Alum of the Month: Guion Johnstone
In December 2016, Guion Johnstone took on the role of executive director of the Kentucky Bar Foundation, the charitable arm of the Kentucky legal community.
Before coming to the foundation, she served in several law-related roles, most recently as an immigration attorney and program director of the Maxwell Street Legal Clinic in Lexington, Ky.
Below, she answers a few questions about her time at Brandeis Law and how her legal education has impacted her life.
I wanted to become a lawyer so that I could help underrepresented and marginalized groups. Brandeis, with its strong commitment to public service, was a perfect fit for my career goals.
I also chose Brandeis because of its joint degree program with UofL’s Kent School of Social Work so that I was able to graduate with a JD/MSSW.
How did your experience at Brandeis help you in your career?
Brandeis did an exceptional job preparing me for a public service career. In addition to the coursework and accessible professors, the Office of Professional Development was extremely supportive of my interests and helped me attend conferences and find internships to help advance my career goals.
I’m not sure that’s necessarily the case at all law schools where the emphasis is often on the private sector.
What advice do you have for law students today?
The best advice I have for law students today is a quote by Minor Myers Jr.: “Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.”
It’s important to go to bed each night feeling good about the work you are doing.
Who was your favorite professor and why?
I was fortunate to have many fantastic professors, but my favorite was Professor Laura Rothstein. I had her for Property during 1L year and I appreciated her thought-provoking but very direct teaching style. I went on to take her disability law seminar – an area in which she is a well-regarded expert.
Recognizing my interest in social justice issues, she hired me her as her research assistant in the areas of disability law and diversity in legal education.
Professor Rothstein has kept in touch with me following graduation and remains a source of support and inspiration for me to this day.
You’re the new executive director of the Kentucky Bar Foundation. What are some of the things you look forward to accomplishing in this role?
I am excited about my new position as the executive director of the Kentucky Bar Foundation and the Kentucky IOLTA Fund.
Since 1988, the Bar Foundation has awarded more than $3 million in grants to support more than 160 law-related programs and projects and IOLTA has awarded more than $16.5 million in IOLTA grants.
I worked as an IOLTA fellow at the Legal Aid Society while I was a Brandeis student and was later the director of Maxwell Street Legal Clinic, which received funding from the Bar Foundation. Thus, I am keenly aware of the importance of these funds for organizations throughout Kentucky.
I hope to increase awareness – particularly among law students and young attorneys – of the good work that the Bar Foundation and the IOLTA Fund supports. The more attorneys we have who support the Bar Foundation and participate in IOLTA, the more funding we can provide to law-related projects and organizations in Kentucky.