Law professor aims to help students develop their 'analytical skills'

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By Linda Laderman
Legal News

Attorney and University of Detroit Mercy School of Law professor Florise Neville-Ewell uses her enthusiasm for teaching to touch people in and out of the classroom.

Determined to help consumers understand the intricacies of real estate law, Neville-Ewell is reaching out to potential homeowners through the introduction of her consumer-oriented program, the Flo-Folder.

Neville-Ewell’s initiative is an instructive program that began as a book but morphed into a consumer-oriented tool.

“The Flo-Folder is dedicated to people from New Orleans who lost their homes and documents, to people in every economic group who have been duped by con-artists, to people who may have made a different decision before they lost their homes but could not because they just didn’t understand what to do, to seniors whose families will otherwise be unaware of what they own, and to those who dream about becoming homeowners but do not know where to start,” Neville-Ewell said.

“This was originally meant to be a traditional academic text, but now many more participants are involved,” Neville-Ewell said. ”I am working with nonprofits and realtors to teach them how to use the program to educate consumers and agents. Neville-Ewell is looking forward to making Flo-Folder an effective device for its target audience.

“How do we increase home ownership in the middle class when people are clueless about real estate?” Neville-Ewell said. “The 2008 recession put an irreparable dent in the American dream. We have to find a way to restore that.”

A Chicago native, Neville-Ewell has been working with and for Detroiters since her graduation from Yale Law School in 1984, when she came to Detroit to clerk for United States District Court Judge Julian A. Cook Jr., Eastern District of Michigan.

Since 1990, Neville-Ewell has taught contracts, ethics and property to law students at Wayne State University Law School, Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School, and most recently, at Detroit Mercy Law.

In February, Neville-Ewell accepted a two-year extension of her position at Detroit Mercy Law.

“I was just visiting for a year at Detroit Mercy but was offered the opportunity to stay on for an additional two years,” Neville-Ewell said. “I tremendously enjoy my time working in the classroom.”

Neville-Ewell finds that teaching provides her with an opportunity to motivate law students to be excited about their future profession.

“The most rewarding thing is not only to teach our students well, but to also help them develop analytical skills – to be passionate about what we do as lawyers,” Neville-Ewell said.

“I feel like I have been very blessed so it is an honor to teach and pass it on because it was passed on to me,” Neville-Ewell said. “I was socialized to believe that I had a responsibility to benefit the community.”

During her three decades in Detroit, Neville-Ewell has informed her teaching with real world experience in real estate law and related affordable housing issues.

“When I came to Detroit I had an interest in real estate law, particularly in the fact that, as a city, Detroit had the largest number of single-family homeowners. This was a phenomena to me,” Neville-Ewell said.

In addition to her professorial responsibilities, Neville-Ewell has served as the chair of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and as general counsel for the Detroit Housing Commission.

“I started to integrate my experiences with the Michigan Housing Development Authority into my teaching,” Neville-Ewell said. “I have always been an advocate for educating people.”

As a young child Neville-Ewell’s environment was infused with respect for teaching and the rule of law. Her father, who was an attorney, died when she was 3 years old.

“Right before my father died my mother had just accepted an offer to teach,” Neville-Ewell, one of six children, said. “It was an incredibly fortuitous event.”
From her parents, Neville-Ewell also learned the value of giving back to the community.

“My father and mother were very involved in the community,” Ewell said. “I grew up witnessing to whom much is given, much is expected.”

Neville-Ewell, and her husband Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Edward Ewell Jr., have dedicated their professional lives to the city of Detroit.

“My husband and I are very supportive of each other. For the most part he is my best buddy,” Neville-Ewell said. “He went to litigation and I went to practice, but the one thing we agree on is what good are we if we don’t help other people?”