Taking the lead

Mikaila John didn’t know a single attorney when she applied to law school. Then an undergraduate at Rutgers University, the New Jersey native did know that her parents, both immigrants from the Caribbean, had endowed her with grit, motivation, passion, and an ability to do hard things. Now a third-year student, she has put those qualities to work academically and, moreover, as a student leader at Loyola, where she is immediate past president of the Black Law Students Association and president of the Student Bar Association [SBA].

What drew you to Loyola?

Loyola was one of the few schools that offered a dual degree program in law and education policy. My mom was a teacher, and she taught me a passion for education equity. When the pandemic hit, though, I had to move home, and I dropped the M.Ed. program to focus on law. But Loyola has given me so many ways to feel like I’m still doing what I set out to do. I’ve enrolled three times in the Education Law Practicum, and I worked at an education law firm in Chicago last year. Last spring, I did an externship in the Chicago Public Schools’ Labor and Employee Discipline Unit; it was so amazing that I’m back this semester. 


“If you want to become an advocate, not just an attorney, Loyola is the place for you.”

What surprised you most about Loyola?

I had never known any attorneys personally, so I was a bit overwhelmed when I got to Loyola, but the professors and administrators here genuinely care about ensuring you make it to the next step. Here’s one example: In the spring of my first year, my best friend tried to kill himself. I tried to trudge forward because I thought I had to. Then one day, I went to Dean Josie Gough and broke down. She let me talk and then said, “We’re going to get you through this.” At that moment, Loyola felt like home. I’m not from Chicago; I don’t have any family here, but it’s like the administration takes you in. At Loyola, they view you as a whole person, not just a student. 

What are your goals as Student Bar Association president?

I want to highlight and even improve on Loyola’s pre-COVID sense of community. Coming back in person, we had 3Ls who had been remote for a year, 2Ls who had never been on campus, and 1Ls who didn’t know what to expect. So, we’re inviting deans to introduce themselves in person at our SBA meetings, to show how accessible they are and make sure students know how each can be a resource. We also want students to know that SBA is their liaison to the administration—amplifying their voice, not giving them a voice. This matters because, if the full student body doesn’t feel invited to engage, are we really the welcoming community we pride ourselves on being?

What would you tell students considering Loyola? 

I’d say that, if you want to become an advocate, not just an attorney, Loyola is the place for you. There are so many opportunities to be a leader here, and the administration listens to students, so you can make real change. 

Also, the alumni network is amazing. This summer I worked at Clark Hill in their Pittsburgh office, and I knew there was a Loyola alum working in the Chicago office. I reached out to introduce myself, and after one Zoom meeting, she sent a glowing email about me to my supervisor encouraging the firm to hire me when I graduate. That’s Loyola alumni. They know that the school produces hard workers who really contribute to any environment they’re in. 

What’s next for you? 

I’ve accepted an offer with Clark Hill in Pittsburgh to do litigation. I still love education law, but Loyola has exposed me to so much, so anything’s possible. 


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