Second chances are rarely given, so when Ed Martell luckily received one, he knew he had to do the right thing this time.
Ed was sworn in as a lawyer earlier this month, and while this is undoubtedly a significant accomplishment for anyone, making this milestone even more remarkable is his dark past.
As a former drug dealer, this 43-year-old is someone you wouldn’t expect to venture into law enforcement. But he did, and it’s all thanks to one man who inspired him to turn his life around.
16 years go, the then 27-year-old Ed was a high school dropout in Inkster.
“I fell victim to my environment, I guess I could say, and then it became a trend,” he said. “I started hanging around with the wrong crowd, I got intertwined with the drug culture.”
After multiple run-ins with the law, Ed ended up before Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Morrow. He knew the severity of his crime and expected to get a 1 – 20 year prison sentence for selling illegal drugs.
But what he got instead was only three years probation and something else—a dose of inspiration.
Judge Morrow challenged Ed to become a CEO of a Fortune 500 company instead of selling drugs.
And Ed took that challenge to heart. He’s now a lawyer.
“I knew what I wanted to be, but when you come from a place where I came from, I didn’t grow up knowing any attorneys,” he said.
“I was certain my way it took a miracle, God sent that miracle in the form of a judge behind a bench of all places,” he added.
Ed knew he was given a rare opportunity, so he started working towards changing his life. He began by going back to school and enrolling at Wayne County Community College for his associates. Then, he got a full-ride scholarship to law school at the University Detroit-Mercy.
He then shared his story with the character and fitness committee for the State Bar of Michigan. Luckily, they had an open mind and understood that Ed’s past didn’t have to dictate his future. As a result, the committee didn’t block his attempt to become a lawyer despite his past offenses.
And recently, Ed was sworn in by the same person who challenged him all those years ago.
Now, Judge Morrow is more than just a judge to him; Ed considers him his mentor.
“He’s like so many of the other people that come in front of us,” Judge Morrow said. “They are talented, they’re brilliant, they have abilities and skills that, if you were not looking to make people’s lives better and connect with them, you were only going to see the person and the offense that they’re charged with.”
The judge said he had mentored several others before Ed—people who had also come before him in the courtroom. To him, loving everyone is a responsibility.
“I tell them you were sent to me – this isn’t random, you’re not in a place by coincidence, you’re here for a purpose,” he said.
Ed said that if it weren’t for the good judge, he wouldn’t find his purpose and see potential in himself.
Now, Ed is a new lawyer for Perkins Law Group in Downtown Detroit, and he’s excited for what’s ahead of him.
His advice to people who have been in a similar situation is this:
“It doesn’t matter what your past was, it doesn’t even matter what your present situation is, I would say just shoot for the stars,” he said.
Just like how Judge Morrow changed his life, Ed plans to give back to the community and serve as an inspiration to the next generation.
Congratulations, Attorney Ed Martell!