MLaw student receives a Fellowship in Refugee and Asylum Law


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Dexter native Jamila Odeh had plenty of opportunities in her childhood and teens to spend time in the great outdoors. “I especially love camping and backpacking, and studying the environment was a special way for me to keep engaging with those interests,” says Odeh, who went on to earn her undergrad degree in environmental studies from Amherst College in Massachusetts.

Her second undergrad focus was Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought. “I started taking classes and fell in love with the topics,” she says. “It was a unique way to think about the interaction of law in the world, and I think it gave me a good foundation for law school.”

After graduating, Odeh spent three years working for the Boston Bar Association, first as a front desk receptionist, and then as assistant for the Executive Director, and learned about different practice areas.

 “It was a wonderful job, and I got to learn a lot about the practice of law before deciding to come to law school,” she says. “I was able to advocate for funding for Civil Legal Aid in the state of Massachusetts, and I worked with civil legal services attorneys in Boston. The work they do is amazing, and I found myself interested in learning to help people in the same way. I came to law school hoping to be able to work closely with clients, as they do, when I graduate.”

Now in her 2L year at Michigan School of Law, Odeh’s favorite part of MLaw is spending time with her classmates. “They are all wonderful people,” she says. “I’ve made a lot of friends here, and I love being a part of this community.

 “And I grew up in Dexter, so I’ve always loved Michigan football. It’s been so much fun to attend all the home games—Go Blue!”

Last summer, Odeh’s strong background in environmental science was of huge value for her internship with the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago, where she worked on projects related to a variety of environmental issues.
 “It was a fun way to spend the summer,” she says. “It’s a mid-west based organization, and it was really cool for me to work on environmental issues that are so close to home. It was rewarding to see how technical and scientific knowledge is applicable to legal work.”

A recipient of a Fellowship through the 2018 Program in Refugee and Asylum Law, Odeh will head to Toronto this coming summer to work at the Refugee Law Office, Legal Aid Ontario, helping clients apply for refugee status in Canada.

 “I’m really looking forward to it,” she says. “I took International Refugee Law this past semester, and it was great to learn about this field. I’m looking forward to learning more in practice, and in particular I’m excited to work with clients over the summer.”

Odeh serves as an Associate Editor for the Michigan Law Review, and also as president of the Cultural Heritage Law Society. “The organization is focused on legal issues around important cultural objects, for example art and museum law,” she explains. “In undergrad, I volunteered as a student docent at the fine arts museum, and when I lived in Boston, I volunteered with the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Cultural Heritage Law Society has been a very fun way for me to keep thinking about art, archeology, and preservation of historic places while I’ve been in school.”

Odeh, whose goal after graduation is to work as a civil legal services attorney in Michigan, volunteers with the Public Benefits Advocacy Project, helping people apply for benefits.

Last year, she volunteered as an MLaw site leader over spring break with the United Community Housing Coalition, a Detroit organization that works to prevent tax foreclosure. “We were able to meet and work with clients,” she says. “It was a wonderful experience, and I learned a lot about tax foreclosure, which is a really complex and important issue.” 

Although Odeh is the first person in her family to attend Michigan Law, seven of her aunts and uncles and both of her parents attended Michigan for undergrad. Her mother is a “triple Wolverine,” with a PhD in biology, who now works for the National Institute of Health.

Odeh currently makes her home in Ann Arbor, where she enjoys running in her leisure time. “I ran cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track when I was in undergrad, and I’ve been able to keep running while I’ve been in law school—it’s the perfect break from studying,” she says. “I’ve also had the chance to do a little cross country skiing in the winter, it’s a ton of fun.”



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