CSU Cleveland-Marshall College of Law 4LE Michael Watkins’ interest in the law dates back to high school when he attended Shaw High School in East Cleveland, Ohio, and took part in the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association (CMBA) 3Rs Program. Michael interned at Tucker Ellis LLP in 11th grade and went on to enroll in the CMBA’s Louis Stokes Scholars Program.
Michael was drawn to CSU C|M|LAW largely due to the high praise for the law school expressed by several alumni attorneys he met through those programs. Michael did not attend law school immediately after graduating from the University of Toledo, he worked as a career preparation educator in St. Louis before returning home to Cleveland.
Michael attends CSU C|M|LAW as a part-time student while also working in his hometown as a Community Youth Diversion Coordinator/Enrichment Specialist with the East Cleveland Neighborhood Center. Utilizing his teaching background and connections to the community, he teaches K-2nd grade science, 4-6th grade social and emotional learning as well as coordinates services for pre-adjudicated youth to reduce recidivism and minimize involvement in the juvenile justice system.
Many of Michael’s students at the Center come from families whose parents did not attend college and oftentimes did not graduate high school. He recognizes, having come from a similar background as his students, that his educational experience can be used to inspire them.
“Every chance I get I want my scholars to know I’m in law school, not because I’m bragging but because I want them to be inspired and know that they can come from East Cleveland and do whatever they want in this world. As soon as they hear law school or MBA, their eyes light up and they want to know so much more about it,” said Michael, who is enrolled in the dual degree program with CSU’s Monte Ahuja College of Business.
“I think the skills from both the (JD and MBA) programs are highly transferable and in the eyes of some firms and organizations it makes me a more competitive applicant. The law courses help me better understand the business courses and vice versa,” explained Michael.
During his studies, Michael has taken particular interest in environmental law. He helped restart and serves as Vice President of the Environmental Law Society. He also served as Editor-in-Chief of Global Business Law Review and wrote his submission to the Law Review on House Bill 6 and renewable energy standards in Ohio. During his research, Michael learned about the requirements for using renewables such as wind and solar energy, while working closely with Professor Heidi Gorovitz Robertson, a leading expert on environmental law.
“Those experiences with environmental law at Cleveland-Marshall have really given me insight in the type of research and work I want to do,” said Michael.
Michael’s dream job is working for the United Nations on environmental sustainability and international relations. In the meantime, he has recently started what many would consider a dream externship with Ohio Supreme Court Justice Melody Stewart ’88. Michael wants to explore the judicial system and see if it might be of future career interest.
“I think Justice Stewart is a phenomenal leader and can already tell she is ready and willing to help us externs further understand the law,” Michael noted.
In addition to his roles with Global Business Law Review and the Environmental Law Society, Michael has served as a contributor to The Gavel newspaper and Alumni Outreach & Engagement Committee Chair for the Black Law Students Association during his time at CSU C|M|LAW. He has also worked as a legal extern with Equality Ohio, a Law Clerk with The Spitz Law Firm, LLC. as a Summer Associate with Brennan Manna & Diamond, LLC. Upon graduation and passing the bar examination, Michael will join Brennan Manna & Diamond, LLC. as an associate specializing in corporate litigation