Vol. 42 No. 5
By John Bursch
John Bursch is the Michigan Solicitor General and supervises all of the State’s appellate litigation. Last fall, John Argued his sixth, seventh, and eighth cases in the US Supreme Court. He is a three-time “Distinguished Brief Award” winner for his advocacy before the Michigan Supreme Court, and a two-time National Association of Attorneys General “Best Brief Award” winner for his advocacy before the Us Supreme Court.
I did not attend law school to be a lawyer. I didn’t really know any lawyers when I was in college; all I knew was that I wanted to go to law school. As a college freshman, I read Scott Turow’s One L, a novel about the author’s experience as a first-year student at Harvard Law School. I was intrigued by the intellectual rigor and challenges of a legal education, and I knew I wanted to be part of that environment. Even after I started law school, I often pictured myself as a future law professor rather than a practitioner.
But a funny thing happened on my path to academia—I fell in love with the practice of law. And I’m not just talking about the practice I have now, which primarily involves litigating in the Michigan and US Supreme Courts. (What’s not to love about that?) As a summer associate at a prominent Minneapolis law firm, I enjoyed every substantive practice area I tried, from business litigation to trusts and estates, from real estate to construction disputes. I thrived on the challenge of helping clients solve their problems, whether transactional or in litigation. That thrill continued after my judicial clerkship when I started working for Warner Norcross & Judd, a Michigan firm that to this day requires all of its first-year associates to participate in a “job jar” that exposes them to a liberal-arts education in many different practice groups. In fact, while my passion has always been litigating cases, I think I would have enjoyed practice in any number of different areas, because each subset of the law involves such unique and interesting challenges.
In hindsight, there’s not much I would change about my legal education, which was terrific preparation for a career as a litigator. But if I knew then what I know now, I would have read fewer law review articles and more bar journals; signed up for more legal clinics and fewer symposiums; watched more movies about life and relationships (since morality tales are the lifeblood of litigation) and fewer about law and law school (though The Paper Chase will always have a special place in my heart). Most of all, I would have spent more time looking forward to helping clients solve the problems that keep them awake at night, to interacting with judges and bar members, and to exploring the many facets of the law. Who knew working could be this much fun? n