Dan Johnson (J.D. ’19) didn’t have a college credit to his name when he decided to go to law school. He was a 40-year-old single father, had just given up drinking and had spent the previous 20 years managing restaurants. Johnson’s life was coming together, underscored by the fact that he met Crystal, the woman who would become his wife.
Johnson finished his undergraduate political science degree at Kennesaw State University in three years. He married Crystal and gained four sons as well. When the time came to apply to law school he knew where he wanted to go.
“I chose Georgia State Law because of its reputation, location to downtown, tuition, and the part-time program that allowed me to continue working while going to school,” said Johnson.
Johnson admits he underestimated the rigors of law school. He quickly found support in new friends at school and found his momentum. Along with his family, this new community would become invaluable in a way no one could have expected.
His 2L year brought great tragedy when he and his wife suffered the death of their two oldest sons, Deacon and Garrett, at the hands of an intoxicated driver.
“Our entire world crumbled,” he said. “Family came to stay with us, friends reached out to help us, and friends and faculty from school came together and helped lift us up.”
Determined to make his boys proud, he postponed his exams, but didn’t stop coming to school.
“GSU was incredibly supportive and allowed me to find my way back from incredible tragedy.”
He interned for Assurant, Inc. that summer. He worked in the privacy office, focusing on the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a law that is now in effect in Europe. What he didn’t know is that he would end up loving individual data privacy law, a growing concern and developing area of law in the digital age.
He excelled, attributing much of his learning experience to his boss. “She has been very encouraging and gives me the ability to learn,” Johnson said. “She includes me in the processes, from beginning to end, and allows me to take on more responsibilities.”
It also gave him something to focus on. He’s looking to continue in this field after graduation.
“I like the newness of it. GDPR represents a new approach to protecting personal information. It covers everything: ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Companies are now charged with actually keeping that information private, and in terms of the ramifications of data breaches, there’s teeth to the regulations.”
Johnson is grateful for all the people who have helped him on his journey, especially his wife who he attributes much of his perseverance.
“I’ve had to learn who I am all over again, and there is a sense of fear that comes with that. My wife grounds me, and my kids, Walker, Natalie and Ryder, remind me of what’s important in life.”
Written by Cat Gavrilidis