Change agent: Law student co-founded L.A.B. to help area youth

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

After Aaron Roberson’s confirmation speech in middle school, he was told he had a future as a pastor or an attorney—and from then on, had an interest in the legal profession and the connection between the law and the structures that guide everyday lives.

“I’ve always believed that understanding the law was the best way for me to make substantive changes in society, both big and small, to benefit my community,” he says “That purpose has been the constant which has driven me to pursue law school.”

Roberson earned his undergrad degree from The College of Wooster in Ohio, where he was president elect of the Black Students Association, Race & Diversity chair for Campus Council, and an ambassador fro the Student Leadership Institute. A four-year starter for the “Fighting Scots” varsity football team, including a stint as captain, he was honored with the Jack Lengyel Leadership and Service Award from the athletic department in 2018, and in 2017 was one of two students selected by the College of Wooster’s President Cabinet to speak at Convocation.

“Studying political science gave me the opportunity to combine my love for social change impacting black and brown communities and history while studying the political structures and theories which guide our lives,” he says.

A 5-month Internship for Detroit City Councilman James Tate’s Discover One initiative was “one of the best experiences of my young life,” he says.

“I’ve always enjoyed serving others but never had the opportunity to work closely in a professional environment with the public servants that represented the communities I grew up in,” he says. “Being able to see the work done behind the scenes to put forth policies that best serve our neighborhoods while also having the opportunity to interact with the actual people we were serving was a priceless experience.

“I met residents that lived in neighborhoods in our district longer than my parents have been alive. I interacted with countless business owners, both old and new. And I was lucky enough to do it all while working under the guidance of seasoned servants dedicated and excited to serve our community.”

Roberson then spent a year teaching special education at Detroit’s Thurgood Marshall Elementary while coaching their afterschool sports program, and found the experience extremely rewarding.

“I’ve always wanted to work with young people whether through mentorship or coaching but I never thought I’d teach formally in any capacity. Thurgood Marshall gave me the opportunity to teach but most importantly it gave me the opportunity to work with students from a number of different backgrounds,” he says.

“It was the students that made that opportunity worthwhile. My students that I worked with throughout the day and those I coached after school faced a number of unique challenges that I never faced before when trying to stay interested in school.

“Working with other teachers and school administration to find solutions to help curve my students’ interest in school, especially those I coached, was not the easiest. But seeing the results after we started a football program at the school was very rewarding. Watching the investment the students made in school when they had the incentive to play ball filled my heart. Even with everything going on in their world it felt good to see their spirits lifted by the same sport that was such a big piece of my life. Hearing teachers report better attendance, better behavior, winning games, and seeing my eighth-graders get promoted and move on to high school was extra icing on the cake.”

Roberson finally realized his dream of law school last fall, entering the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. He is 1L/2L class treasurer for the Student Bar Association; a member of the Black Law Students Association, Street Law Program, Women’s Law Caucus, American Bar Association - Law Student Division, and Wolverine Bar Association (WBA). He also was selected for the WBA Judicial Externship Program and the WBA Summer Clerkship Program; and won a Fall Book Award for Civil Procedure.

“You hear a lot about how competitive and cut throat the law school environment can be—but since the day I was admitted to UDM my experience has been nothing but the opposite,” he says. “UDM is a community and the students, professors, and administrators support one another.

“Being in an environment that encourages competition with self rather than against your peers that will one day be your colleagues is refreshing and not something I often heard when preparing for law school. That atmosphere coupled with the school’s dedication to serving the communities we all represent makes me proud to be a member of the UDM community.”

Becoming a Dean’s Fellow is a wonderful honor to receive, he says.

“Being a part of such a diverse group of students who place community service and substantive representation at the forefront of their personal and professional lives is amazing.”

Roberson’s initial focus was on public interest or civil rights practice areas but over the course of his 1L year he discovered the diversity of the legal profession and met with a number of attorneys in many different practice areas.

“That said, I‘ve begun to develop an interest in Labor & Employment and Real Estate but I want to learn more about as many practice areas as I can,” he says.

His long involvement in sports has accustomed Roberson to a structured schedule—and applying that kind of structure has been very helpful in his legal studies.

“I’ve had to make some adjustments since technically I’m not playing college football anymore. But I recognize that when I’m most focused and efficient completing my work it’s usually because I’ve placed myself on a strict schedule that I make a habit of maintaining,” he says.

Adjusting to remote law classes during the pandemic crisis has had some challenges, he notes.

“I definitely miss having the separation between my work and home space,” he says. “But my support system, especially my friend from school, has made the transition that much easier. Occasionally going outside to run, mixed in with the occasional dance night or movie night at home, and cooking, has provided some great stress relief as well.”

Roberson’s short-term career goal is to join a large scale corporate firm as an associate within a Labor & Employment practice group while working with local and national bar associations to grow his network and support diversity initiatives in the legal profession.

In addition to sports, the life-long Detroit native enjoys R&B and neo soul music, and is a self-termed “foodie” with a growing list on Yelp with more than 100 restaurants in Detroit.

He also is a co-founder of the L.A.B., a male mentorship group in the Metro Detroit area focused on cultivating new relationships in order to positively influence the development of young people through the principles of Leadership, Attitude, and Brotherhood.

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