Chicago-Kent Student Johnny Derogene Named Sole Recipient of 2019 AFL-CIO Fellowship



By Jacqueline Seaberg

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Chicago-Kent Student Johnny Derogene Named Sole Recipient of 2019 AFL-CIO Fellowship

Johnny Derogene, a May 2019 graduate of Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Institute of Technology, has been selected for a one-year fellowship with the AFL-CIO’s legal department in Washington, D.C. 

Each year the AFL-CIO’s legal department awards only one fellowship to a graduating law student or a recent judicial law clerk. Derogene is the first student from Chicago-Kent to be awarded this fellowship. 

“We are very excited for Johnny,” says Professor Martin Malin, co-director of Chicago-Kent’s Institute for Law and the Workplace. “This is the most competitive and prestigious position a new law school graduate interested in union-side labor law can get. Johnny competed against judicial law clerks and students from so-called elite law schools from all over the country.”

During his fellowship, Derogene will work with experienced union attorneys around the country on labor law matters and legislation involving the National Labor Relations Act.

“Unions are important because they make sure that families can support themselves, that people can’t be terminated for trivial reasons,” he says. 

Derogene graduated cum laude with a B.A. in political science and philosophy from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, where he was a student of the college’s honors program. 

Derogene always knew he wanted to become an attorney. Through his college’s pre-law program, he heard about Chicago-Kent’s Pre-Law Undergraduate Scholars Program, which is designed to prepare students from underrepresented groups to succeed in law school and the legal profession.

“As a rising senior in college, I participated in the PLUS Program at Chicago-Kent, and it truly introduced me to law school,” he says. “It gave me an opportunity to take real law classes taught by actual Chicago-Kent law professors. I liked the professors and the school’s environment. After that three-week-long program, in 2014, I knew that I wanted to come back to Chicago-Kent for law school. And I did!”

During law school, Derogene worked as an extern for the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago, as a summer law clerk for the labor and employment law firm of Baum Sigman Auerbach & Neuman Ltd., and as a clerk for Service Employees International Union, Local 73. He also volunteered for the United States Department of State’s Office of Civil Rights through the Virtual Student Federal Service program and worked as a summer intern for the Honorable Judge Matthew Kennelly, a judge in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. 

In addition to his J.D., Derogene will earn a certificate in Litigation and Alternative Dispute Resolution and a certificate in Labor and Employment Law from Chicago-Kent. He served as a student editor for Chicago-Kent’s Illinois Public Employee Relations Report, as an executive associate editor for the Chicago-Kent Journal of Intellectual Property Law, and as an associate editor for the Chicago-Kent Journal of International and Comparative Law. He earned a CALI Award for the highest grade in his Labor Law Externship class and is a mentor with the Black Law Students Association’s 1L student mentorship program. 

After the fellowship he would like to join a union as an assistant general counsel or a law firm as an associate attorney to continue advocating for workers’ rights.

Derogene was born in Haiti, and he is fluent in Haitian Creole and French. During his free time he enjoys biking, working out, and cooking Caribbean food.  

Tristan Kirvin, program associate for the Institute for Law and the Workplace, contributed to this article.