Corporate law student seeks to impact Detroit community

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Involved in his family’s commercial real estate business from a young age, Basem Younis learned early on that he had an affinity for numbers. He went on to earn an undergrad degree in accounting and finance from Wayne State University, remaining a Wayne Warrior for JD and MBA studies.

His parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon and Syria in pursuit of an American education and the American Dream, always emphasized that education is a powerful and essential tool for nurturing positive change in society.
“They taught me higher education is an avenue to access the type of opportunities that would allow me to help nurture the communities that helped nurture me,” Younis says.

“My undergraduate career helped me realize small businesses are catalysts for thriving communities, as it had proven to be for my parents and my community. Given that many business decisions are influenced in some manner by the law, I decided a formal understanding of the law is essential to meaningfully influence the course of businesses.”

Choosing Wayne Law was an easy decision for pursuing a JD/MBA dual degree, he adds.

“Not only does Wayne State have some of the area’s most accomplished professors in both the legal and business fields, they also have some of the most diverse course offerings,” he says. “Wayne Law also offers a strong network and genuine sense of community—I’ve made long-lasting friendships and professional connections during my short time here.”

Younis especially enjoyed his experience in the Business and Community Law Clinic (BCLC) that offers free transactional legal services to organizations in Detroit and underserved areas throughout the state with a mission of increasing equity and creating positive social impact.

“Directly working with clients was rewarding and I completed the semester feeling proud of the impact I had in my capacity as a law student, creating a few key documents that helped further their organization’s mission,” he says.

Over this past summer, Younis found clerking for Judge David J. Allen at the Wayne County Circuit Court to be extremely rewarding.

“I was able to observe court proceedings and strengthen my research and legal writing skills by writing judicial opinions,” he says. “An assignment I was most proud of involved a breach of contract lawsuit in which I was asked to draft a legal opinion that was soon published by court.”

Younis, who primarily focused on corporate and real estate law when selecting courses, initially thought he would end up pursuing transactional work; however, his experience as a law clerk at Hammoud, Dakhlallah, and Associates in Dearborn has piqued his interest towards business and other complex litigation.

The time-management skills he learned in undergrad have helped him balance law school and business school responsibilities as well as extracurricular activities. Prior to law school, he participated in the WSU Mike Ilitch School of Business’s AGRADE program, and the 16 graduate credits completed in undergrad counted towards his MBA.

Those 16 credits helped make room in his schedule for judicial externships, clerkships, and extracurriculars; and he will earn both his JD and MBA in two and half years.

Younis has served as associate editor of the Journal of Business Law; president of the Muslim Law Students Association; law school representative on the WSU Student Senate; and treasurer of the Entrepreneurship and Business Law Society; and was recognized in “2019 Mike Ilitch School of Business 25 under 25,” as a student who “has demonstrated success in academics, leadership, professional development and campus/community service.”

The online law school experience during the pandemic initially threatened to deprive students of connections and community at Wayne Law, he notes.

“Although it took some adjusting at first, and while I’m excited to return to campus this Fall, I’m impressed with the support, camaraderie, and creative collaboration exhibited during this unprecedented and difficult time,” he says. “The relationships I’ve built since the beginning of law school have been a special part of this experience. I credit the early connections I made with my classmates for my success inside and outside the classroom—we’ve studied together, exchanged ideas, challenged one another to work harder, and supported one another both personally and academically.

“I saw the challenges we were all facing as opportunities for creative problem-solving,” he adds. “I found it exciting to learn to navigate new digital platforms like Zoom to host our organization meetings and events, as well as new ways to improve efficiency.”

Elected by the student body to serve on the WSU Student Senate, Younis communicated any learning barriers and other challenges students faced throughout the entirety of the online law school experience.

The Dearborn native notes that after his 2022 graduation, he hopes to contribute to the entrepreneurial momentum in Detroit by working closely with entrepreneurs in navigating the complexities of the legal system and corporate world.
“By serving on the executive board for various student organizations, I became more involved in my community which allowed me to recognize wealth disparities and other inequalities that plague my community,” he says. “My formal knowledge and experience acquired throughout my undergraduate career, combined with the community-centered values I was raised with, have informed my understanding of Detroit’s economic landscape and the ways I hope to contribute to it—stimulating the growth of social enterprise and local economic prosperity.”

The Motor City is special to Younis for a magnitude of reasons but mostly because of the significance it has for his family.

“My father moved to the Cass Corridor when he first landed in Michigan from Lebanon in 1972. I love hearing stories about his early years navigating the city, about how much it has changed, and creating my own memories in the city,” he says. “I enjoy going to coffee shops, marveling at the historic architecture, visiting the art museums, and shopping for local produce at Eastern Market.”

Younis is the youngest of four; his brother, Waseem, is a Wayne Law graduate; sister, Maya is a Detroit Mercy Law graduate; and sister, Lana attends medical school. His mother Dr. Jouhaina Maleh is an OB/GYN, and his father Mahmoud Younis is an engineer and commercial real estate developer.

In his leisure time, Younis enjoys weightlifting, basketball, yoga, cooking, and has been golfing since the age of 11, when his older brother introduced the whole family to the links.

“One of my favorite things to do is to travel with my family and visit historic and unique golf courses around the world,” he says. “Three years ago, we traveled to Scotland to play the Old Course at St. Andrews and earlier this summer we played the course on Pebble Beach in Pebble Beach, California.”



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