Spartan Lawyer

Winter 2017

Who Will Lead in Law? Spartans Will.

Meet Spartan Law alumni who use the power of a legal education to advocate for their constituents.

Spartan lawyers in elected positions work hard to address issues in their communities. They strive to make their states, tribes, and institutions stronger by writing legislation, adjudicating conflicts, and advocating for change.


Dennis Archer, ’70, has built such an exemplary career that the Detroit Bar Association created an award in his honor. The Dennis W. Archer Public Service Award honors legal professionals whose careers demonstrate an outstanding commitment to public service.

Archer served as a Michigan Supreme Court justice (1985-1990) and two-term Detroit mayor (1994-2001). After leaving public office, Archer was named chairman of Detroit-based Dickinson Wright, where he is now chairman emeritus. He has received 26 honorary degrees throughout his career.

Early in life, Archer looked to leaders in the civil rights movement for inspiration. After he graduated from Detroit College of Law, he entered private practice with the mindset that “the practice of law is a privilege and not a right.”

He has worked diligently to ensure others have that privilege. From 2002-2003, Archer was the first African-American president of the American Bar Association. He has also served as chair of the ABA’s Commission for Minorities in the Profession, president of the State Bar of Michigan, and co-chair of the National Transportation Policy Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Archer recognizes the justice gap in today’s society and emphasizes that lawyers can address it. When he spoke with MSU Law students, he encouraged them to advocate for their communities. “Lawyers are invaluable. You will have a real opportunity to make a difference in whatever you do,” he said. “We do not have enough lawyers working in legal services and working with those who cannot afford to hire us. Some of my greatest joys practicing law were representing people who couldn’t afford a lawyer.”


From volunteering with nonprofits to creating a successful law firm and a local magazine, Peter J. Lucido, ’88, has built community institutions around the mitten state. Currently, he serves as a Michigan State Representative for the 36th District, and he is running (unopposed) for the 8th District seat in the Michigan State Senate in the 2018 election.

Lucido ran for office because he wanted to help make his community stronger. “I knew I could make laws that would affect every home, every business, and every person in the state,” he said.

He uses his 30 years of experience practicing state and federal law to serve his constituents.

"I understood what was working in the courtroom and what wasn’t working,” said Lucido. “I understood what was working for families and businesses in my office when I looked at the law and gave counsel to my clients. I have had the blessed opportunity to look at the law critically so I would have the ability to give back.”

That same dedication to service inspired Lucido to become a lawyer.

"I knew the best thing I could do is go help people in life,” said Lucido. “I always believed also I was a fighter, an advocate, and if I believed in something wholeheartedly, I would immerse myself in that to get what a client needed.”


In 2012, Brian Sims, ’04, successfully ran for representative of the 182nd Legislative District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. During the campaign, he found that there are a few simple truths to elections. “One of them is that people appreciate authenticity. They may not understand everything you fight for, but people appreciate when you stand up and speak up for your community,” Sims said.

His elected position is a natural extension of his community activism. “I was in a lot of lines where everyone else stepped backward,” Sims said. He is a longtime advocate for LGBT rights and the first openly gay member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

Since joining the General Assembly, Sims has championed topics from equal pay and reproductive rights to state investment in local projects. “Policy is about empathy,” he said. “I will vote on a thousand bills this year and maybe only fifty of them will ever directly impact my life. Everything else requires me to put myself in somebody else’s shoes.”

Sims encourages people interested in politics to start at the community level. Municipal governments are the best incubators we’ve seen for larger-scale civil rights laws,” he said. “This is both where it starts and where I think most people have their most direct experience with their rights and with their government. I think that there’s not a town in America that doesn’t have a woman that needs to get elected or an issue that needs to get advocated. And those are really easy things to do.”


Whitney Gravelle, ’16, came to law school to become an advocate for Native communities throughout Indian Country and to give back to her own tribe. She has already accomplished both.

"My journey through college and law school has always revolved around my community, my tribe, and my family,” Gravelle said. Immediately after law school, Gravelle secured a position as a Fellow with the federal Department of Justice Honors program in Environment and Natural Resources Division. “I wanted to work for Indian Country as a whole,” said Gravelle, It felt like the right place to be to advocate for Indian Country on a national level.”

Recently, Gravelle returned home to run for Chief Judge of her tribe. “When the position for Chief Judge opened up, I knew it was the right place to begin giving back to my community,” she said. Gravelle views tribal justice systems as both critical components of tribal government and an exercise of sovereign authority by tribes to resolve conflict in traditional ways.

Now, as Chief Judge for the Bay Mills Indian Community, Gravelle is ready to make an impact at home. “I look forward to moving forward tribal justice in our community by reaching back to traditional concepts of justice in order to reduce incarceration rates, foster greater safety for the tribe, and help create a more positive future for our youth,” she said.