Lasting legacy: Former special agent takes up legal torch from his late fiancée

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Wayne Law 2L student Jalen Farmer founded a 501(c)(3) nonprofit “Joy to Your World,” in honor of his late fiancée Joy Brickerson, who died of lupus in her 2L year at Wayne Law.

Photo courtesy of Jalen Farmer

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Jalen Farmer’s fiancée Joy Brickerson passed away from the autoimmune disorder lupus in her 2L year at Wayne Law. With only three semesters left in her studies, Wayne Law posthumously honored Joy with her juris doctorate.

Devastated by his loss, Farmer quit his job as a special agent with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and took up the torch left by Joy’s passing.

“Joy dreamed of becoming an attorney her entire life,” says Farmer, now in his 2L year at Wayne Law. “We met at a pre-law event at Michigan State University almost 10 years ago, I was 19, and she was 18.

“Her passing was devastating. A couple of weeks after her passing, I felt led to finish what she started.”

Farmer had earned his undergrad degree in criminal justice from Michigan State University with the eventual goal of becoming a criminal law attorney. His investigative skills as a student helped local police arrest and convict a serial rapist who had terrorized the MSU community—and helping to bring justice to the victims and their families sparked his interest in becoming a criminal investigator. 

Shortly after graduation, he worked as a parole/probation agent for the State of Michigan, and was embedded into the Detroit Police Department as an investigator.

He then accepted a job offer to become a special agent for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, assigned to the New York City Field Office where he conducted national and transnational financial/cyber investigations.

It was while he was working in New York that Joy passed away—and Farmer decided to continue her legacy by heading to Wayne Law. With only three weeks to study for the last LSAT for that admission season, Farmer embarked on the process.

“I knew if I didn’t start law school then, I never would. I applied for law school and waited,” he says. “Resigning from my job as a special agent to go back to school didn’t make a lot of sense to many, including me,” he adds. “I was one of the youngest black special agents in my agency throughout the world. I was doing great work within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, it was an amazing job. The job was also highly competitive to get, as one can imagine, there were thousands and thousands of applicants and they selected me. The six-month training that I completed prior to being sworn in was extremely rigorous. I intended to work in this position until I retired with a full pension in a nice warm city one day.

“But at the same time, I remembered what graduating from law school and practicing law meant to the love of my life. It meant everything to her and I was determined to bring her dreams to reality. I put all my faith in God for the law school admissions process and resigned from my position before I was admitted. Weeks after my resignation, I was admitted into law school”

Farmer is currently a judicial intern for Chief Judge Denise Page Hood at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. 

“This has been a terrific experience,” he says. “I’ve previously had experience with federal courts as a federal agent but this experience has exposed me to the other side of the bench. The skills I’ve learned have been invaluable.”

This past summer, he worked as a summer associate for Bodman PLC in Detroit, and will return there next summer.

“I’ve been fortunate to work some cool jobs in my life but working at Bodman was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had,” he says. “The people at Bodman are wonderful – I felt supported and valued. 

“I had the opportunity to work on many assignments but one of the most self-fulfilling was a pro bono assignment in which a senior associate and I were able to help a gentleman expunge a felony conviction from his record. Due to my previous work experiences, I understand the burdens that come with a felony record—It was great to help someone remove those burdens. I’m very excited about my future at Bodman.”

With an MBA from the WSU Mike Ilitch School of Business, Farmer intends to work next semester as a student attorney for Wayne Law’s Business and Community Law Clinic (BCLC) that offers free transactional legal services to organizations in Detroit and underserved areas across Michigan.

“I’ll be able to leverage my MBA and my interest in business to help those in need of business assistance,” he says.

Farmer, who earlier this year clerked for the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation in Detroit, is very appreciative of the assistance provided by Felicia Thomas, the former dean of Student Affairs at Wayne Law.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without her help,” he says.

He also gives thanks for support on the home front.

“My family means everything to me,” he says. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the unwavering support and sacrifices of my family.”

A Southfield native, Farmer now makes his home in Detroit, where he has founded a 501(c)(3) nonprofit “Joy to Your World,” in honor of Joy, who was a graduate of Cass Technical High School in Detroit. The organization is aimed at empowering DPS students with resources and materials they need to succeed in their transition into college, and also engages in various community service events throughout Detroit. 

“I thank God first and foremost for empowering me with the strength and wisdom to accomplish great feats in such a short amount of time,” he says. “My story and life are centered around faith. I battled depression and anxiety after the loss of my beloved fiancée. But, because of God’s strength, I’m able to stand here today with my head up and tell others to never give up, keep battling.” 



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