Law alumnus shares McDonald’s experience

Erica Magda

Erica Magda

By John McDermott

Jim Johannesen returned to the Law Building to speak to an audience of law students Wednesday. But rather than reflecting upon his time at the University or his experience practicing law, audience members heard him talk about fast food.

Johannesen, a University alumnus and president of McDonald’s Central Division, responsible for 4,400 McDonald’s restaurants in the Midwest, spoke about his life as a businessman, the characteristics necessary for career success and the numerous fields that a person with a law degree can enter.

The only time that Johannesen spoke about law was when he explained his failed first attempt to become a practicing lawyer. Upon graduating from the College of Law, Johannesen was offered a job at a law firm in Lansing, Mich., only to have it taken away just months before he was set to begin.

“It was devastating at the time,” Johannesen said. “I thought my life was over. That was my shot. I had a job at a good law firm and it was yanked out from under me.”

Johannesen then met with the general counsel for McDonald’s and was offered a job as a member of the company’s legal department shortly thereafter.

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“In the context of a whole career, those little speedbumps that you hit don’t have to derail you,” he said. “Seize the good opportunities that might come as a result of them.”

Johannesen, who has since been promoted to central division president, said law students should maintain an open mind when exploring job opportunities and to avoid viewing certain positions as being beneath them. Modesty, hard work, aggressiveness and humor are essential elements for success in any line of work, he added.

The speech was well-received by law students such as Isabel Rosa, who is unsure about her post-graduate plans.

“You always hear that with a law degree you can do multiple things, but then often the people that come to speak are from law firms,” said Rosa, a second-year law student. “It’s nice to see something different.”

Held in the Max L. Rowe Auditorium, the speech was hosted by the a student organization within the College of Law called the Corporate and Business Law Association. Founded in 2008, the organization was established to enhance law students’ exposure to business, especially as it pertains to law. Founder and President Philip Amoa started the organization to aid law students interested in alternate career paths.

“I found that there were a number of law students that wanted to work in business,” Amoa said. “One of the purposes for this organization was to provide them with more opportunities.”

For Johannesen, a law education is excellent preparation for a myriad of careers.

“A law degree teaches you how to process information and how to think in ways that is not realized in other educational disciplines,” Johannesen said. “You’re looking at things from a perspective and angle that a non-lawyer would not consider.”