Johnny Hawkins: The Warrior Lawyer
In recent years, Americans have been exposed to a barrage of media coverage about bullying and the “zero tolerance” initiatives that have come at the heels of this plight. Yet, the mention of the word “bullying” conjures an image of some young ruffian antagonizing students who cannot defend themselves. Unfortunately, intimidation is not confined to the school setting—it runs rampant in the halls of justice, menacing and oppressing good citizens who lack competent legal representation.
Enter Johnny Hawkins, The Warrior Lawyer.
Johnny has dedicated his life to the defense of others, protecting them from worldwide conflict during his service to the United States Army, and now, as a champion for their legal rights as founder, attorney, and senior litigation and trial strategist for his firm, Law Office of J. L. Hawkins, PLLC.
The well-deserved moniker, Warrior Lawyer, was given to Johnny by a church minister who he defended in a serious personal injury lawsuit. He recalls, “The client cried when we won the case and told me she had never had anyone fight for her like I did. It was very touching and confirmed what I’ve always known to be my true purpose—to protect others.” And protect he does, especially when an injured party is left to fend for themselves. With an unbridled passion for helping others and a focus on integrity and impartiality, Johnny is to injustice what David was to Goliath.
Johnny founded his firm in 1996, after passing the bar on his first attempt, and for the past 25 years, he and his team have specialized in catastrophic personal injury, civil rights, police misconduct, and probate law. He has also taken on entertainment cases and, as a result of his prowess in this area, was featured as a content expert for the documentary film, Behind the Scenes with Laurence Fishburne.
From their headquarters in Southeast Michigan, the Law Office of J. L. Hawkins ensures that every case, and each client, receives the uncompromising standard of quality care upon which the firm has built its reputation. Their motto is “Exceptional Client Service and Support Over Everything,” and it is manifest in their outcomes, their impact on the legal profession, and their commitment to the community at-large.
We were compelled to explore Johnny’s fascinating story and to share with our readers the legend of The Warrior Lawyer.
First, Johnny, tell us what prompted you to start your own firm, and with this particular legal focus?
I’m the oldest child, so I’m inherently a protector. As far back as I can remember, I defended neighborhood kids from bullies. We lived in subsidized housing and didn’t have much, but we had the guidance and love of my mom. She was my true champion and she taught me everything that I needed to know, and although I consider myself fortunate, I know what it’s like to be broke, bullied, and to also survive a tragic loss. In 1984, my mom passed away when she was only 36 and I 19, but during our time together, she was always a paragon of strength, kindness, and compassion. Then, in law school, I had a phenomenal law professor, Professor Clark Johnson, who told me flat out: “You are not law firm material. That is not who you are. You need to start your own firm because you have something to say, you have something special to offer.” And guess what? I believed him and did just that in 1996.
Can you share a memorable client, case, or verdict that touched you deeply?
Absolutely. It happens all the time. Most recently, in the highly publicized drowning fatality school case, a young mother in the State of Michigan lost her 14-year-old disabled son to a drowning accident that occurred on school property while her son was in a high school swimming pool. As would any good and loving parent, my client as the mother, had trusted the school district with the carrying out of her son’s educational requirements as well as with his overall daily care. She had always insisted that the school district take her parental concerns seriously regarding properly looking out for her son’s overall safety. During our initial discovery, it was learned that the boy may have also been the victim of bullying by other students. Her son’s premature death in early 2020 was a tremendous loss, and so I felt a moral obligation to both protect and support this mother in her time of mourning after having lost her only child. By the time the matter was fully resolved in March of 2021, and all pre-suit, which is a great accomplishment, not only was my client properly compensated for her unimaginable loss, but my team and I also helped her find and retain experts in the fields of grief counseling, wealth management, estate planning, and real estate, so that she’d no longer have to concern herself with managing the basic everyday necessities after having experienced a tragic, life altering, and totally preventable loss. So today, I’m proud to say that my client resides in very nice community and is living a peaceful life in a beautiful suburb by a lake, as she continues to work to recover mentally and emotionally from the loss of her son. Additionally, following the final resolution of my client’s legal matter, and still to this date, the client and I speak every month and due to the level of trust that developed between she and I over the course of these civil proceedings, the client did of her own volition, then elect with the assistance of independent legal counsel, to nominate me to act as the trustee of her trust estate to help properly manage, invest, and preserve her final settlement proceeds.
Tell us about your book, Black, Male, and American: Easier to be Bad.
The book is my gift to members of the inner-city youth, to help them understand the real world and be better prepared to succeed rather than fail. It’s about making good choices as you’re coming up and confronted with unimaginable obstacles as a young Black male growing up in the USA, and was written from the perspective of someone (i.e. me), who just like so many of them, may have had no choice but to spend a part of their youth in an inner-city subsidized housing community, aka housing project, all with or without a father, where the cards are oftentimes stacked against you. I, being one who experienced and survived this type of lifestyle and upbringing during my early youth, recall often being very afraid, angry, bitter, and upset, but nevertheless, I managed to figure it out after being adopted by a very good man, and then not only survived, but thrived and succeeded. Early on, like right after completing high school, I decided to join the U.S. military and in so doing, I found camaraderie and support from guys of all different races that I never would have otherwise met. So, my choice to join the military, together with having undergone so many other life experiences that required that I both adapt and make good choices, is what changed me and so I really want others to see their promise through me; all based mostly on the “good choices” that I made when I could have gone in the total opposite direction.
What do you enjoy most about your work? What drives you?
Serving others and making the people that I represent feel like VIP’s. That’s what drives me daily, because my client’s generally come to me only after they’ve lost something and/or someone extremely important or valuable —a life, a limb, their ability to speak, a loved one, or their rights. Remember, statistically speaking, Detroit as an urban city is still nearly 80% African American, so many, if they were ever to be polled and asked about what they experienced upon having had any sort of contact with members of either law enforcement or the legal profession, would classify it as being either very unpleasant and/or rather uncomfortable. So, the role that I feel I play is to help the client receive exceptional legal service and the best bedside manner ever, after having come into contact with me. Moreover, my overall goal is to have each client leave my office feeling much better than when they first walked through the door. So, when a client either calls or walks into my law office, regardless of their race, I want them to feel as though they as the client, were talked to and not talked at. I was given the title of Warrior Lawyer for a reason, and I plan to live up to it for the entirety of my legal career.
Johnny received a BS in science from Wayne State University, where he graduated with honors and was a member of the National Honors Society. He earned his law degree from Michigan State University College of Law. He has served on the executive board for the Michigan Association for Justice (MAJ), is a member of the Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association, the Million Dollar Advocates and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates forums, and was named as a Super Lawyer in 2019 by Thomson Reuters.
Founder, Attorney, and Senior Litigation/Trial Strategist
Law Office of J. L. Hawkins, PLLC
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