Detroit Law student sports experience in union work


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Law student Larry Johnson has worked for Leadec Industrial Services (LTP) UAW Local 900 in Wayne County for more than six years, including the past three as chairman. Overseeing three union reps and 45 employees, he manages relationships between employees and management by enforcing a collective bargaining agreement with written grievances and negotiation.

“I’ve always had an interest in law—but taking on a union position, in which I had to enforce a CBA and fight for others, solidified that interest,” he says.

His first taste of a law school experience was attending the “Explore the Law” Program at Penn State Law in 2019.

“I enjoyed meeting individuals from around the country that were going through the same law school application process, and I also learned about a lot of potential career pathways with a J.D,” he says.

Now a rising 2L at Detroit Mercy Law, Johnson is a member of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA), and class rep for both the Student Bar Association and Family Law Society.

“Detroit Mercy Law provides a great sense of community, the faculty is extremely welcoming and accessible, and the upperclassmen are always willing to help,” he says. “The environment has made me want to be as helpful as I could possibly be.”

Although a full time student, he continues working at Leadec, using quite a bit of his vacation time during the semester. He is primarily interested in public defense, labor and employment, and family law.

“I ultimately want to start a firm in which I focus on labor and employment, criminal, and family law matters,” he says. “Beforehand, I want experience at another firm and to experience an in-house counsel position.”

With an interest in eventually serving on the bench, Johnson will extern this summer for Judge Judith Levy of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

He has found many aspects of remote studies convenient.

“I enjoy being able to go back to past recorded classes and how practically all of my assignments are always accessible,” he says. “I’ve struggled with focusing while at home, so I made it a habit to go on campus and study.”

The oldest of seven children, a first-generation college grad and first-generation law student, Johnson also draws on his undergrad experience, where he earned a degree in psychology from Michigan State University.

“I wanted a better understanding of the human mind and human behavior,” he says. “I felt it would expand my perspective and allow me to view individuals from a different, more objective lens. My background will help in my legal career because I’ve developed a deep sense of empathy and regard for others—these attributes will help in my fight for clients as well as my considerations for defendants in a court.”

Johnson, who looks forward to being involved in community service this fall, volunteered at a UAW Local 900 event in April and May, where COVID-19 vaccinations were administered.

“I helped by making packets of info, setting up seating, directing the recipients of where and when to go and cleaning up. I’ve had discussions about community service for this upcoming fall with a few organizations I am a part of but nothing is concrete.”

During undergrad, Johnson did a serving learning project in Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico, (his first time out of the United States), where he helped repair a preschool named after Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.

“Typically, the parents of the students do the renovations, so it felt great to help them out,” he says. “We built a fence, painted, and played with the children. I also enjoyed practicing my Spanish.”

Johnson, who grew up in Oak Park, now makes his home in Detroit, where he enjoys painting, and reading, and has recently begun a fitness journey.

“I love Detroit’s historical culture, being the home of Motown and the Motor City housing the Big 3,” he says. “My grandparents migrated to Detroit because of the Big 3 and most of them retired from them. My parents worked for Ford as well. 

“Detroit residents also have strong pride and, in my experience, tend to be recognizable in other parts of the country, which I love.”

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