Lawyer Diaries: Former Michigan Governor

LSAT Blog Lawyer Diary Former GovernorThe following Lawyer Diary comes in the form of an interview with Jennifer Granholm, formerly Governor of Michigan. This interview is excerpted from Learning From Precedent.

Bloch: Why transition into TV?

Granholm: It certainly wasn’t something I pursued. The network is partially owned by Al Gore. He called me and said, “We’re putting together a primetime lineup, it’s a startup network, and we’re going to build it out. We want you to host one of the shows.” It sounded like fun, so I did it.

Bloch: Do you do the research for the show in addition to hosting it?

Granholm: Since I’m the host I do research on my guests, the questions I’d like to ask them, and the themes I want to focus on. For example, we’ve been following the story of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. It’s a corporate-funded group that invites state legislators to sit with them on committees to draft model bills, which the legislators can then take back to their states. It’s a very conservative group. A lot of the Stand Your Ground laws have come through there. That story, and the fact that today ALEC said it would back off of pushing the Stand Your Ground and voter suppression laws, will be some of the things we talk about.

Bloch: Does your legal background contribute to your work on the show?

Granholm: In terms of content, I’m actually the only lawyer on the staff. I always say that we should have more lawyers because when we talk about political events, there are so many legal angles. It’s important to have somebody who knows how to do the research and who can interpret what a court decision might mean for broader policy. For example, right now we’re talking about the Affordable Care Act. The ability to know what the Supreme Court is doing, and how to look at Paul Ryan’s deficit proposal in light of obligations to fund Medicaid and Medicare, is extremely important.

Bloch:  In general, what advice would you give an undergraduate student who’s thinking about going into politics?

Granholm: If someone wants to run for office, prior knowledge of how a system or a nation is governed—who makes the rules and how the rules are made—is invaluable. In addition, having the knowledge and the skill to articulate and craft a persuasive argument is critical. Does that mean that law school is the only path? Of course not. But the foundation of everything in public office from knowing the difference between Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security to how governmental immunity works all stem from a basic foundation of state and country. You have to know how to dive into those concepts.

Now, I don’t want to prejudice someone to go into law believing that other disciplines are not equally valid for a career in politics. Other disciplines are truly interesting and unique, and they bring out facets and angles that are extremely valuable to public service. People often have backgrounds in medicine, math, and business. Law is a uniquely apt path to take, but it’s by no means the only one.

Bloch: And do you have any more advice for a student who’s thinking about law school in general?

Granholm: The nice thing about law school is that it provides a foundation for any path. It’s not just a credential, it’s an understanding of how the world works. That’s something you might not be able to acquire anywhere else.


Jennifer Granholm served as the 47th Governor of Michigan (D) from 2003 – 2011. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley (1984), and she received her Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School (1987) where she served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. She clerked for U.S. Judge Damon Keith on the Sixth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, was Michigan’s Attorney General from 1999 – 2003, and is now the host of The War Room with Jennifer Granholm on Current TV. She is also a Distinguished Practitioner of Law and Public Policy at UC Berkeley’s School of Law and Goldman School of Public Policy.

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