Sixteen years ago Edward Martell was a 27-year-old high school dropout with an extensive arrest record and was facing a 20-year drug conviction. The judge presiding over his case could have thrown the book at him but instead gave Martell 3 years probation—and a challenge. Morrow told Martell the next time he stepped into the courtroom, he expected him to have made something of himself—something big.
Martell recalled “He said, ‘I challenge you to be a CEO of a Fortune 500 company instead of being out here selling drugs.” Judge Morrow said in an interview,“It was kind of in jest but he understood I believed he could be anything he wanted to be.”
Martell took the challenge to heart and turned his life around. Fast forward 16 years and Martell is standing in front of Judge Morrow again—only this time, he’s being sworn in as an attorney after passing the Michigan state bar.
Martell’s path wasn’t easy though but he was determined. Since there was a very real possibility that his prior criminal record might scuttle his future plans, as he was completing his GED, Martell’s guidance counselors discouraged him from pursuing a legal career. But he refused to give up. He obtained his associate’s degree and went on to score scholarships for both his undergraduate studies and law school. He then clerked at the District of Columbia’s Federal Public Defender’s office and eventually was hired by the Perkins Law Group as a researcher and writer.
When it came time to take the bar exam, Martell had plenty of supporters in his corner—including Judge Morrow, with whom he’d kept in touch with over the years.
With the help of his law firm mentors, Martell submitted a 1,200-plus page application detailing the steps he’d taken to turn his life around. His approval took only 15 minutes. Now, Martell still has a job with the Perkins Group, only now, he’s a practicing attorney.
Sean Perkins, a former partner at the Perkins Law Group where Martell works, knows both men personally and professionally. “They’re still human beings and Morrow treats them as such” Perkins said. Morrow basked in the happiness of the day Martell was sworn in but he does not take credit for Martell’s success. Both men share a deep faith and credit God with the way their shared story has played out. Morrow said “Most failures are because people who need help never get it. There’s no such thing in my mind as a self-made person.”