Monday Profile: John J. Wojcik

 Lieutenant Colonel John J. Wojcik serves as the general counsel for the Michigan National Guard, a joint military organization that has more than 11,000 military and civilian employees, three air bases, and two Army posts. He works out of the Joint Forces Headquarters in Lansing.

As general counsel, Wojcik supervises all state, federal, and administrative litigation for the agency and is the final legal approval authority for more than $500 million in federal contracting projects each year. He is a nationally recognized fiscal law instructor and specializes in federal construction litigation. His practice area covers federal contracting, federal employment law, environmental law, real estate leasing and procurement, federal administrative law, and military justice. 
By Jo Mathis
Legal News
 
Residence:  I live on a three-acre slice of heaven on the Grand River just outside of Grand Ledge.  Look for the place with the 150 feet of zip line and the kayaks hanging on the shed.  That’s my place.  
 
Currently reading …    I’m something of an eclectic reader.  I went through “Of Mice and Men” and “The Book Thief” in January and I just finished “Farenheit 451” last week.  
 
My mother always told me …  that I needed to try harder.  I remember my first year of college bringing home three As and a B. I showed her my grades. Her response: “What happened?”  Ha.      
 
What is your most treasured material possession? I bought a 15-year-old Porsche last spring and it’s been keeping me pretty busy. I think that by the end of this year I’ll (almost) have re-built the entire thing. My 9 year-old son, Max, has been a great little helper. It’s really good father-son time.  
 
What advice do you have for someone considering law school?  You need to think long and hard about what you want to be—not what you want to do. If you want to be a lawyer and be actively engaged in helping people solve problems through law, go to law school. If you want to make a bunch of money, get an MBA.  
 
If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be?  Travel writer.  
 
Favorite local hangouts:  I’m always outside, whether it be cutting and stacking wood, or kayaking, or fishing, or playing with my John Deere.  
 
Your proudest moment(s) as a lawyer?  I won my first jury trial when I was fresh out of law school at the age of 25. Larry Fowler was the defense counsel on a consumer protection act case involving a car dealership. After the trial, I rode down with some of the jurors in the elevator and one of the women asked me how old I was. When I said that I was 25, she complimented me and said that I did a great job against a great attorney.  
 
What is your happiest childhood memory?  My dad took my brother and me on a late March boat ride on a lake in Pennsylvania when I was 10. We dodged ice for about an hour until we lost the propeller and we had to row the rest of the way back to the boat ramp. My dad turned what could’ve been a pretty bad day into a fun adventure.  I learned a lot from that style of parenting.  
 
Which things do you not like to do?  Eating broccoli.  I’m sorry.  I know it’s good for me, but no thanks.  
What would surprise people about your job?  It’s interesting that nobody seems to know that we’re here. The Michigan National Guard has over 11,000 employees, three air bases, two Army posts and whatnot. It’s like working someplace where you’ve got three airports under your belt. Who else can say that?  Seriously though, I supervise 25 other attorneys and we have a lot of moving parts—I do everything from tort defense to employment law to environmental law.  
 
What do you wish you had invented? At dinner parties, albeit late in the dinner parties, I’ll tell people that I’ve invented something like the Post-it or the scrunchie just to see the reaction in their face.  
 
What’s the most awe-inspiring place you have visited?  I went to Newschwanstein Castle in Germany a couple years ago.  Off the beaten path was a trail that snaked along one of Germany's typical mountain rivers. I counted 30 different waterfalls on that hike. The locals bolted metal walkways right above some of the waterfalls, and you had to shimmy along on them to cross.  It was pretty amazing.  
 
What’s your greatest achievement?  When I was in Afghanistan in 2010-2011, I talked the rest of my legal team into running the Boston Marathon shadow run in Bagram. Folks from the Boston Athletic Association certified the course. We ran 26.2 miles in the combat zone at 5,500 feet elevation and one of the guys on my team had “the stomach bug” so we literally ran from one port-a-potty to the next for the entire run. We all jogged in place, then ran, then jogged in place. But we all finished as a team. It was an incredible accomplishment. I have the Boston Marathon medal hanging on my wall in my office.  
 
If you could have one super power, what would it be?  I’d like to be able to teleport from one place to another. It’s so hard to get good raw oysters in central Michigan.  
 
What would you say to your 16-year-old self?  Apply to more than one college.  
 
What one thing do you wish people knew about your work?  I did an informative luncheon with my JAGs and Justice Viviano two weeks ago and we spent an hour talking about who we are as military attorneys and what we do. I forget that the general public doesn’t know who we are. If you take every general skill that you know as a general practice lawyer there is a comparable legal skill on the military side of things (ad law, criminal law, environmental law, employment law, tort defense, real estate law, federal contracting law) that military attorneys need to know.
 
Favorite joke:  It’s one of Max’s jokes and it’s a play off the “What Does a Fox Say” music video: Max: “Dad, what does a squid say?” Me: “Huh, I don’t know.” Max: “Squid, squid, squid.” (Kid laughter). Me: "”ey, Max, what does a shrimp say.” Max: “Huh, I don’t know.” Me: “Nothing, Buddy. Shrimp can't talk.” Max: “Not funny, Dad.”  
 
Must-see TV:  It’s embarrassing, and it shows how much of a geek I can be: “The Big Bang Theory.”  
 
What’s your biggest regret?  Honestly, I don’t really live my life that way. I lost my mother when she was 50 and I just lost my dad three years ago to lung cancer, so I’ve learned to make every day count. And you can’t do that if you’re lamenting the past.  
 
What word do you overuse? “So.” That word is my arch nemesis. “So...you guys need to get those legal reviews done...So...are we going running today after lunch?”
 
First gig:  I was a lifeguard bum when I was in high school.  It was a great way to make a couple bucks and to stay in shape.  Loved it.  
 
What’s one thing you would like to learn to do?  Surf. I really want to learn how to surf someday.  
 
What is something most people don't know about you?  Being the general counsel for an 11,000-person organization, all the other folks really ever see is me being the Lieutenant Colonel/attorney making important decisions all day. But I’m a giver. I cut down trees and split them for my neighbor, who burns firewood for heat; plow his driveway — that type of thing. I had friends who were having a bad year financially and were in a pinch, so I helped them out and I felt really good about it.
 
If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be? John Lennon, Churchill, Steve Jobs.  
 
Who is your favorite character of fiction?  I grew up with Ian Fleming and read all of his stuff before I graduated high school.  Every book. So, James Bond would be the guy— but I like the raw character in the books, not the smooth one that we see on television.  
 
Favorite movie:   “Casablanca.” You can fault me for liking a movie with an ending like that, but in the end you can tell that he really loved her.  
 
What’s the best advice you ever received?  “John, don’t eat that. You don't know where it’s been.”  
 
To what place will you never return if you can help it?  Afghanistan.  I’ve left too many memories behind there.  
 
What do you drive? The favorite car in my garage is an old-rattle bucket of a Porsche that I’ve been trying to bring back to health. Honestly, I think that thing really needs me.  
 
Favorite law-related movie:   “The Paper Chase.” It reminded me of my first-term Contracts professor, Peter Jason at Cooley.  
 
Favorite place to spend money:   Amazon.  Who on earth came up with this idea “click a button, and the gizmo ships to your door the next day?” That’s crazy talk.  It’s right out of a Roadrunner cartoon. They should've named it Acme.  
 
What is your motto?  “Live every day like it's your last. Every day.”  (I’ve gone to Oktoberfest in Munich two years in a row.  I’ve seen the ball drop in New York City, and there’s much more on my list).  
 
Where would you like to be when you’re 90?  I’d like to be in Europe traveling and writing.  

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