The right note: Student draws on discipline of music for his legal studies

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Law student and musician Todd Craven compares the discipline in playing the pipe organ to the smarts required for legal studies.

“When you play a pipe organ, you have to be extremely focused on the task at hand. Many times, both hands and feet are moving at the same time in different directions, so you have to remain focused,” he says. “I believe this to be true of the legal profession as well—you have to remain focused even though you may be juggling a lot at one time.”

A 1L student at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, Craven started his career path in the business world, with his father’s real estate business. The summer after graduating from high school, he worked as a property manager for a commercial building, picking up trash, dealing one-on-one with tenants, and helping prepare lease agreements.

“I thoroughly enjoyed this experience as it allowed me to establish not only good interpersonal skills, but also such hard skills as knowing what is needed in a basic lease agreement,” he says.

He went on to earn a business management degree from Wayne State University’s Mike Ilitch School of Business, figuring a business degree would be an excellent foundation both for his work in real estate and for future legal studies, since he had that goal in mind from an early age.

“Wayne’s business school professors did a phenomenal job of presenting good real-world knowledge I could use in my everyday business life,” he says. “I also had a few professors that were in real estate for themselves, which was extremely helpful.”

Craven co-majored in the program at the WSU Irvin D. Reid Honors College that stressed the importance of not only scholastic excellence, but also how students need to give back to the community. The program required an additional project and a thesis; Craven’s thesis was on intercultural business management, focusing on different management styles based on geographic location.

“Being in the Honors College greatly prepared me for law school because they required me to work harder and more efficiently with the extra course load, and also taught me how to work with faculty on a regular basis,” he says. 

Craven is drawn to the law by his interest in helping people.

“When people seek legal counsel, they are usually at a very vulnerable place in their lives. As an attorney, you can alleviate this vulnerability and bring peace of mind,” he says. “I find the law to be an exceedingly noble profession. This is why I’m drawn most to disability and family law—I feel helping both individuals with disabilities and families during both good and bad times would be extremely rewarding.”
He is finding his choice of Detroit Mercy Law to be an excellent fit.

“The Jesuit mission is phenomenal,” he says. “The best way I can sum it up is coming to the aid of others. Detroit Mercy Law embraces this mission in all respects through their clinics, classes, and student organizations. Everything they stand for revolves around the service to others.”

Craven is also deeply appreciative of being a Dean’s Fellow.

“In my opinion, the scholarship/aid programs are second to none. I believe the reason is because they want their students to focus less on the expense of law school and more on doing well,” he says. “The Fellow’s program is very much service oriented—Fellows have their own board that focuses on how we can give back to the community. Members have participated in many local charities that aid those most in need. This program not only makes me proud to be a Fellow, but also proud to be a member of the Detroit Mercy Law community.” 

During the pandemic crisis, Craven is living at the family farm in Lapeer, while maintaining his studies through online classes.

“Times are hard for all right now, but keeping a positive outlook is most important,” he says. “I’ve tried to make the best of a less than stellar situation by coming home and spending quality time with my parents. I believe the key to staying on track right now is creating an extremely detailed schedule and crossing things off as they are completed. Nothing feels better than getting a to-do list completely done!”

Craven has obtained an internship in the Third Circuit Court’s Family Division with Presiding Judge Kathleen McCarthy—assuming the pandemic crisis lifts.

“This was a dream come true considering that this is my preferred area of practice,” he says. “I’m eager to soak up as much of her expertise as possible.”

Craven aims to become a family law attorney and eventually a family court judge.

“I feel judges have the greatest capacity to help the most amount of people,” he says.

When not studying law, Craven enjoys golfing and horseback riding, and as a professional singer performs in summer months at fairs, festivals, and corporate events, crooning the songs of icons such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Roy Orbison.

Craven also sings in his church choir in Lapeer, where he has served as an interim/substitute pianist and organist.

“I’ve performed for many different charitable organizations as an entertainer, but the most rewarding work has been on a more hands-on basis,” he says. “I most enjoy working for the homeless shelter my church sponsors because you can converse with the residents and learn their stories. It’s also extremely rewarding to see some of the residents come to church and even obtain employment by simply conversing with members of the congregation.”



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