Law student landed Wolverine Bar Association clerkship


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

In undergrad, Kristoffer Butler had no specific career goal—until he was called to jury duty.

“Watching the prosecution and the defense question witnesses and craft their arguments was captivating,” he says. “Watching the judge interact with both the jury and the attorneys both fascinated and inspired me. After that trial, I knew being an attorney was my vocation—to hone arguments, learn the law, and use it to advocate for justice.”

Now heading into his 2L year at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, Butler is a member of the Black Law Student Association, a 2L Class representative, was the ABA representative for the school, and will be on Moot Court this year. He also volunteered at the nearby soup kitchen, and plans to continue.

He particularly enjoys the sense of community, and interactions between students, professors, administration, and employees.

“People are so amicable, I could strike up a conversation with anyone,” he says. “The professors are interested in making an investment in their students’ success, not just academically, but as productive members of the community.”

Butler hopes one day to become a judge.

“I see many paths to get there whether as a corporate lawyer, prosecutor, diplomat, or an assistant U.S. attorney,” he says. “I can also see myself as a law professor. I would enjoy any of those paths and am open to experiencing what the legal profession has in store for me.”

After an intense interview process for the Wolverine Bar Association Summer Clerkship Program, Butler was awarded an 8-week summer internship for the federal court of the Eastern District of Michigan, where he conducted research and wrote bench memorandums for the judge for a variety of cases. He enjoyed participating and watching court proceedings; conferring with the judge about the law and their opinions; and attending special intern programs which introduced him to several judges, assistant U.S. attorneys, and federal agents.

“I was really fortunate to work with such an amazing chambers—not just the judge, but the law clerks, the judicial assistant, the case manager and the court reporter were all extremely helpful, encouraging and they were great people to work with,” he says. “If I’m able to grace the bench, I hope to have a chambers with staff like them.”

Butler was perhaps headed down this road as early as middle school, when he got his first introduction to diplomacy and debating in a Model United Nations club.

“I’ve always enjoyed verbally sparring with my brothers and my friends, and advocating for what I believed was right—this club taught me how to present my arguments and how to lobby for a specific cause,” he says. 

In undergrad at Grand Valley State University, where he majored in international relations, he served on Student Senate. During his tenure, he co-founded a mental health awareness week, became the first student to sit on various administrative committees and worked to improve the university in any way he could.

“I believe Student Senate surrounded me with the right people and guided me to the path I’m on now,” he says.

Away from his law studies, Butler is a supervisor over science camps at Cranbrook Institute of Science, and teaches students scientific principles and concepts at the museum and during Science on the Go, a community based outreach program.

“To see a student understand a new concept or become interested in science, is an indescribable joy,” he says.  

A volunteer at Cranbrook since he was 14, he was later hired as a camp counselor and visitor services representative, and also launched new camps and business initiatives.

“I was even able to use my Spanish language skills to help translate a brochure and interact with visitors who spoke primarily Spanish,” he says.

In addition to his passion for science, Butler also enjoys learning about history and other cultures, watching movies and sports, and spending time with friends and family.

An Atlanta native who now calls Troy home, Butler enjoys the Motor City and surrounding area.

“Detroit is on the rise,” he says. “There are many new restaurants and activities in the downtown and midtown areas. “One of the reasons I chose to go to law school here is because Detroit has a bright future. I want to be able invest in this city and enjoy all it has to offer.”

He also continues his passion for advocacy on mental health awareness.

“We tend to write off mental illnesses and people that have them,” he says. “Millions of people suffer from mental illnesses and we can no longer ignore them or cast them aside.

“In the legal profession, studies show we have higher rates of depression, anxiety and alcoholism than other professions so it’s important this community wipes away the stigmas and devises solutions. One of my goals is to bring people together for a productive and educational dialogue about mental health and mental health awareness.”