Law student served as policy analyst for Detroit City Council


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

After earning her undergrad degree in economics from Michigan State University, Shanika Owens spent four years as a policy analyst for Detroit City Council, an experience that helped her develop a unique skill-set.

“I learned to think critically and to be attentive to detail. I also gained a greater sense of empathy through serving others, particularly those who did not always understand how to assist themselves,” she says.
The job also gave Owens an appreciation for the law.

“It helped that a few of my mentors nudged me to consider a career in law, but my final decision resulted from observing the city’s financial decline,” she explains. “Watching the bankruptcy develop was difficult, but it gave me an opportunity to unpack complex issues. I dealt with the law at work daily and I wanted to better understand the ‘rules of the game’ in order to play the game masterfully. Law school was the perfect way in.”

Now coming to the end of her 2L year at Wayne Law, Owens enjoys the camaraderie amongst her classmates, the school’s supplemental programming, and the alumni engagement that she terms “second to none.”

After being helped throughout her 1L year by the Black Law Students Association support system, she became president in her 2L year to enhance the engagement of BLSA and to provide increased support for members.

“This year we focused on academic preparedness and professional development,” she says. “My greatest joy was in our Black History Month events for the law school where we hosted a panel of African-American judges, a panel of hiring partners, and a community service event at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, among other things.”

Recently elected to the Student Board of Governors as a 3L Day Governor, representing all 3L students, Owens also enjoyed her experience as an Article Editor for the Journal of Law in Society so much that she accepted the Public Relations Director position on the Executive Board of Journal next year.

A summer associate last year at Butzel Long in Detroit, she enjoyed building new relationships and creating lasting bonds with the other members of that class. Her work included helping clients acquire land from the City of Detroit for a multi-million dollar industrial waterfront development.

“I gained experience in multiple practice areas and had the opportunity to learn from brilliant attorneys,” she says. “I enjoyed combining the skills I’d learned in class with my previous professional experience to tackle complex problems.”

Last fall, she did a judicial externship with Judge Avern Cohn at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan – and who, as it turned out, had attended the same elementary school.

“My externship was a treat – Judge Cohn challenged me to make decisions based on the factual scenarios in his cases,” she says. “My favorite time in chambers was during staff lunches with the judge because he would share history about the law and local events.”

Owens is mulling her options for her future career.

“While I’m still charting my path, my background in economics and public policy are pushing me toward the realm of transactional law,” she says.

The Detroit native admires the resilience of the city.

“I’ve always been a fan of the underdog – and Detroit embodies this characteristic,” she says. “No matter the circumstances, Detroit always fights its way through. I appreciate the revitalization that is slowly but surely making its way across the city and I’m proud to say that I can help to shape it.”

Living up to a favorite quote –  “Community service is the price you pay for the space you occupy” – Owens serves as Selections Chair of the New Leaders Council – Detroit Chapter, an organization dedicated to recruiting and training the next generation of young progressive leaders.

“I love it because I have the opportunity to choose from a highly competitive talent pool of young professionals who are committed to changing the region for the better,” she says.

In her leisure time, she enjoys jogging through her neighborhood, biking around Belle Isle, watching MSU sports, swimming at the Downtown YMCA, and playing with her 7-year-old Shih-Tzu/Toy Poodle mix.

“I’ve had him since he was 10 weeks old, and he has the same energy today as he did when I brought him home,” she says.