Honoree: Fellowship recipient relished labor law externship

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MSU Law student Frank Harrison received a Peggy Browning Fellowship and interned at a law firm in Syracuse, NY.
(Photo courtesy of Frank Harrison)


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Frank Harrison didn’t get off to a stellar academic start in his teens; but after dropping out of high school, he later got back on track—and now is a 3L at Michigan State University College of Law.

“The main cause was simply reflecting on how my choice was effecting my younger brother’s own academic journey,” he says. “Simply put, it was difficult to encourage him to ‘stick the course’ and keep at it when I didn't—so it was simply a matter of having to swallow my pride, go get my GED, and then re-start on my own academic journey.”

Harrison’s most recent achievement was receiving a Peggy Browning Fellowship, that provides stipends to law students who dedicate their summer to advancing the cause of workers' rights by working for labor unions, worker centers, labor-related not-for-profit organizations, union-side law firms and other nonprofit organizations.

Harrison interviewed at eight places through the Peggy Browning Fund, landing at the Satter Ruhlen Law Firm in Syracuse— his No. 1 choice, and where he gained experience in  labor and employment law,  in trial prep, arbitration hearings, and a swath of New York specific administrative hearings.

It’s a far cry from Harrison’s post-high school years, stocking shelves or working at retail stores, with no particular career goal. He also earned an EMT license, but didn’t work in that field. His last job was working in logistics.

Returning to academia, the Coldwater native earned his undergrad degree in economics and philosophy from Western Michigan University and headed  to MSU Law in 2020.

As a mature student, he found benefit in having gained real-world experience.

“I knew how to navigate an office setting. I knew how to interact with supervisors, with colleagues, and with co-workers. There’s a lot to be said for being able to make good impressions with your supervisors simply by having that experience of knowing what to do, what should be prioritized, and how to figure these kinds of things out when they are not clear,” he says. “I have a better idea of how to ‘network’ with people and since I’m collaborating with people closer to my own age, it’s more of a natural conversation to have with them. I also knew what I wanted to do in law when I came to school and what I wanted my career path to be.

From a working-class family, he is passionate about helping people with similar backgrounds.

“I had firsthand experience knowing how difficult it is for working class families both from a legal standpoint, such as finding affordable representation, and from a regular life standpoint. It was knowing how my dad got burned working as an independent carpenter because he did business with a handshake and not a contract. It was knowing the health problems my uncles suffered from because they worked in foundries with inadequate PPE—this is also why I’m interested in collective bargaining and labor law. When there’s an imbalance in bargaining power between employers and employees, bad things happen.”

In his 1L summer, Harrison interned at the National Labor Relations Board, learning about Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) cases.  

“Everyone was great,” he says. “They all had their own styles when it came to how to approach investigations into ULPs. They all got me involved in their cases and allowed me to really jump in and take on real responsibility in handling key issues with cases. I felt they brought me along at the right pace where I was able to learn from them, see how exactly they handled investigations, and then I was given the supervised freedom to try my own hand at it. I got to take witness affidavits from both charging and charged parties, draft and submit request for evidence letters, do case research, and present my findings and recommendation for cases to the regional director. I’m honestly astonished with exactly how much they were willing to allow me to do.”

Harrison also has worked at the MSU Law Alvin L. Storrs Low Income Tax Clinic.

“The work at the Tax Clinic is advocacy work. You’re assigned a set amount of clients and you’re trying your best to progress their cases and hopefully deliver to them the best result you possibly can get. I really enjoyed the opportunity to speak with clients, get to know them on a personal level, and advocate on their behalf.

“It’s an incredibly rewarding experience to be able to meet with someone and while you’re not able to solve all of their problems, you’re able to find a resolution to their tax problem and give them some degree of relief.”

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