Helping hand: Law student offers outreach programs for children

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Wayne Law student Joseph Campbell grew up in a Lebanese Maronite Catholic home, the son of hard-working laborers.

"I believe God called me to study law to advocate for working people's interests, everyday Joes, and folks who feel intimidated or powerless with even the thought of going through a legal proceeding," he says.

And so, after graduating in 2014 from Michigan State University's James Madison College with a major in Social Relations and Policy, Campbell headed to Wayne Law School.

"I thought the skills law school cultivates in students critical and analytical thinking, how to approach and execute research, how to turn complex concepts into commonplace analogies, and how to persuasively write and speak were all transferrable skills that would better prepare me for future experiences, regardless of the position, industry, or mission," he says.

Campbell is enjoying the prolific possibilities offered by Wayne Law.

"Every professor's personality and teaching style is different but they're all distinguished in their own respect." he says. "This allows students like me with wide-ranging interests to soak in the best substance from each and use that knowledge to leverage my personal passions."

Secretary for the Black Law Students Association and a product advocate for Bloomberg Law, Campbell also serves as Governor on the Student Bar Association Board of Governors.

"Having a direct say in the decisions that directly affect you is democracy in its purest form," he says. "I'm humbled to have been elected by my peers and I take great pleasure in representing their best interests. This year, I plan to bring more amenities to the law library as well as improve accessibility throughout the law school."

The Arthur Neef Law Library is a home away from home for Campbell, where he works and refers to as "My happy place on campus where I'm able to zone-in and broaden my intellectual, social, and emotional horizons."

His duties include giving out books and study rooms to law students, helping public patrons with research, and working with reference librarians to interpret legal treatises. Campbell enjoys serving library patrons from all walks of life.

"Whether I'm mentoring a first year law student through constitutional law or helping a homeless patron find a job or apply for benefits, my shifts are always different but they're also always intellectually and morally fulfilling," he says.

The Environmental Law programs have provided tremendous practical experience for Campbell, who was a student attorney in the Transnational Environmental Law Clinic, taking Water Law, Administrative Law, and Environmental Law.

"Professors Noah Hall and Nick Schroeck have equipped me with the knowledge necessary to protect God's gifts to us our surface water, groundwater, soil, plants, and air," he says. "Through my work as a student attorney I've forced State government agencies do their job and follow their own rules. This summer, I worked on having MDEQ stop Ann Arbor's groundwater dioxane plume from compromising private and public drinking water sources.

"Earth doesn't belong humans we belong to earth, and our time here is short so respecting and protecting God's gifts is something I'm passionate about," he adds. "Wayne Law's Environmental Law programs have made my dreams of environmental stewardship a reality."

Last fall, Campbell interned for Judge George Caram Steeh III of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. A highlight was observing a trial where federal attorneys proved a doctor stole $3 million from Medicaid.

"I was lucky enough to observe two trials from a perspective of behind the chambers and the energy from the courtroom during trial still gives me chills," he says.

With the dream of one day running for a judgeship or legislative office, Campbell always wants to work within education, through teaching, consulting, or administering scholarships.

"I'm a student of life and will forever educate others as well," he says. "My career goal is to protect the people and waters of our world by working within the international environmental law realm with an emphasis on human rights".

Campbell is also president of Homeless Not Helpless, a grassroots student organization he founded last year that carries out several service projects throughout the year such as distributing Blessing Bags with hygiene products, holding a Holiday Hope and Coat Drive, and serving meals at St. Leo's Soup Kitchen. In February, the group sent 700 cases of water to a homeless shelter and Section 8 housing complex in Flint.

Last November, he took his passion for community action a step further, by co-founding an educational nonprofit, Greater Detroit Coalition, with long time friend Travez Daniel.

"I believe I've reached where I am today because I was blessed with a spectacular support system that taught me the importance of being the best version of myself," he says. "After taking Corporations my second year of law school and educating myself on the critical role that non-profits play in community development and personal enrichment, I knew I had to help my community the same way my support system helped me."

Campbell and Daniel started out by speaking to students at Detroit Delta Prep Academy about decision-making skills, how to pick friends, and how to prepare for college. Then Campbell took legal concepts and rules learned in 1L doctrinal courses and created Street Law, a six-week legal literacy course he taught this past summer to 30 middle-school students at Starr Academy in Harper Woods. Through role-playing interactions he taught the youngsters how and when to use their rights protected by the 4th and 5th Amendments, and the duties they owe to society such as being reasonable in words and actions.

"The theme was knowing yourself and knowing the law," he says. "I'm a firm believer you can't fully understand the law until you know your place within it. I had honest conversations with my students about their dreams and how getting to know yourself and the law could be the reason their dreams come true or not. "

Although Greater Detroit Coalition is still in its infancy, Campbell and Daniel plan to offer a life coach program with a 24/7 hotline as well as SAT tutoring this fall. They also have a collaborative relationship with the Horatio Williams Foundation and are working together to start a Leadership Academy for scholar athletes.

"We believe our youth are whatever we believe them to be," Campbell says. "If we believe in their greatness and expect greatness out of them they will be great."

"I believe in devoting myself to loving earth, loving others, loving my community, and creating something that gives my time purpose and meaning, and that's exactly what GDC is to me."

Campbell grew up in Eastpointe and Macomb, and graduated from Macomb Dakota High School in 2010. After living in midtown Detroit for the past 18 months, he recently moved back home to Macomb, near his three sisters and where his mother is a bakery manager at Kroger and his father runs an automotive scrap yard.

"Growing up, my family gave me great confidence that gave me the courage to believe in my dreams and myself when I may have given up," he says.

For relaxation, he enjoys sports and competitions.

"I played football, basketball, and baseball growing up and I still play them for fun," he says. "I also love water sports and power sports. My father and I go skiing and have dirt bikes that we ride together. My dad is my best friend, mentor, and idol so being able to share such exhilarating experiences with him means everything."

Published: Tue, Sep 20, 2016

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