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Michael Johnston ‘77

Legal Eagle Says ‘Lose the Executive Mentality.’

By Donna Parker

“The person who gets the coffee and takes out the trash is me. I also vacuum the floor on Fridays.  There is no job that is beneath anybody.”

These are the thoughts of Super Lawyer (Texas Monthly 2005 & 2006) Michael Johnston, also recognized in Who’s Who in American Law and licensed to practice before the United States Supreme Court.  It doesn’t take long to realize that Michael, who heads up the Johnston Legal Group, PC, with offices in four Texas cities, not only argues for equality in court as a litigator, but practices what he preaches in ‘real’ life.

“It’s the same thing I would tell graduating seniors today—they need to lose their executive mentality because the vast majority of anyone’s success comes from others who have sacrificed for them.  We should never think we’re better than anyone else, consequently treating the person who empties your trash the same as you’d treat the CEO of a corporation,” says Michael.

Johnston earned his law degree from Baylor University where he was Associate Editor of their Law Review and also interned at Oppenheimer Associates in San Antonio.  He prepared briefs for a young attorney named Kelleher and frequently politely asked the secretary, Colleen to type those briefs.  Kelleher—Herb—went on to found Southwest Airlines and Colleen C. Barrett is now the President of Southwest. 

“You never know what the future holds and you do yourself a big disadvantage if you hold yourself more important.  Success is 80% hard work, 10% knowledge and 10% luck.  Education is worthless without understanding that hard work is the most important.”

Along with hard work, Michael has found time to adopt an elementary school in Ft. Worth, where most school students live in housing projects.   He helps fund raise for school equipment, such as computers and each year provides new shoes for each student. 

“I identify with those children.  I came from a very modest family.  I hear educators say that children who are socio-economically challenged cannot do as well in school.  I’d heard that applied to me as a child, so as an adult, I set about to prove that wrong.”

“Trinity was actually the place where people began to look at me for who I could become, as opposed to who I was.  Professors such as Guy Ransom, the Chairman of the Religion Department, served as a guiding light for me.  He taught me how to deal with ethical issues in a smart manner.  Also, Terry Smart and Tucker Gibson in the history and political science departments opened my eyes to new perspective on world and political issues.”

Michael says his greatest achievement in life has been surviving two children growing through their teen years with no major injuries or arrests!  Daughter Elizabeth, 24 is now in law school at Texas Wesleyan and son Phillip is a student at TCU.

But Michael also cites the time he tried a case in federal court just two years out of law school and armed only with a magic marker and his briefcase, went  up against numerous experienced litigators from Ford Motor Credit, with ‘all sorts of audio visuals’ to support their case—sort of a Davy and Goliath situation.

Michael won. 

“Many people from Trinity invested time, energy and money in me and made me realize that very little of what I have is a result of my efforts, but rather the tremendous generosity of those people.”

Michael may be contacted through his website at:

www.txinslaw.com