Canadian native hopes to become a prosecutor

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Matt Makepeace travels in two countries to pursue his law studies – commuting over the Ambassador Bridge from Amherstburg, Ontario, to Wayne State University Law School in downtown Detroit.

“On a good day it only takes 20 minutes to get across the bridge, but it can always take longer,” the Canadian native says. “You never know what the wait will be and I leave early to give myself time. It’s not that bad and most of the time my commute is shorter than some of my classmates who live outside of Detroit. My dad and step-dad both cross the border every day to go to work so I wasn’t a stranger to the commute.”

The cross-border commute is well worth the effort for this rising 2L who is on his way to becoming the first lawyer in his family.

“Wayne offers Ontario residents a competitive tuition rate, so the out-of-state costs were not as extreme as other schools,” he says.

His overriding reason for choosing Wayne Law was the programs, especially in international law.

“Wayne Law is great – the professors are available and the rest of the administration treats you like a person and not a number,” he says. “The thing I enjoy most is the challenge and competitiveness. I want to be one of the best in my class and I work as hard as I can to be that. Wayne allows me to push and challenge myself.”

It was the challenge aspect that first attracted Makepeace to the legal world.

“I’m a very competitive person and law school is very competitive, and that drew me in,” he says. “I knew from taking a few introductory courses through high school and undergrad at the University of Western Ontario that I enjoyed the subjects and the way the law worked. Since beginning law school I’ve enjoyed it way more than I ever thought I was going to – it’s made me want to be a top law student and the best lawyer I can be.”

In his 1L year, he served in the Wayne Law Student Ambassador Program, helping to recruit incoming students and showing them the ropes. 

“I enjoy telling others about Wayne Law and it’s an easy ‘sell,’” he says. “It’s my way of giving back to Wayne for giving me the opportunity to be a student and a future lawyer.” 

A member of the Moot Court and Mock Trial teams, Makepeace has set his sights on becoming a prosecutor in Wayne County.

“I know it’s a little different for a Canadian to want to be a prosecutor in Detroit and advocate on behalf of the people of Michigan but ever since spending most of my time in Detroit, I’ve fallen in love with the city,” he says. “I want it to be a better, safer place and I think being a prosecutor is the best way to do that.”

Currently interning at the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, Makepeace notes there is never a boring day.

“The amount of experience I’m gaining is invaluable, I’m learning new things every day about so many different aspects of criminal law,” he says. “I’m not just honing my research and writing skills, I’m getting practical, on-the-record, experience.

I’ve argued motions and gotten some trial work as well.

“The people here are extremely helpful and willing to answer questions, even though they are some of the busiest prosecutors in the nation.”

Makepeace has also gained experience by volunteering with Michigan Free Legal Aid in Detroit.

“It’s a great program that introduced me to how lawyers can really help people,” he says. “Being able to participate as an online live chat agent was a great introductory experience and I hope to continue volunteering this coming semester.”

He is looking forward to working at the Wayne Law Civil Rights Clinic this fall.

“Working within the clinic will give me more exposure to many areas of civil law, and also allow me to become more involved in the type of work Michigan Legal Aid does and help people who truly need it,” he says.

Makepeace is no stranger to the Motor City, having crossed the border to cheer on the Detroit Red Wings since he was a kid.

“I get to as many games as I can,” he says. “There’s something about Joe Louis Arena that brings the atmosphere alive and I’ll be sad to see it go.

“I also think it’s a great time to be in Detroit, it’s a city that’s revitalizing itself and you can feel that just by walking down the street. The city is only on its way up and now is the time to get involved.”