Paralegal career led to law school studies


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

In 2010, when her undergrad degree in social sciences was no help in landing a job, Julie Michalski enrolled in a paralegal course at Kankakee Community College. She had very little idea of the field, only that paralegals had decent job prospects.

“I thought I’d try it out,” she says. “I loved the intellectual challenge of the work, and decided to make a career out of it.”

It was an excellent decision that led, several years later, to heading to the University of Michigan Law School.

“I realized the only thing stopping me from becoming a lawyer was me,” she says. “I loved my work, but I knew that, as a paralegal, I would eventually hit a limit as to what I could accomplish.”

Those accomplishments were many and varied. In felony traffic court in the 21st Circuit of Illinois, Michalski interned in the chambers of Judge Susan Tungate, attended court call and trials, and experienced how a court system functions on the ground.

“It was a fantastic experience, and Judge Tungate remains a great mentor,” she says. “She constantly pushed me and challenged me, and her influence definitely put me on the path to law school.”

As a Treatment Court Case manager in the 74th Judicial District/18th Judicial Circuit in Bay City, Michalski worked directly with drug/ sobriety court participants, providing progress updates to the treatment court team, promoting participant accountability and identifying their needs for rehabilitative services.

“It was really rewarding to see the participants make progress,” she says.

She then spent two years as a commercial law paralegal at Dow Chemical in Midland, working with lawyers responsible for Specialty Chemicals, Polyurethanes & Systems, Industrial Solutions, Hydrocarbons & Energy, and Right-of-Way departments. She also assisted with Dow's Blue Cube divestiture and worked with Univation Technologies, LLC (a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow), supporting lawyers working with catalyst sales agreements.    

“Dow allowed me to work on high level, challenging projects with phenomenal attorneys,” she says. “These attorneys inspired me to become a lawyer, and have fully supported my departure from Dow to attend law school.”

Michalski is thankful she made the choice to attend Michigan Law.

“I’m constantly surrounded by the most amazingly talented, smart, kind people,” she says. “People at MLaw really want to help each other out and see each other succeed.”

Interested in anything to do with technology, energy, or the environment, Michalski will be the Managing Notes Editor for Volume 25 of the Michigan Telecommunications and Technology Law Review.

“MTTLR has a great scope of coverage, which keeps the journal interesting for people like me who want to know something about everything,” she says. “So much is changing so fast with technology, and there are always new issues to examine. Working with MTTLR puts me in a great position to read about new research.”

The Michigan Law 2L is also using her interest in technology as a 2018 Dow Sustainability Fellow, where she is working on a renewable energy resiliency project with grad students from other disciplines.

“I’m part of a great group,” she says “and we’re really excited to create a tangible result for our client.”

Last year’s summer associate experience at Eimer Stahl included an array of litigation topics, from pro bono work, federal class action and antitrust, state sweepstakes and lottery law, to trademark and Computer Fraud and Abuse Act issues.

“The attorneys at Eimer Stahl really made an effort to engage with the summer associates, and I was able to work with a variety of partners and associates—I even worked on a project with Nate Eimer,” she says. “They made sure to give us real work, and made time to go over our output and provide great coaching.”

This summer, Michalski is looking forward to new challenges in a summer position at Steptoe and Johnson in Chicago that will be followed by two weeks back at Elmer Stahl.

A native of Pinconning northeast of Midland, Michalski makes her home in Ann Arbor with her husband, Tony, and two German shepherds. In her leisure time, she enjoys mountain biking, cross-country skiing, backpacking, and scrapbooking her adventures.


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