Student touts value of Mock Trial program

– Photo courtesy of Katie Burwell

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

While earning her undergraduate degree in pre-law studies from Michigan State University, Katie Burwell spent her summers as a legal assistant in the credit and real estate departments of Davis, Polk, & Wardwell LLP in New York City.

“The work and lifestyle were both fast paced,” she says. “I was also lucky enough to work for and learn from some of the smartest attorneys I’ve ever met. The experience was my introduction to the law and, as such, they made a lasting impression.

“It wasn’t until after I worked there that I knew I wanted to study law. The experience was an extremely impressive one – it was there I saw what my future could look like.”

The first in her family to enter the law, Burwell picked Wayne State University Law School for a new experience after college in East Lansing.

“The school’s reputation, dedicated faculty and networking capabilities were the perfect fit,” she says. “Although these were the attributes that drew me in, they are also the attributes that still make me happy to be a part of the program.”

Now a 3L student, Burwell serves as the commissioner of the Mock Trial program and has enjoyed the opportunity to interact with and learn from her peers.

“Your first year of law school is entirely classroom based – there’s virtually no time to get to know one another,” she says. “The Mock Trial program bridges that gap and provides both a social and practical experience. Students feel safe to learn and make mistakes together. Nothing else at Wayne Law provides such an exemplar experience.” 

She has enjoyed watching the newest members learn from the coaches and from each other.

“The progress they’ve made in just a semester is phenomenal – each has the potential to be an excellent trial attorney and a zealous advocate,” she says. “Witnessing their growth has made the program’s executive board and I extremely proud.”

Burwell also is a member of the Women’s Law Caucus.

“I’m constantly amazed at the dedication this organization has for advancing the careers of women,” she says. “This group has worked tirelessly to extend its networking capabilities beyond its current members to include the university’s female alumni, who are not only an excellent resource but are invested in the success of the program’s members as well.”

As a member of the Business Law and Entrepreneurship Society, she appreciates the excellent job the organization does in exposing students to a variety of businesses and law offices in the area.

“Physically taking students to see where they may one day work sparks excitement and allows students to visualize future employment,” she says.

Since May, Burwell has worked as a law clerk at GKN Driveline in Auburn Hills.

“I most enjoy the people I work with – from day one, they’ve welcomed me with open arms and taught me with exceeding levels of patience,” she says. “They epitomize work-life balance and approach each situation with a love for what they do. The legal department has gone above and beyond in their investment to my future success. I know I’m a better legal professional because of the time and attention they’ve given me.”

Her initial summer internship with the Violent Crime Unit at the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office was a great lesson on merging law and humanity, she says.

“My days were nothing short of exciting – every day presented new challenges that often weighed heavy on my mind and on my heart. The counseling aspect of client interactions is an aspect of law practice
that can be forgotten about. Those that work in the unit are dedicated, patient and display the utmost respect and integrity for the victims they interact with.”

As a volunteer last year with Advocates for Warriors, Burwell worked with veterans on a variety of issues including traffic and parking violations, criminal conduct, family law matters and driver’s license reinstatement – and learned the importance of pro bono work.

“Our veterans make the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom – yet, they’re often left in debilitating circumstances, burdened with personal and financial difficulties and plagued with legal problems,” she says. “As law students and future lawyers, we have a responsibility to help those who have already done so much to help us.”

Burwell’s future career goal is simple: “To continue to learn, grow and love what I do no matter where the legal profession takes me,” she says.

A native and lifelong resident of Bloomfield Hills, Burwell also has a passion for travel, and hopes to have more time to do so after graduation.

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