'Ms. JD'

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Jewel Haji is the first in her family to attend law school. She was instrumental in launching a Street Law program and in commissioning a portrait of Circuit Court Judge Denise K. Langford to hang in the halls at Detroit Mercy Law.

 

Detroit Mercy Law grad earns honor as ‘Student of Inspiration’

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

A May graduate from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, Jewel Haji was honored with the Student of Inspiration award from “Ms. JD,” a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to the success of aspiring and early career women lawyers.

“Being named the ‘Ms. JD’ Student of Inspiration is something that still leaves me speechless—something I never imagined being considered for, let alone earning,” Haji says. “I’m so honored to represent women who speak up and work hard to make an impact in society.

“When people earn awards, it’s a call for action—not only does it mean being recognized for past efforts, but also a push to keep doing more. I plan to always work towards advancing the position of women and other underrepresented groups in the legal community and to advocate for social justice.”

Other kudos include induction into Alpha Sigma Nu, a Jesuit honor society of students who are in the top 15 percent of their class and excel in scholarship, loyalty, and service, and induction into the Justice Frank Murphy Honor Society for being in the top 10 percent of her class while making contributions by way of involvement in Law Review and Student Bar Association.

An alumna of Grand Valley State University, where serving as a Student Senator sparked her interest in a law career, Haji enjoyed interning as an investigative analyst at the Office of the Inspector General in Grand Rapids. After undergrad, she worked as a paralegal at The Lobb Law Firm in Huntington Woods before starting law school.

A participant in the Wolverine Bar Judicial Externship Program, a program for students of ethnic minorities, she spent part of her summer after 1L interning for Judge Terrence G. Berg in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, then clerked at Sommers Schwartz in Southfield.

In early 2018, she worked as a student attorney during the inaugural semester of the Federal Pro Se Legal Assistance Clinic in Detroit, and later wrote an article about the clinic’s work.

After her 2L year, Haji spent three months as a summer associate at Honigman in Detroit, where she attended court proceedings, sat in on mediations, assisted attorneys in preparing for depositions and other hearings, while engaging in extensive research and writing assignments.

“My time at Honigman was rewarding in many ways and challenged me to be the best version of myself possible,” she says. “Above all, I was able to build lasting relationships with people I look up to in the profession. The firm is filled with talent. The mentor-friendly atmosphere and encouraging culture make it a place I’m grateful to be part of and I look forward to joining the litigation department.”

Haji threw herself into law school activities, serving as the Wayne Region liaison for the Women’s Law Caucus, 1L class president and 3L class vice president, executive secretary for the Student Bar Association, and student ambassador. She crowned her membership in Law Review by serving as Editor-in-Chief in her final year.

“This was a true gift,” she says. “The opportunity to help advance the publication and work towards exciting new goals was a law school experience second to none. It was an honor to play a role in hosting the annual Symposium on the topic of Women and the Law, where such relevant dialogue took place. Law Review has a special place in my heart and I’m so happy to see it prosper.” 

As a teaching assistant for Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Torts, and Applied Legal Theory and Analysis I, Haji discovered a passion for assisting others.

“Helping students understand difficult topics was enjoyable because knowledge is one of the most powerful tools we can have, and is something no one can take from us,” she says. “It’s also something we have the ability to share with others. Being a teaching assistant meant working with people and watching the learning process take place. There are few things I value more than learning, which made it a very gratifying experience I hope to have again.”

Along with a few colleagues, Haji started a Street Law program, where law students visit schools to present on legal topics and serve as mentors to high school students.

She also helped commission the portrait of alumna and Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Denise K. Langford Morris on International Women’s Day, the first portrait of a woman to hang in the halls at Detroit Mercy Law. Painted by Detroit artist Henry Heading, the portrait was a gift from Law Review, Black Law Students Association (BLSA), Women’s Law Caucus and the Student Bar Association.

“I dream of seeing more portraits of women in the future,” Haji says.

She makes time for her involvement in local bar associations, including The Detroit Bar Association, Women Lawyers Association of Michigan, and Oakland County Bar Association. In May, she was named WLAM-Wayne Member of the Month.

A Madison Heights native and graduate of Lamphere High School, Haji is the youngest of five children of Chaldean immigrants and the first in her family to attend law school. When not busy with law-related activities, she spends much of her time with family and friends.

“My family is why I am where I am today,” she says. “My parents, three older brothers, and older sister have supported me in ways I cannot describe. They are not only the reason I’ve achieved my goals, but the reason I even set the goals. I strive to forever make them proud.”

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