Spring/Summer 2023


Alumna Establishes International Scholarship for LLM Students

Elaine Johnston, LLM ’87
Elaine Johnston, LLM ’87, and her daughter.

Northern Ireland-born Elaine Johnston, LLM ’87, is an accomplished antitrust lawyer with a résumé full of high-profile cases under her belt. She credits Michigan Law with helping to forge her career path—and intends to pay it forward through a new scholarship that will benefit international students. 

Johnston thinks of the law as her “first love.” After obtaining her law degree from the University of Cambridge, she initially trained as an accountant and even considered pursuing an MBA. Eventually her affinity for legal matters won out, and she decided to come to the United States to pursue an LLM degree. She earned a Fulbright Scholarship, which covered her travel and living expenses but not her tuition. “Michigan not only accepted me but gave me a full fee scholarship, which was just incredible to me,” she says. “I had a really fabulous experience. I loved the school, really enjoyed getting to know both my fellow LLMs and also a number of the JD students, many of whom I’m still in touch with. I’ve always felt the school was really good to me.” 

In gratitude for her time at the Law School, Johnston recently established the Mary Elaine Johnston Scholarship Fund, which will provide support to LLM students. She hopes to give a boost to international students who are unable to access traditional financial aid while studying in the United States. Johnston has given steadily since her graduation, but she seeded the new fund with a larger contribution in honor of her 35th reunion. 

Two antitrust law classes during her LLM experience served as the turning point for Johnston’s career. She credits Thomas E. Kauper, the Henry M. Butzel Professor Emeritus of Law, as well as an independent research assignment on extraterritorial jurisdiction, for stoking her interest in the field. “Professor Kauper was one of the best professors I've ever had, and I really loved his classes,” Johnston says. “The LLM had a very significant impact on my career because it got me back into law and into a practice area that wasn't necessarily on my radar when I arrived in Ann Arbor.” 

Johnston lives with her wife, Mary Jacobs, in New York, where she acts as head of the US antitrust practice and co-head of the global antitrust practice at Allen & Overy LLP. Although based in the US, she has no shortage of international clients and is particularly experienced in coordinating US, European, and other foreign antitrust clearances on complex cross-border deals. Widely regarded as an expert in her field, she handles matters across a range of industries, including chemicals, pharmaceuticals, health care, oil and gas, engineering, financial services, and agricultural products. She also maintains an active practice before the US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. In finding this specialized area of the law, she has been able to bridge her interest in both the legal and business worlds. 

Although Johnston has found success in her field, she hopes that more opportunities will open for women in the law. “Being a woman is something I’ve had to navigate professionally. When I made partner, I think there were around a hundred partners at my prior firm in New York, only seven of whom were women. I made partner along with another woman, which was basically a 30 percent increase through the promotion of two women,” she says. “The numbers are better today, but there are still very few women in law firm leadership. I think that's an area where we could see improvement throughout the profession.” 

For Johnston, the Law School was a significant influence in shaping the decision-making that led to her successful and fulfilling career. She hopes that the next generation of LLMs will benefit as she has. “I can say in all honesty that year I spent in Michigan completely changed my life, both personally and professionally.”