MLaw alumnus worked at the White House

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Photo courtesy of Reginald Turner

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

At the age of 10, Reginald Turner set his sights on joining the Detroit Police Department, where his father was a detective.

“My father smiled broadly, and softly replied, ‘I would like you to grow up and become a lawyer like my friend Elliott Hall’—I’ve never forgotten those words,” says Turner, an attorney for almost 17 years with Clark Hill in Detroit and a corporate litigator, government affairs advocate, and strategic adviser.

Turner’s father, who went on to serve as Deputy Chief of Police in Detroit, Chief of Police in Pontiac, and Public Safety Director in Cleveland, introduced his son to Hall, an attorney with Dykema Gossett; and to many other lawyers and judges, including former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Dennis Archer and judges Myron Wahls and Geraldine Bledsoe Ford.

A graduate of Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Turner earned his undergrad degree from Wayne State UniversitySAt, during which he worked at United Parcel Service, working his way up from the loading dock, to supervisor, to the personnel department, before leaving to join a personnel-recruiting firm.

With his father’s words ringing in his ears, he applied to the University of Michigan Law School, where he was offered a scholarship.

“I’m grateful to both Wayne State University and Michigan Law School as the foundations for my career,” he says. “Michigan is not only one of the finest centers for legal scholarship in the nation, it has also maintained a teaching faculty whose members thrive on developing lawyers who will excel in the profession, and devote time and talent in career and volunteer efforts to advance justice and democracy. And Jim Harbaugh was fun to watch, as well,” he adds with a smile.

Turner began his legal career as a law clerk to Archer at the Michigan Supreme Court.

“I learned from him about law and service to the public, while reading and hearing the advocacy of some of the finest lawyers in the state,” he says.

Turner then joined Sachs Waldman, where Theodore Sachs, Mary Ellen Gurewitz, and many others nurtured him as he sought to develop litigation and advocacy skills. 

“They helped me understand the lawyer’s obligation to engage in pro bono publico service. The lawyer’s oath commands that we ‘shall never reject, from any consideration . . ., the cause of the defenseless or oppressed,’ and the pro bono work has allowed me to influence public policy to serve the ‘least of these’ as taught to me in Sunday school.”

During a White House Fellowship, Turner served as an aide to Housing and Urban Development Secretaries Henry Cisneros and Andrew Cuomo, and had the opportunity to run a Presidential Task Force, under the leadership of President Bill Clinton’s Chief of Staff, Leon Panetta, which helped rebuild both physical structures and the social fabric after riots in Florida.

“Cisneros and Cuomo both taught me the importance of thoughtful, honest government and faithful service to the people of our nation,” he says.

Turner has also had the privilege of attending high-level meetings at the White House in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

“Presidents Clinton and Obama have also graciously opened the White House to my mother, wife, and daughters, making for wonderful photos. Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joseph Biden have been warm and generous, as well,” he says.

In the Bush administration, Turner frequently met with White House Counsel Harriett Myers in his capacity as president of the National Bar Association. He also has met many members of Congress, twice testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee with the assistance of Senators Patrick Leahy and Orrin Hatch, and counts Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, and Congress members John Conyers and Brenda Lawrence, as friends and mentors.

Since joining Clark Hill, where mentors like Tom Lenga and Fred Batten helped sharpen his appreciation for courtroom advocacy, Turner has represented corporate entities in a wide variety of cases in Michigan and federal courts, ranging from commercial and employment disputes to constitutional litigation in the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The corporate and employment litigation has allowed me to work with accomplished senior corporate executives on important cases,” he says.

Corporate board service has also allowed Turner to work with leaders at Comerica, Inc., where he chairs the board’s Enterprise Risk Committee, and serves on the Audit Committee and the Qualified Legal Compliance Committee; and Masco Corp., where he serves on the board’s Audit Committee and Governance Committee.

A member of Clark Hill’s Executive Committee, Government Policy Group, and Labor and Employment Practice Group, Turner is named in Best Lawyers in America and Super Lawyers, as well as the Michigan Chronicle Power 50, DBusiness Top Lawyers, Crain’s Detroit Business Power Lawyers and Crain’s Most Connected; and as a “Lawyer of the Year” by Michigan Lawyers Weekly and Best Lawyers.

He served as secretary of the Wayne County Airport Authority, as secretary of the Wayne County Business Development Corporation, and on then-Governor John Engler’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Michigan Gaming.

With a passion for education, he was appointed in 2003 by then-Governor Jennifer Granholm to the Michigan State Board of Education and he won a statewide election for a full term in 2006. From 2000-03, he represented Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer on the Detroit Board of Education and also as chairman of the City of Detroit Board of Ethics, and on the Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Advisory Committee.

“Education is one of the most important services our government provides, and the privilege of serving in educational leadership has been challenging and rewarding,” he says. “I continue to advocate for quality education, and I currently serve as chair of the American Bar Association Commission on the Lawyer’s Role in Assuring Every Child a High Quality Education. We have to work toward true equality in educational opportunity, which has been elusive, particularly for children in poverty.”

A past president of both the National Bar Association and the State Bar of Michigan, Turner serves as the state delegate for Michigan in the American Bar Association House of Delegates, and is a past chair of the ABA House of Delegates Rules & Calendar Committee, the Committee on Issues of Concern to the Profession, and the Committee on Credentials and Admissions.

He chaired the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession, and, as a Life Patron Fellow, serves as secretary of the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation, an honor reserved to less than 1 percent of lawyers in each state.

“I’ve learned from mentors in the bar that our noble profession must be vigilant in providing justice and equality of opportunity to every citizen of our great nation, while upholding the principles of ethics, quality, and civility in our daily practices,” he says.

He gives back to the community by serving as chairman of the Detroit Public Safety Foundation, vice chairman of the Detroit Institute of Arts, vice chairman of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, and as a trustee of the Hudson-Webber Foundation, dedicated to improving the quality of life in Detroit. A past chair of the United Way for Southeastern Michigan, he continues to serve on its Executive Committee.

In his leisure time, Turner can be found enjoying a round of golf—“With a very high handicap,” he says with a smile.
 

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