Spotlight Law student sets his sights on career in political arena


Photo courtesy of Aaron Pattison

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

After undergrad at the University of Southern California, Aaron Pattison worked in the private sector for the better part of a decade, trying to further the green movement.

“I realized the real battles for meaningful societal change in the policy areas that mattered most to me were taking place in courtrooms, conference rooms, and legislative chambers, rather than while selling energy efficient windows and siding in peoples living rooms,” he says.   

He also saw his political heroes were lawyers, or at least had attended law school.

“I wanted to learn more about how our system of justice works, while developing better skills at written and oral advocacy,” he says. “I also wanted to develop a better understanding of the legal issues everyday people experience in this country.”

Now in his 2L year at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, Pattison appreciates the small class sizes and accessibility of the professors. 

“Every professor has an open-door policy and is available on and off the clock to help guide and advise students which makes for a very welcoming, competitive, yet supportive environment,” he says. 

He also relishes the school’s close connection to Detroit and the focus on legal issues specific to the Motor City.

“I’m not from this city, but it’s my new adopted home and I’m very passionate about it,” he says. “I love that the school never bailed on the city, or moved to the suburbs when things were getting rough downtown during the decline over the second half of the past century. I also love that despite Detroit’s recent downtown revival, Detroit Mercy is still focused on civic justice and its relationships to the neighborhoods and parts of the city that have not experienced a similar boost.

“The school is sewn into the history and fabric of the city of Detroit and you see that relationship on its walls, in its actions, and through its brand every day.”

Interested in criminal law and criminal justice, Pattison is looking forward to his summer internship with the Washtenaw County Prosecutors office and to working on criminal appeals, gaining practical, valuable experience and sharpening his writing and research skills, as well as learning more about the differences between state and federal legal writing. 

Also interested in civil litigation, public interest, and environmental law, one of his favorite classes last year was on International Trade law and NAFTA.

“I suppose I’m still developing legal interests and don’t want to close off any doors to areas of law that might interest me at a later date,” he says.

Last year’s internship with Judge Gershwin Drain of the U.S. District Court in Detroit offered Pattison the chance to work with career and term law clerks and improve his legal writing skills. 

“I also really appreciated the opportunity to watch a wide variety of legal proceedings, both criminal and civil, and to chat with the judge and attorneys afterward, unpacking complicated legal issues and learning first-hand how the parties ended up in court and why they thought they were right or wrong,” he says. 

“But I think I most enjoyed the opportunity to sit in on different cases in various courtrooms around the building and learn how different judges handle issues in very different ways.”

A member of Moot Court, Pattison appreciates the focus on oral advocacy. 

“I believe that regardless of the importance of written advocacy, a good advocate should be able to speak and defend their positions in a clear, effective, and convincing manner on command,” he says. “The Moot Court is responsible for bringing in talented speakers on campus who are skilled in that way, and through its internal and external competitions the Moot Court team helps our members develop similar skills.”

As a newly elected member of the Moot Court executive board, he is looking forward to promoting the group’s activities on campus—”and helping to train strong, organized, and effective teams for national competitions that can hopefully bring back some silverware next year,” he says.

Pattison enjoyed helping new 1L students this past semester as a Teaching Assistant in Torts, and next year he will serve as a TA for Civil Procedure.

“I had a very successful first year at law school and appreciate the opportunity to help new students acclimate to law school so they might have a similar experience,” he says. “I like to focus on helping students to adopt good study habits, learning how to manage their time effectively, and how to effectively take class notes.”

Pattison plans to practice law for at least a decade then run for office or carve out a career in politics.

“Initially I thought I might want to be a state prosecutor, and I’m still interested in that, but I also am interested in criminal defense, and would also like to try my hand at civil litigation. I also think I might try to clerk for a judge or two after graduation to increase my exposure to a wide array of legal issues before finding my niche,” he says. 

“If you had to ask me to pick my dream law career, I’d say working as a federal prosecutor on either the team that prosecutes white collar crime, or the one that takes on public corruption. I met a woman during my summer internship that worked on the federal team that prosecuted Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. If I could spend my career taking on those people that abuse the public trust for personal gain I would consider that time well spent.”

Born in Washington, D.C. to parents who worked for the State Department for more than 20 years, Pattison grew up in D.C.; Bangkok, Thailand; Bucharest, Romania; Brussels, Belgium; Cologne and Berlin, Germany, and finally in Shoreham-by-Sea in the United Kingdom.

“I would probably say D.C. was our original hometown, but I have zero allegiance to any of its sports teams and am very much at home in Michigan now,” he says, adding that he is the only Midwesterner amongst his family and extended family, living in Ferndale, with his fiancée, Suzanne, and their cat, Lancelot.

Secretary of the Ferndale Area Democratic Club, Pattison volunteered this past year for a number of political campaigns and was happy to see several of the candidates he worked with win election, including Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Jake Cunningham.

A keen golfer and tennis player, Pattison’s interests also include skiing and snowboarding; reading international magazines and global politics, science fiction and fantasy; and discovering new places in Metro Detroit with his fiancée and friends.

He also is an avid supporter of Liverpool Football Club, a top tier English soccer team.

“I’m involved in our local fan club, and I spend as much time as I can down at our local pub, Thomas Magee’s Sporting House in Eastern Market, watching LFC games,” he says.