A partner in the law firm McLane, Graf, Raulerson & Middleton, Johnson is chair of the firm’s Employment Law Practice Group and its Education Law Group, a long way from the support positions she held early on. One of those positions, as a legal secretary for the late attorney Augustine “Gus” McDonough, led her to an estate planning class at Rivier, which led to additional classes in the paralegal studies program—all with encouragement and financial support from her boss.
She was able to complete the Rivier program in four years through a combination of evening and day classes and graduated in 1981 as valedictorian of her class.
By that time, Johnson knew she would attend law school, encouraged by both her boss and by the late Rivier instructor Margaret Flynn (in whose honor Johnson later established a scholarship). She graduated from the Boston University School of Law in 1984, after which she taught classes in advanced civil litigation at Rivier, and in 1988 was elected treasurer of the New Hampshire Bar Association, its first-ever female officer.
In 1992, Johnson joined the McLane firm, where some early work involved education clients. Her practice areas extended to employment law in addition to education law, and she began to earn honors from her peers in areas such as civil rights, children’s advocacy and gender equity.
Her work at McLane includes assisting clients in keeping current with workplace regulation laws and with helping leaders and employees in both corporate and educational settings distinguish boundaries and standards of behavior in a society where rules change quickly and can be different within work and school settings than they are outside. “Our efforts are not just responsive, in the sense of defending litigated matters,” she says, “they are also geared to be very proactive in helping businesses to stay informed and develop practical strategies to understand and implement necessary changes.” She is an in-demand speaker on these subjects, representing her firm before students, employers and professional associations throughout New Hampshire.
Johnson has served on Rivier’s board of trustees for several years, both earlier in her career and now, since 2006. “I see my role as assisting the board to help the school continue the same good programs, school culture and governance that has been its strength through the years,” she says. “The board and school administration are constantly forward thinking about where the school is now, and where it should be going in the near- and longer-term future.”
“I am living my dream,” says Johnson, and she considers her time attending Rivier as integral to both her professional and personal development. “I didn't just attend classes there,” she says. “The mission and culture of Rivier of being dedicated to transforming hearts and minds to serve the world has become a part of whom I am. I hope I am living that mission in my own life.”