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60 Minute Mentoring with Attorney Lawrence Nolan

By: Dalton Carty
       Guest Writer, Lansing

“Seventy percent of all legal employment is not posted anywhere.” Associate Dean of Enrollment Paul Zelenski made this statement during the August 2013 orientation and reiterated it during my first Pathways class in October 2013. As a course designed to help law students cultivate professionalism, assess strengths and weaknesses, and obtain a fulfilling legal career, hearing the quote in Pathways for a second time resonated in my mind because I realized networking was pivotal to finding a job as a lawyer and would provide valuable advice from seasoned attorneys.  

Under this guise, I enrolled in Cooley’s 60 Minute Mentoring Program to build my legal network. The program is administered through the Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism and matches law students with experienced regional attorneys to hone their sense of ethics and professionalism. I was scheduled to meet Attorney Lawrence Nolan.

Attorney Nolan is President of the Board of Directors for Cooley Law School, has been a member of the Michigan State Bar since 1976, sits on various Bar committees including the Master Lawyers section and Law Practice Management and Legal Administrators section, has received numerous awards and accolades for his outstanding service to the local legal and residential community, is the basis for several newspaper articles, and a member of Cooley’s first graduating class.

On Friday, November 15, 2013, I met Attorney Lawrence Nolan at his office in Eaton Rapids, Michigan. The office is a quaint 19th century three-story, red building that Nolan restored and expanded. It contains much of the original wood moldings. The building also has a stained glass skylight and library, several associate offices, a reception area, a downstairs basement with storage space and small kitchen, and an upstairs apartment. Attorney Nolan’s staff was comprised of four associate lawyers, a receptionist, paralegal, and business manager. They were all exceedingly cordial and inviting. One of his associates gave me a tour of the facility and introduced me to the staff.

Attorney Nolan himself was relaxed and easy to talk with. With more than thirty five years in the practice of law, one could plainly see he still loved his job and thoroughly enjoyed being a lawyer. He commented on the need for clients to feel comfortable with their counselors and the significance of spending sufficient time to prepare cases. He said certain counselors may present 10 or more cases in a day, but he questioned how they did that because of time it took to prepare one case. He concluded by stating some may call his style time consuming, but they could never claim his clients did not get the full benefit of his experience and ability.

As time progressed, Attorney Nolan recalled his days as a Cooley student. He said some people wanted to pass an initiative that would exempt Cooley graduates from taking the bar. He rejected the measure because he wanted his colleagues to know he was just as capable as them and had earned the right to be a lawyer. He said the proposition made him and his classmates study more vigorously to pass the bar and prove themselves to the legal community.

Wanting to be a lawyer since first or second grade, Attorney Nolan cited Thurgood Marshall as inspiration and discussed several attorneys who aided him by helping him secure his first legal position. He said he had done the same for several young attorneys including some Cooley graduates.

Although he encouraged me to study hard to prepare for finals, Attorney Nolan also suggested I find time for recreational activities. He said you must get away and stop thinking about the law for at least a little while each week. Take a 30 minute walk, go out with friends, or do something you find enjoyable. He said this helps alleviate the strain and stress of law school.

I enjoyed meeting Attorney Nolan. He gave every indication he was interested in me as a law student and person. He gave exceptional information about professionalism and ethics that could be used as law student and eventually a lawyer.

*Note- I could not write this story without mentioning the overwhelming contribution of the Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism especially Administrative Assistant Kathleen Lawrence who drove me to Attorney Nolan’s office and brought me back to Cooley’s Lansing campus because I lacked transportation. Ms. Lawrence was extremely helpful, gracious, kind, and even gave me a tour of Eaton Rapids. I thank her also for scheduling the appointment with Attorney Nolan. It was an unequivocal delight to meet these two fine individuals through one outstanding initiative.