on school and our son. Through college and law school, I coached eight seasons of Little League and was hyper-involved as a parent. I always "tested well" so I figured I could cut corners in college and law school and devote more time to parenting. I understood that once the rubber hit the road and I was an attorney, I wouldn't have as much time. Hopefully putting in the time early will make a difference for my son.
What is the best-kept secret in the Chattahoochee Valley?
The best-kept secret to the people of the Chattahoochee Valley is how nice the people in the Chattahoochee Valley are. After law school, I worked for a nationally renowned trial lawyer in downtown Atlanta. People in Atlanta are stressed, bottled up, about to pop. They aren't friendly, they don't wave, they don't hold doors. If you wave or say hello in the morning, they act like there is something wrong with you, like you're weak or unsophisticated. Living in the Chattahoochee Valley you don't see it and you take it for granted. It's subtle. It's the neighbor walking his dog, giving you a friendly wave. It's the 13-year-old boy, holding the door at McDonald's. It might not seem like much, but it makes a difference. It has a direct effect on your quality of life.
Name: Chris Breault
Job: Trial lawyer
Current home: Athens
Family: Hannah Davenport, Christopher Breault (son, age 12), Rose Breault (daughter, age 2). Grandparents: Osborne and Carolyn Woods. Nine half-brothers and sisters -- too many to name.
Education: GED; bachelor's in political philosophy, University of Georgia; Juris Doctorate, University of Georgia School of Law
Favorite book: "David Copperfield" by Charles Dickens
Favorite movie: "Happy Gilmore"
Favorite restaurant: Country's Barbecue
Favorite quote: "Fortune favors the bold"
Favorite song: "Spottieottiedopaliscious" by OutKast
Best concert attended: OutKast at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens when my brother, Daniel Breault, was a freshman at UGA.