Detroit Mercy Law student enjoys dual U.S./Canadian degree program


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Although Maha Mansour knew from an early age she wanted to be a lawyer, she first spent several years in the banking field.

“I loved that I could never run out of new people to meet or things to learn,” she says. “In 8 years I was able to work in five different positions and many more informal roles. I was able to work across sectors such as home equity financing, information technology, process optimization, and corporate management and strategy. As long as you’re driven, and willing to put in the work, the potential is limitless.

“I got distracted from my goal because I really enjoyed working there—but after many years and a lot of success, I still felt like I had another calling.”

Browsing law school information during a lunch break, she was excited to come across the dual U.S./Canadian program offered by Detroit Mercy Law and the University of Windsor. Fearing her chances were a long shot, Mansour took the LSAT and applied to the program—but kept mum about it.

A few months went by without hearing anything—until the day she received an envelope with the program logo.

“I opened it with shaking hands—I couldn’t believe my eyes when I found out I was accepted,” she says.

“When the reality had set in, I was torn about leaving my banking career behind, but my friends and family encouraged me and reminded me it’s never too late to pursue your dreams. I’ve never looked back.”

Now a 2L student, the Canadian resident is enjoying the dual U.S./Canadian degree program, and seeing the differences and similarities of how each country has adopted the law and adapted it to the evolving needs of its society.

“It’s extremely challenging which always keeps me motivated to work twice as hard, and gives me an immense feeling of accomplishment,” she says.

As a member of the school’s Moot Court, she loves the thrill of oral argument.

“The competitiveness of it, the pressure of having to think quickly on your feet and be prepared for anything, gets my heart pumping,” she says.

Mansour was the recipient of the Judith V. Ford Memorial Scholarship.

“The timing could not have been better,” she says. “I feel very blessed and grateful for the generosity of others. Initially I was just so relieved to be getting some financial help, but once I learned more about the late Ms. Ford I was honored to be recognized as someone who’s walking in her footsteps.”

Mansour has nothing but praise for the law school experience.

“The people are incredible – everyone from the faculty, to the front office, career services, book store, library, cafeteria staff and throughout is so welcoming and helpful,” she says. “You will never walk through the school without someone having said hello and genuinely ask about how you’re doing.”

She terms last summer’s position as a law clerk at the Attorney’s General’s Office in Detroit as the best law school experience to date.

“I learned a lot by going to court, reading transcripts, writing memos and briefs, and connecting with the Detroit legal community,” she says. “Mr. (Ron) Robinson, my supervisor and assistant A.G., is an amazing role model. He created a fun learning environment where the door was always open, and you were encouraged to ask questions and debate ideas.”

Other highlights of her summer clerkship included meeting Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette at the annual ice cream social and going to Belle Isle during the Grand Prix.

Her undergraduate degree in psychology, from York University in Toronto, should prove useful in her chosen career.

“After taking an introductory course, I was completely captivated—I was fascinated by the study of people, and the diversity of thought, behavior and personality,” she says.

“I think this will serve me as a lawyer, because you must have the capacity to understand people’s perspectives and anticipate how they might respond in a certain situation. Whether it’s your client, your team, an adversary, or a judge, knowing how to work well with people earns you the trust, respect, and co-operation of others.”

Mansour, who has landed a summer position with the Toronto firm of Norton Rose Fulbright, has a simple career goal in mind after next year’s graduation.

“I want to become a trusted advocate for my clients, a dependable colleague to my peers, and to give back to the community through pro bono work,” she says.

She believes in the importance of community involvement, whether at work or at school.

“Over the last year I’ve really enjoyed connecting with the Detroit community by volunteering at the Pope Francis Centre, and I’ve also enjoyed working with the undergraduate community of law school-hopefuls at Windsor,” she says.

Born in Sudan, Mansour grew up in the United Arab Emirates. While she counts her Canadian hometown as Newmarket, Ontario—a few miles north of Toronto—she currently makes her home in Windsor and commutes between the two law schools.

She credits her parents as role models for her career success. Her father, a family doctor in Toronto, gave up his position as a hospital chief of staff in the Middle East to bring his family to Canada, and worked as a gas station attendant while studying to earn medical credentials in Canada. Her mother gave up her career as a pharmacist to raise Mansour and her older brother.

“Both of my parents have been an inspiration in my life, especially when faced with the decision to give up a career I worked hard for, in order to pursue a bigger dream,” she says.

Outside of her studies, Mansour loves to travel, explore different cultures and cuisines, watch movies, concerts and theatre shows, and shop. She also enjoys spending time with friends and family.

“The love of my life is my nephew Kai who’s brought so much joy to our family since he came into our lives 2 years and 6 months ago,” she says.