Leadership: BLSA president plans to build on community role

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Growing up in inner city Detroit, Coriann McMillen witnessed how important effective legal representation was and always displayed a passion about advocating for people unable to speak for themselves.

“Back then, I considered myself ‘the voice’—I always made it my business to stand up for others,” she says. 

McMillen grew up witnessing her father become a product of the system. 

“Through first-hand experience, I then understood the importance of legal representation under every circumstance and I wanted to be a part of helping people during the trying times in their lives,” she says. 

While earning a degree in sociology with a criminal justice concentration from Central Michigan University, McMillen remembers well a class about juvenile delinquency that piqued her interest. 

“Early on, I was granted the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and exposure to the complexities in legal proceedings,” she says. “During my last year, I interned at a criminal justice law firm where I accompanied the attorney on a murder trial.”

With law school as a potential goal, McMillen first wanted to work in the legal community to determine whether a career as an attorney was the right fit. Correspondingly, her first job after undergrad was at TMD Law Group in Southfield, where she also worked part-time in her 1L year at Detroit Mercy Law.

“I appreciate they took a chance with me even though I had minimal experience in the legal field,” she says. “The firm embodied what it meant to mentor the generations to come. 

“What I enjoyed most was the family dynamic it provided—I wasn’t just an employee, I was family. TMD shaped my idea of what it takes to be a competent, hardworking, and successful attorney. The experience created a stepping-stone for my legal pathway, and I enjoyed the limitless exposure to legal subject matters.”

Now a rising 3L at Detroit Mercy Law, McMillen appreciates the helpfulness of faculty members and fellow students.

“Detroit Mercy truly ‘educates the complete lawyer’ by providing practical and hands-on experience,” she says. “I especially love the number of student organizations, that give students the opportunity to explore career interests, while also creating a community with people who share the same values and beliefs. Law school is hard, but the amount of support makes it worthwhile. I’ve met lifelong friends and I’m forever grateful for the love and support they’ve provided throughout my law school journey.”

Open to different practice areas, McMillen is particularly interested in her property law class, as well as criminal law; and wants to learn more about real estate, wills, estates, and trusts. 

Throughout her legal studies, McMillen coped well with remote learning. 

“I have an environment where I can stay focused and organized,” she says. “I’m taking some in-person classes so I have some in-person experience, which creates a healthy balance.”

During her 1L summer, she interned with the Michigan Advocacy Program in Ypsilanti, serving as a student advocate focused on landlord-tenant matters for an Eviction Prevention Program. She then externed for U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland in the Eastern District of Michigan, drafting legal opinions, memorandums, and observing federal proceedings. 

“Both experiences were invaluable,” she says. 

Last fall, she clerked for the Birth Justice Law Firm in Royal Oak; and has been clerking since December for Rudoi Law, a criminal defense law firm in Royal Oak. 

“What I love most is that the attorney helps me navigate through law school,” she says. “He takes his real-life cases and makes it applicable to the subjects I’m studying so I can have a better understanding. He’s very personable and cares about my future.” 

She recently accepted a position with the Detroit Housing Commission and is looking forward to learning more about what real estate law entails.

“My career goals are to find a subject matter or matters I wouldn’t mind doing every day,” she says. “I want to love what I do without feeling I settled or was pushed into a particular field. Law school has given me the opportunity to explore what piques my interest and what does not. Overall, I want to create a pipeline for first-generation minority students who are interested in any area of the legal field. Since I’m well versed in the legal community, I plan to exhaust my resources to help serve the upcoming generation and help them reach their goals.” 

McMillen served as secretary of the Black Law Students Association and will serve as president for the upcoming academic year.

“Joining BLSA was one of the best decisions I’ve made in law school,” she says. “I plan to continue the traditions BLSA has created and become more involved in the community—community involvement is paramount to a productive organization. 

“I also want to cater to the needs of the organization—my plan is to try and accommodate every concern or suggestion expressed so I can provide an inclusive environment for the students.” 

She also has served as a notary since February 2019. 

“Being a notary provides me with the joy of being able to assist in simple, yet important transactions,” she says. 

Very family-oriented, McMillen is close with her parents and her six brothers and two sisters. 

“My mom is my rock—I can go to her about anything, and my dad is my motivation to finish what I started,” she says. “I would categorize my siblings as my best friends, mostly because they’ve been through life with me and understand what shaped me to become the person I am today.

“I make it a priority to spend time with my family and friends as often as I’m able.” 

In her leisure time, she enjoys sitting by the water, reading, having meaningful conversations, or relaxing. She enjoys cooking and trying new recipes from Pinterest; and likes to travel. She has been a member of New Providence Baptist Church since 2016. 

“I’m a firm believer in Christ and I would not be where I am today without belief and prayer,” she says. 

As a Detroit native, McMillen is passionate about the Motor City. 

“Detroit is my roots—I’ve experienced an entire life of love, laughter, and adventure,” she says. “I enjoy Detroit’s uniqueness and how much it has to offer.”

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