'Fields' of dreams: MSU Law alumna is pursuing her LLM

Ebonie Byndon-Fields earned her J.D. from Michigan State University College of Law and is pursuing her LLM?from Wayne Law School.

Photo courtesy of Wayne Law School

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Ebonie Byndon-Fields grew up in a single parent home, the daughter of a teen-age mother.

“Statistically speaking I was never supposed to be as successful as I am,” she says. “I want others to know their goals are not inconceivable, and are achievable.”

Her own academic achievements are awe-inspiring: a first-generation college graduate, she holds an undergrad degree from the University of Michigan, master’s degrees in criminal justice and social work from Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati, respectively, a J.D. from Michigan State University College of Law, and is currently pursuing her LLM from Wayne State University Law School.

Byndon-Fields spent 6-1/2 years as a social worker, advocating for children and families. Eighteen months as an investigative caseworker in Cincinnati solidified her desire to practice law, after seeing the influence, power and important role that referees and judges played on cases that went into the courtroom.

“While I always have – and always will – appreciate the important role social workers play in the context of child welfare disputes, seeing there were so many flaws, miscarriages of justice and biases played out against parents who allegedly abused or neglected their children made me want to be in a position of ultimate influence to ensure their rights also remained intact,” she says.

She headed to MSU Law to specialize in family and juvenile law. She interned with the Washtenaw County Juvenile Court, and also worked in the Chance at Childhood Law & Social Work Clinic, where she had the opportunity to complete a full custody investigation as well as experience with guardianship reviews through the court system.      

At the First Amendment Law Clinic she uncovered a passion  to teach, something she also did in the Street Law Program.

After graduation in 2012, she spent 3 years at the Third Judicial Circuit Court in the Criminal Division (Frank Murphy Hall of Justice). Her work included handling arraignment matters, sentencing guidelines, interviewing of defendants, and supervision of pretrial released defendants. “I gained a wealth of knowledge about criminal law that I’d never given much consideration when I was in law school,” she says.

“This job taught me the importance of advocacy when it comes to the basic rights of pretrial detained defendants during the initial process of the criminal court proceeding.”

While she had never previously considered practice as a criminal attorney, her experiences at the court opened up this realm of opportunity, and proved beneficial when she became a full time lecturer for the Department of Criminal Justice at WSU.

Service as a union steward at the Third Circuit Court piqued her interest in labor and employment law matters, prompting her to pursue an LLM degree at Wayne Law. “I’ve found myself focusing on issues of injustice within the employment realm as they relate to ex-felons and their inabilities to gain employment after release,” she says. “I’m hoping to research and focus my thesis for my master’s degree around this topical area.”
She enjoys mentoring students. “I love the dialogue that occurs within the classroom setting,” she says.

“I always tell my students I’m here to learn from them as they are here to learn from me. I wholeheartedly believe the learning experience goes both ways and that in many regards my students are experts as well, as they are definitely experts on their personal life experiences and the things they’ve had to encounter and overcome along the way as it might relate back to issues in criminal justice. I believe it’s so important to motivate students towards success and to be a source of encouragement when it comes to letting them know they can accomplish anything they set themselves out to achieve.”

Byndon-Fields volunteers as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for the Wayne County Third Circuit Juvenile Court in Detroit.

Her long-term goal is to become a criminal defense attorney and  make it to the bench.

She also hopes to establish and open a transitional living facility for young mothers aged 18-24. “What’s most important to me in one word is ‘legacy,’” she explains. “Creating, devising, and building my legacy which will entail helping, serving and advocating for others is what drives and pushes me each and every day.

“ I want to be remembered, not by my prosperity but for my service and my giving to others. This is what both inspires and motivates me to continue to do what I’ve already begun.”

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