Dual degree student sees 'global' value of program

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Mariyah Ali’s love for sociology and social justice developed when she first started her undergraduate degree at Canada’s Simon Fraser University.

“I took my first sociology class and I remember this sense of relief that washed over me,” she said. “For so many years I was looking for an explanation to understand my position and experiences in society as a Pakistani, Indian and Canadian woman. The sociology courses I took allowed me to engage meaningfully in the discourse that seeks to unpack the experiences of South Asian diaspora.” By her early teens, Ali already knew she wanted to be a lawyer.

“Before that, I told myself I wanted to be a journalist, but I found myself fascinated with the law — so much so that in my junior and senior year in high school, instead of having a spare block to study, I took the same law course twice because I enjoyed learning about the law so much,” she said.

Ali is now a 2L student in the dual degree program offered by Detroit Mercy Law and the University of Windsor and will be graduating next year.

“I think having a dual degree is really valuable in our globalized world,” she says. “So many businesses in many industries have cross-border relationships that need to be maintained. “Being able to practice both in Canada and the U.S. not only eases the minds of clients and employers, but also provides more job opportunities for dual students like myself.” 

Ali particularly appreciates Detroit Mercy Law’s emphasis on clinical experience.

“After experiencing an externship placement this past summer, I can say with full certainty that these are the experiences that shape and guide us into our hopefully very long careers as lawyers,” she said.

Last summer through the law school’s externship program, Ali externed at the Legal Aid and Defender Association (LADA) in Detroit.

“I had a really incredible experience and learned a lot of valuable tools in advocating for disadvantaged and marginalized communities,” she said. “Even though the experience was virtual, it was challenging and rewarding to be able to work on a variety of cases ranging from family law cases, to public benefit hearings and appeals.” 

During the LADA externship, Ali and some of her classmates created a law club called the “Human Rights Law Association Windsor” (HRLAW).

“We strongly believe in the importance of an outlet for students at the University to be able to freely participate in activism for a variety of human rights issues taking place locally and internationally,” she said. “Through our club, we’re able to address the need for consistent and active use of our platforms as law students, and to advocate for political and socio-legal issues affecting disadvantaged, marginalized, and disenfranchised communities.”

Ali’s short-term goal is to secure a summer student position with a full-service firm.

“I think these larger firms provide really amazing training and opportunities to learn more about a variety of topics in any given sub-field,” she said. “My long-term goals encompass values that are very important to me, and more than anything I want to make a career out of being an empathetic and compassionate lawyer.

“These elements I find are greatly lacking in the larger picture, and without those qualities, we hinder our ability to support the client and our rapidly changing world. I know these traits will be assets to my successful journey.”

Last fall’s semester, during the pandemic, was probably one of the hardest in her entire academic career, she noted.

“I know many of my peers feel the same,” Ali said. “In any normal semester we attended lectures by guest speakers, and a variety of law club events, law formals and more.

“Unfortunately, not having our law community and our law school support systems has just led to a massive burnout and screen fatigue. After three weeks off over the winter break, I felt rested and ready to take on the semester.”

Some of that relaxation includes hiking, cooking, traveling (although the pause button on that is hit during the pandemic) and painting — specifically acrylic pouring, a technique where acrylic paint is mixed with some type of pouring medium and then poured onto a surface in a variety of ways.

Ali previously has volunteered with the Pakistani-Canadian Women’s Society, helping with events such as a dialogue on mental health with elders of the Pakistani community, and the Pakistan Day Festival that happens every year and allows community members to learn more about Pakistani culture.

A Canadian native from Vancouver, British Columbia, Ali comes from a very large family.

“My parents are my biggest supporters,” she said, “and I’m very grateful to have such a wonderful partner, who cheers me on.”

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