WMU-Cooley, as a military friendly and designated Yellow Ribbon School, talks to its military students, faculty and graduates about their journey from the military to law school and about their career goals. We are thankful and grateful for the sacrifices our military service men and women make to keep us safe and preserve our freedoms. WMU-Cooley’s November monthly feature is WMU-Cooley Law School graduate Shawlonda Hallback. Shawlonda is a Retired U.S. Marine Corp Veteran.
Military rank and title: Retired U.S. Marine, U.S. Marine Corps
Why did you decide to go to law school and why did you choose WMU-Cooley: I knew I wanted to be an attorney since I was 16 years old. I remember taking a Mock Trial class in a high school English class and everything about it felt right. I loved what I was doing and it seemed to be my calling. My teacher thought so too. She told me that I would make a great lawyer – and I believed her. It was that moment that I decided that I was going to go to law school and be a lawyer. The only thing I didn’t know was when. After retiring from the U.S. Marine Corp, I felt I could follow that dream. I chose to attend WMU-Cooley as a second challenging career after retiring from the military because of its diversity and its flexibility for non-traditional students. WMU-Cooley made it possible for me to go to law school. And my family support made it a reality.
Career description: I truly enjoyed my career with the U.S. Marine Corps. It was important work when my leadership and judgment accounted for several millions of dollars and numerous people. My responsibilities included Explosive Ordnance disposal, deconstruction, deployment, disarmament, and distribution of high explosive munitions. I was built to be a Marine, and honored to defend our borders and those other countries who needed our protection. It was gratifying to know that I was doing my part to keep people safe. When I think about kids, for instance, unknowingly walking into a field that might have old or unsafe bombs or explosives hiding, and in the blink of an eye a life is changed forever, I know what I am doing is valuable to society.
Career goals: My goals are clear for me. I want every person, no matter their lot in life, to have the legal representation they deserve and are owed in our democratic society. I think it’s critical that everyday people understand their rights under our Constitution and they have a say in how they are treated. It’s important to me to be able to ease people’s fears in a tangible way when they need help and guidance. All folks should have equal access to our legal system. There are two things I want to do, now that I am out of law school and an attorney. I want to provide very low-cost legal service to those in need. Translated, I plan to give pro bono services at 50 percent of my rate to under-served markets through grants I will acquire. The second focus I have is to support local efforts to end human trafficking. My belief is when you change the climate of human trafficking at the local level, you will make important changes beyond our borders and globally. It was during an elective called Slavery & Human Trafficking taught by WMU-Cooley Professor Stevie Swanson where my eyes were opened to the horrors of human trafficking. It became a very real passion of injustice for me. To think, I didn’t even realize that this existed. Now I look at people differently, even in the grocery store, and wonder, are these women and children victims of human trafficking – and many are. Victims are everywhere, including in our community.
Tell us a little about you: I enjoy doing work I feel is important to more than just me and my family. In fact, I get much enjoyment just talking to people; hearing their stories and listening to their problems, and working together to figure out solutions. Problem-solving is at the core of what we should try to do as good attorneys. But it’s not always about me trying to solve someone else’s problems. It’s these simple conversations that can change lives. People are all tied together as human beings. It is our ability to come together that makes us better people. My family has been an important part of my life and why I have been able to find success along the way. Chevelle (Hallback) has been an anchor for me and throughout law school. Our sons, Michael Mitchell (25), stepson Terrick Russell (24), Joshua Mitchell (23), Christian Mitchell (21), and Jordan Barnes (20), also a Marine, have been a great source of strength and pride.