Julie Lawler-Hoyle’s passion for the law was awakened when her wife became disabled from a stroke. “We lost 80 percent of our household income literally overnight,” she says. “The lawyers who helped us through the ensuing financial fallout made a real difference to our family and were my inspiration to apply to law school.”
Julie Lawler-Hoyle was honored with the Distinguished Student Award at WMU-Cooley’s May graduation. She is pictured with her wife, Sally, and in-laws Jim and Connie Hoyle.
Lawler-Hoyle was a May graduate of WMU-Cooley Law School, where she was the Lansing campus recipient of the Distinguished Student Award.
“I was honored,” she says. “And the special diploma frame I received will look spectacular on the wall of my future office!”
Lawler-Hoyle last trod the halls of academe in the mid to late ’80s, when she earned her undergrad degree in English, cum laude, from Barnard College, Columbia University, in New York City; and a master’s degree from Duke University in Durham, N.C., where she focused on English and Medieval & Renaissance studies.
Returning to school nearly three decades later was a joy.
“I sound like a total geek if I say I loved the rigor of the academic program, but it’s true,” she says. “My undergraduate and graduate degrees are from more prestigious schools. But, I can honestly say I never worked harder academically than I did at WMU-Cooley Law School.”
The biggest advantage of being a mature student was self-awareness, she says.
“I know what I don’t know and I’m not shy about admitting when I’m clueless. I have zero inhibitions about making a fool of myself and it’s pretty darn difficult to embarrass me. As it turns out, these are all excellent qualities in a law student.”
Lawler-Hoyle particularly appreciated the diversity at Cooley Law, that she says goes way beyond race and ethnicity.
“It encompasses age, economic background, income, disability, family situation, gender, gender expression, and more,” she explains. “Colleagues are candid about our differences and openly inquisitive about other’s experiences.
“At the Lansing campus graduation reception, I told a story about my Sunday morning Constitutional Law class with retired Brigadier General, Dean Michael McDaniel. I’m sure I wasn’t the first openly gay student he has taught, but Con Law lends itself to spirited discussions—and we had a few!
“One day he said ‘LGBTQ – I don’t even know what the Q stands for,’ and before I could say anything, he followed it up with ‘but I know we need to protect their rights.’ That moment, for me, exemplified WMU-Cooley’s commitment to diversity.”
Lawler-Hoyle has a three-pronged plan for her future practice. First, she hopes to transition to a legal role with her current employer, Pet Supplies Plus, where she worked full time in the corporate office in Livonia during law school and is still working full time while studying for the bar exam.
Second, she plans to have a solo practice that focuses on estate planning for pet owners. And third, she wants both these plans to be so successful that she can take on veteran cases pro bono.
“As a volunteer pet therapy team, with my dog, Sam, at the Veteran’s Administration Ann Arbor Healthcare System, I’ve seen first-hand the special legal needs of our service members and I want to do my part to honor their service,” she says.
In addition to Sam, Lawler-Hoyle and her wife, Sally Hoyle, have a service dog, Katie, cats Hazel and Harley, and birds Abby and Giizis sharing their cottage on the canal that leads into Whitmore Lake, north of Ann Arbor.
“It’s a very beautiful and peaceful place, perfect for retreating from the ‘real world’,” she says.
This article about WMU-Cooley graduate Julie Lawler-Hoyle was written by Legal News writer Sheila Pursglove originally published by the Legal News on June 6, 2017. It is reprinted here with permission of The Detroit Legal News.