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Keith Scholar enjoys challenge of environmental, business law

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

When Jamesa Johnson's middle school science teacher explained the concept of climate change, he implied it was up to his students to figure out what could be done about the problem. As Johnson learned more about the human impact of environmental issues, she realized the legal field offered an opportunity to address those challenges in a practical way.

"Since coming to Wayne Law, I've had the opportunity to explore environmental law and I've also gained new an interest in transactional business law," she says.

A 3L at Wayne Law School, Johnson's goal is to become a transactional attorney.

"The work I did this summer with RACER Trust allowed me to see how business, particularly real estate transactions, administrative and environmental law, may converge into a really interesting career," she says.

An internship last year at Quicken Loans was her first experience in a corporate environment.

"I went in seeking to gain as much knowledge as I could and it was through that internship that I became interested in transactional law," she says.

Johnson appreciates the law school's emphasis on experiential learning.

"I really enjoyed my time in the transnational environmental law clinic where I was able to work on environmental matters that impacted Detroiters," she says. "And Wayne Law is so well respected and has such a prodigious network and reputation."

Previously an article editor for the Journal of Law in Society, Johnson now serves as business editor.

"It's a publication with a focus on social justice issues, so it's been that much more rewarding to be active in thinking and writing about issues that truly impact people's lives," she says. "My time as an article editor allowed me to strengthen my legal writing skills and experience using Bluebook citations which is important for any future advocate."

Last year Johnson served as vice president of the Black Law Student Association. She is the former chair of the Judge Damon J. Keith Student Group, and is a recipient of the Damon J. Keith Scholarship.

"It means a lot to stand on the shoulders of someone who has worked tirelessly and is still working to ensure justice for all," she says. "I don't take being a Keith Scholar lightly because I know that because of his work, I'm able to afford a legal education. Judge Keith's work has opened the door for the next generation to continue pursuing justice."

She enjoyed researching, writing and developing her own legal theory in answer to the question, "Are the widespread water shutoffs in Detroit a violation of the human and civil rights of Detroit residents?"

"I challenged myself to think critically about creative legal solutions and empathize with those impacted by water shutoffs and comparably those impacted by the Flint water crisis," she says.

The Detroit native and her husband make their home in Farmington Hills. She is passionate about the Motor City.

"I truly believe in the future of Detroit," she says. "I look at my city and the people in it as resilient and hopeful. I'm excited for what's next in all of the neighborhoods."

In her leisure time, Johnson enjoys studying international affairs, and travel.

"And I'm a self-proclaimed foodie, and I love doing charitable walks and runs," she says.

She also mentors children.

"I remember when I was preparing for college and not sure what to expect, so it means a lot to me that I'm able to give back to students in that same position," she says. "I'm so proud of my time volunteering with InGenuity College Prep."

Majoring in international relations and affairs at the University of Michigan, Johnson enjoyed her studies that included a course in Climate Change Global Risk Management at St. Peter's College, Oxford University, England.

A highlight was the tradition of High Table dinner, that included a game of croquet, champagne reception, lectures, performances or storytelling, a Latin prayer, multiple-course meal and an opportunity to speak to some of the most renowned professors in the world.

"It was excellent to share this experience with great classmates from St. Peter's College who have become lifelong friends," she says. "I enjoyed my classes which were tutorial style, with only eight students. It was excellent to have classes small enough to be challenged by my professor and learn from my fellow classmates."

Published: Thu, Nov 10, 2016