Helping others: Law school grad was founder, president of Mental Health Alliance

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Founder and president of the Mental Health Alliance during his student years at Detroit Mercy Law, Kristoffer Butler is passionate about promoting mental health awareness in the legal profession and beyond, noting that studies show members of the legal profession have high rates of depression, anxiety and alcoholism.

During law school, he teamed with the ABA Law Student Division chair and law students across the nation in brainstorming short- and long-term goals for mental health awareness among law schools and their students.    

“One initiative we implemented was a national petition for law students, professors, administrators and practitioners to support mental health awareness and reform in your own life and in your institution,” he says.

“At the beginning of 2019, another law student created a Facebook group for all law school mental health organizations to come together and share ideas, resources and support our efforts. As a result, I founded a Mental Health organization at Detroit Mercy Law and I know the student members will be able to fervently promote mental health at the law school and beyond.    

“Mental health is essential not only to the legal profession but for everyone in our everyday life,” he adds. “In the legal profession, people put their lives and livelihoods in our hands and we owe it to our clients and ourselves to have good mental health practices. As leaders in the community, people look to up to us and if we are a beacon for mental health awareness and mental health practice reform I believe it will affect the entire community.”

With graduation in the rearview mirror, Butler looks to a career as a litigator—and beyond.   

“I’ve a strong desire to advocate for people and represent them in and out of the courtroom,” he says. “And I aim to be able to grace the bench and be a judge during my career.”   

Butler—who first became interested in a legal career after jury duty—got a peek at judicial work while interning for Judge David Lawson at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit, an 8-week position he landed through the Wolverine Bar Association.   

He also clerked at Johnston, Sztykiel, & Hunt P.C. in Troy, assisting attorneys with no-fault, personal injury, and insurance claims, analyzing issues and conducting research, and communicating with clients, investigators, witnesses, court personnel, and attorneys.

“I enjoyed my time there and learned from the attorneys and legal assistants,” he says.   

A member of Moot Court, and the Black Law Students Association, Butler in his 3L year served as Student Bar Association executive president.

“It was a privilege to assist students to accomplish various projects and successful events,” he says. “Detroit Mercy Law is filled with students that have a deep passion and love for their communities. When you combine that with the incredible vision they have, it was an enjoyable experience being able to assist or witness these projects however I could.”

The Troy resident also served on the faculty recruitment committee.

“I was able to bring students’ wishes, thoughts and concerns about classes and what they looked for in a professor,” he says. “I’m extremely grateful my fellow students trusted me with the responsibility of being SBA President and to represent them to the faculty, administration and the ABA.”

A major highlight of his law school experience was hosting the American Bar Association Law Student Division podcast, that covered such topics as finals and graduation to the Bar exam and finding a job, as well as mental health issues and how to achieve true diversity in the legal profession. He also interviewed former ABA president Hilarie Bass, “I have a podcast I do in my free time with a friend and I enjoy doing that, so when they asked me to be a host for the ABA law student podcast, I jumped at the opportunity,” he says.“I had a blast—I worked with an exemplary production crew and along with my co-hosts we could interview and talk with a variety of guests to talk about issues important to law students.  When I took on the role I wanted to focus on issues law students face or interests they have that are not popular.”