Duty bound: Law student plans to help working class Americans

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News
   
Wayne State University Law School 3L student Elaina Bailey was drawn to study law by her desire to help working class people.

Working in management at Target, she realized she wanted to spend her days fighting for the rights of workers like those who worked with her at the retail chain. At first, she mulled human resources as a career, but then realized she could have a larger impact on the lives of American workers by pursuing a career in law.

At Wayne Law, she found her other passion with the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Team. Last year, the team became the Midwest Regional Champion and received the Best Memorial Reward at the Regional Competition in Chicago. Moving on to international rounds held in Washington, D.C., the squad placed 31st out of 132 teams and the memorial received the award for 16th best in the world.

This past summer, Bailey received the Freeman Fellowship sponsored by Wayne Law’s Program for International Legal Studies that funded three weeks at The Hague Academy of International Law, adjacent to the Peace Palace and home to the International Court of Justice.

“I met students, scholars, and practitioners from all over the world, and the sessions were taught by the mostly highly regarded professors and by justices of the International Court of Justice,” says Bailey, who also enjoyed visiting four countries in four weeks. “I’ve brought what I learned at the academy back home and can’t wait to showcase my skills at the upcoming Regional Jessup Competition in February,” she says.

At Wayne Law, Bailey appreciates the opportunities students have to go out into the community and gain real life experience; and also appreciates the strong alumni network.

“Alumni remember how hard they and their peers worked while studying here,” she says. “I’ve found all our alumni are enthusiastic about hiring our graduates.”

Bailey spent the fall semester interning two days a week for Judge Avern Cohn at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

“I applied because I wanted to work on my writing skills—and I wasn’t disappointed,” she says. “The career clerk, Kim Altman, worked closely with me to strengthen my writing abilities.”

Her favorite part was working directly with the judge.

“Judge Cohn is the most intellectually curious man I ever met,” she says. “He also has a sly humor which kept the days fun. The experience has been one of the highlights of my legal education.”

Previously an editorial assistant to Professor Gregory Fox, director of the Program for International Legal Studies at Wayne Law, Bailey now serves as senior editor for Michigan International Lawyer, the journal of the State Bar of Michigan’s International Law Section.

“These experiences have helped me to become a better legal writer,” she says. “I value the experience I’ve gained from these opportunities.”

Bailey spent six months working for Goodman & Hurwitz PC in Detroit.

“Bill Goodman and Julie Hurwitz are civil rights leaders and living legends, and I’m honored to have learned from them,” she says.

For the past year, she has been clerking at the Law Offices of Bryan Yaldou PLLC, a Brownstown firm that practices employment law and particularly focuses on Fair Labor Standards Act cases.

“My main focuses are researching and writing. I’ve spent the last year drafting pleadings, motions, and other documents for the court,” she says. “I love my job—it’s rewarding to work on the side of workers. This position has helped me realize that vindicating workers’ rights is what I want to do after graduation, in private practice or in the governmental sector, shaping a more just reality for working class Americans.

“I believe the legal profession should not be about how many hours you can bill or how nice of a car you can buy, but that legal professionals have a very special opportunity to shape society and a duty to do so in a way that is just and good for those with less power.”

Bailey and her husband Adam live in Taylor, where they enjoy walking their dog, Emmy, and taking bike rides.

“Adam supports me with unconditional love and honestly, I would never have clean laundry without his help. Having his support has helped me chase my dreams,” she says.

A member of a large family, Bailey also enjoys watching the latest movies with her parents, who live close by. Her mother, Serena, a Marine Corps veteran who then worked as a pipefitter for 12 years, is Bailey’s role model.

“She went back to school later in life and now has an MBA and works as a financial analyst for Ford Motor Company,” Bailey says. “She was one of the first in our family to receive a college education and has inspired me to pursue education.”