Goal oriented: From board games to board rooms, student aims for career in patent law


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

In boyhood, Ethan Woelke loved playing board games with his brother. Perhaps the Monopoly tokens should have included a miniature Lady Justice.

That passion for problem solving drew Woelke to studying law—as did the realization that his undergrad degree in chemistry and environmental science from Alma College provided interesting opportunities in the legal profession.    

“After encouragement from my uncle and some close friends, I decided law school would be a unique way to apply my science background and still do something I love,” he says. “I couldn’t be happier with my decision.”

 Now a 2L student at Detroit Mercy Law, Woelke is following in the footsteps of his uncle, O’Neil Woelke, an alumnus.

“He was a significant influence on why I decided to attend law school and why I chose Detroit Mercy Law,” he says.

Involved in Law Review and Moot Court, and previously a 1L Day Vice President of the Student Bar Association, Woelke finds the school to be a very welcoming community.

“Between my classmates, teachers, and the alumni, the experiences and connections I made have created a refreshing environment—especially since I had limited experience with the legal profession before law school,” he says. 

In this summer’s internship at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in Lansing, Woelke drafted memoranda on waste disposal permits and utilities law for administrative law judges, and analyzed environmental statutes and regulations from 1979 to-date to prepare a grant application for submission to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The bulk of his work concerned contested permits in the MDEQ administrative courts.

“I’ve particularly enjoyed spending time with the administrative law judges because they gave me insight into what litigation and administrative law entails,” he says.

Currently clerking at Dobrusin Law, an intellectual property law firm in Pontiac, Woelke has mapped out his future goals.

“I want to become the best patent attorney I can be and contribute with the rebuilding of Detroit by doing pro bono work within the city,” he says.

A native of Keego Harbor in Oakland County, Woelke now makes his home in West Bloomfield. In his leisure time, he enjoys camping, hiking, fishing, boating, cooking, board games and basketball, and will help coach basketball at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s this winter. A varsity player with the Alma College basketball squad from 2013-16, Woelke as a senior helped lead his team to the MIAA Conference Tournament title and the Elite Eight of the Division 3 NCAA Tournament.

Woelke enjoys the time he spends in Motown.

“Detroit is on the rise, and the revitalization of the downtown area is exciting to be a part of,” he says. “I’m looking forward to watching the Red Wings and Pistons play in Little Caesars Arena as well.”