Monday Profile: Joelle L. Gurnoe

Joelle Gurnoe is a solo practitioner who focuses on special needs planning; trust administration; guardianship and conservatorship; mental health proceedings; and advising families who have a loved one with a disability. She began her career helping people when she was a teenage coach for Special Olympics.

Gurnoe graduated from the University of Michigan in 1999 and from Wayne State University Law School, with honors, in 2005. 

She serves on the Advisory Committee of the Intentional Communities of Washtenaw, a group dedicated to creating stable community living arrangements for persons with developmental disabilities, and has received several honors for her work.

Gurnoe lives with her family in Ypsilanti Township.


By Jo Mathis

Legal News
Currently reading: “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power” by
Jon Meacham.
What is your most treasured material possession? A cross
pendant my mother had made using her wedding set from her marriage to my father. She gave it to me when I graduated from law school.
What advice do you have for someone considering law school? Get as much practical experience as you can, either by volunteering or taking clinics or both.
If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be? A psychiatrist.
Favorite websites: Google, Amazon, StumbleUpon, Wikipedia.
Your proudest moment as a lawyer? Winning my first ever
trial—a jury trial in a mental health-involuntary treatment case.
Your worst moment as a lawyer? My first year of practice, I was doing child protection work in Indiana. The judge threatened to issue an order sterilizing my 16-year old client, a young mother with developmental disabilities. I was so astonished, I inadvertently blurted out, “Are you fu**ing kidding me?” Fortunately, we did not lose on the issue of the day, but his threat was the deciding factor in my decision to move back to Michigan and continue my work advocating for those with disabilities. 
Which things do you not like to do? Get up in the morning. Or dusting. I’d rather clean the bathrooms or do dishes. Anything but dusting. 
What do you wish someone would invent? A camera that could be implanted into my eye and operated by mind control. So many times I see something I’d like to capture in a picture, but the moment is gone before I can even get my camera phone out. 
If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would that be? My dog, Sam. He has THE life. 
What’s the most awe-inspiring place you have visited? Memorial Falls, Munising, Michigan. It is the most extraordinary, peaceful place I have ever been. You can hike the falls with no guard rails and no tour guide; just you and hopefully some good tread on your shoes. The lawyer in me kept thinking it was a liability waiting to happen, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it.
What’s your greatest achievement? I do not think I can pick one single achievement. I have been fortunate enough to have many. I am only 39, and I am blessed to be practicing law in a field I love, in my own practice, with clients who really are the best. Plus, I am surrounded by family, friends and mentors who are all supportive of me. 
If you could have one super power, what would it be? Eternal health.
What would you say to your 16-year-old self? Make saving money your #1 priority, not earning it. 
What one thing do you wish people knew about your work? It is emotionally exhausting. 
Must-see TV: “The Walking Dead.” 
What’s your biggest regret? I don’t have any. I try very hard to live without regrets.
What word do you overuse? “Sure.” I need to learn how to say “no” more often.
What’s one thing you would like to learn to do? Cook hard boiled eggs and have the shell peel off easily. I can cook a five-star, four course meal, but I cannot make decent hard boiled eggs. 
What is something most people don’t know about you? I love NFL football and Sundays in the fall. 
If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be? Abraham Lincoln, Johnny Depp and Jerome Bettis.
Can’t-live-without technology: My iPad.
Favorite CD: Staind, “The Singles: 1996-2006” Listening to hard rock is therapeutic for me. 
Favorite law-related movie:  “A Time to Kill.”  
What’s the best advice you ever received? Pick your battles wisely. You need to win the war, and that does not mean every battle along the way. 
If you can help it, to what place will you never return? Retail establishments on Black Friday. The patience required for that endeavor exceeds even my deepest reserves.
What do you drive? A 2011 Toyota Camry, sport edition.
What would you drive if money were no object? An Audi R-8 LMS, but I’d settle out of court for a 1969 Chevy Camaro Z/28.
Favorite place to spend money:  Plum Market. It’s a secret indulgence of mine.
What is your motto? To quote Hunter S. Thompson: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!’”
Where would you like to be when you’re 90? Heaven. Or on a beach in Key West, sipping on a margarita. 


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