For some of us, life takes us down roads we planned all along to take, leading us directly to the destination we desired. For others, taking one road leads to another, and then another, until suddenly we figure out that the path we are on has been a direct route to our self-actualization.
For one WMU-Cooley couple, Michael and Antonia Lamb, their roads were known and unknown, but both found the road to law school, then to each other, the path to a destination that has been fulfilling, both personally and professionally.
On the Road(s)
For Antonia, going to law school was simply a matter of figuring out when she was going to go. It was something she always wanted to do, but had some things to accomplish first. After college, she worked in her family’s real estate business for a number of years, but kept thinking about law school and when she was going to make it a priority. Even her parents kept telling her “You’d be a great lawyer. You should do that!”
The real driving force was her passion for advocacy.
“It was always about advocating for other people and trying to help other people; that was a passion of mine, and I was able to advocate for people in a lot of different ways even before going to law school,” she recalled. “I just wasn't settled with that though. It wasn't enough. Going to law school was a long process for me, but now, at the end of the day, I know I did the right thing. I’m right where I’m supposed to be.”
For Michael, making it to law school was more of a circuitous route. Today a criminal defense attorney, he was once a self-described “non-traditional” student. After graduating from high school, his mother gave him two options: Go to college or join the military. Sometimes mother’s do know best. Michael joined the Air Force and it turned out to be one of the best decisions he ever made.
In the military, Michael met a group of people who encouraged him to go to college. It was tough at first but he persevered.
“The first year, every class I took, I struggled,” he remembered. “And somewhere during my time in college I learned how to study, and I just found this desire to learn. Maybe I learned confidence, maybe direction. Perseverance, for certain, was something I learned. It was ingrained in me."
After that, he went on to get a master’s and settled into working as a business consultant in metropolitan Detroit. Eventually he realized he wanted to get a doctorate.
“As I was looking at different degree programs, it made sense to me that I should pursue a Juris Doctor, at the time I had no intention of practicing law, and certainly not to be a criminal defense lawyer,” smiled Michael. “But here I find myself doing exactly that, and loving every minute of it.”
The Intersection of Love and the Law
Michael began law school at WMU-Cooley’s Auburn Hills campus, while Antonia started in Lansing. After a few semesters, she transferred to Auburn Hills and it was just a matter of time before the two crossed paths. Michael clearly recalls the first time he saw Antonia.
“One day I was here late; it was probably the third semester of the first year, and I was with a group of individuals and we were studying,” he recalled. “Antonia was in the basement, in one of the conference rooms the first time I saw her. When I saw her, I was struck by her beauty. I was struck by something that at the time I could not explain. I since found out what that thing is but at the time I could not explain it.”
Antonia recalls that after they met and started studying together each week, they also began taking some of the same classes together so their schedules were coordinated, making it easier to find time to study together. But both acknowledged that they remained “just good friends” and always put law school first. It was a year and a half before they actually started dating. And Michael admits he benefited greatly from that time together, just studying and supporting each other as friends, and getting to know his future wife.
“I mentioned the initial beauty thing, but that is not what attracted me to Antonia,” he said. “It was her heart, her kindness, her tenacity, her passion. It was her character. It was her speech. All those different things I got to observe over a matter of a year and a half that really helped me to appreciate who and what she was. And one of the things too that I tell my friends is that I would suggest that before you think about marrying someone, ensure that you are first friends.”
Antonia also recalls a relationship built on friendship and dedication to schoolwork first. The camaraderie that formed between the two law students served them well on several levels.
“For us, we were really a team from the beginning," she recalled "That’s kind of how I thought of us. We worked together. We would go out and do stuff that was the same later on, but we were a team. We were accountable to each other. We made sure we were ready for exams and things like that. And then we even went to church together at a point to explore the spiritual aspect of our relationship as well, and that was a friendship as well.”
On the High Road
Today the Lambs are married and are each pursuing their passions within the legal profession. During law school, Antonia enjoyed serving in the law school's Sixty Plus, Inc., Elderlaw Clinic. Fueled by her passion for advocacy that grew out of her relationships with her parents and grandparents, she now writes grants, serves as a mediator and works in a unique project that combines healthcare and legal guidance at Neighborhood Legal Services Michigan - Elder Law and Advocacy Center.
“We’re the attorneys at the doctor’s office where patients can come in and see an attorney right on site; go through a legal intake after they go through their regular screenings,” she said. “We can set them up with advance directives, wills, or power of attorney. We also do landlord-tenant matters and consumer issues; so we really try to help out with any issue they may have.”
Pursuing his own similar but separate dream, Michael is building his criminal defense practice while holding out for the day the couple will be working together in their own firm together. In the interim, he works to serve his clients well, and with the highest integrity.
“One of the things we learned in professional responsibility class is that attorneys have a responsibility to counsel our clients,” he explained. “Not just those things related to the law, but on the social, political and financial ramifications of the decisions. I take that part of my responsibilities very seriously. It is one of the things I am certainly passionate about. I count myself blessed to be where I am today, and I am only here because people poured into my life. I want to be a conduit for others in that respect.”
Both graduates feel much gratitude to their alma mater for providing them, not only the legal knowledge, but the strength of character he sees in any WMU-Cooley graduates he encounters.
“From my perspective, [WMU-Cooley] was founded to help people like Antonia and I who are passionate about service, who are strong in character and desire to serve the community," declared Michael. "We are not only passionate about those things, but we are passionate about rules, law and order, and using the law for good. What I know about Cooley is that it is an outstanding law school that prepares practice-ready attorneys and provides the necessary support for those attorneys to be effective practitioners.”