Reaching high: Rock climber aims for a career in the law


Law student Jewel Haji, is a passionate rock climber and climbed Mount Lemmon in Arizona.

Photos courtesy of Jewel Haji

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Serving as a freshman Student Senator at Grand Valley State University sparked Jewel Haji’s interest in a legal career.

“This was a time where I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, and found I was drawn to law and policy,” she says. “I dreamt about a career that would challenge me every day, which is what led me to selecting legal studies and political science as my majors, with the goal of ending up in law school.

“I knew I wanted to be in a career where I could make a difference, big or small. A legal degree is so versatile—with my J.D., I’ll be able to enter the workforce with an analytical skill set comparable to none, and it will help me to accomplish anything I put my mind to.”

Before law school, Haji gained legal experience as a paralegal at The Lobb Law Firm in Huntington Woods and as an investigative analyst at the Office of the Inspector General in Grand Rapids.

“What I enjoyed most about those positions was that I was continually facing complex issues,” she says. “While the work was unexpectedly challenging at times, it pushed me to exert myself and learn more.”

Haji, who started at Detroit Mercy Law in 2016, has interests in practice areas such as civil rights law, securities law, and environmental law, but is open to learning about other areas.

“I aim to try new things and to be willing to gain insight on topics I know little about,” she says.

A participant in the Wolverine Bar Judicial Externship Program, a program for students of ethnic minorities, she spent the first half of summer interning for Judge Terrence G. Berg in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

“I enjoyed the opportunity to learn from such talented individuals,” she says. “The people that work in Judge Berg’s chambers are extraordinary. They helped me through my tasks and taught me lessons along the way, and I feel lucky to have had the chance to work alongside them.”

She spent the second half of summer clerking at Sommers Schwartz in Southfield, working on a variety of projects.

“All the attorneys made sure to make me feel welcome and to give me substantive work that would aid in my learning of the law,” she says. “I drafted motions, wrote research reports, attended depositions, helped with trial preparation, sat in on client meetings, and much more.”

She enjoys being a member of the Law Review. “The Law Review has challenged me to think harder and to never settle for written work that is anything less than publishable,” she says. “It has not only impacted me in the realm of the Law Review, but also in my classes. I’ve improved as a scholar since writing onto the Law Review, and I hope to continue to grow.”

The Women’s Law Caucus has given her a group of law students with similar goals who can support one another.

“It created a community of people to attend events with, give and receive advice, or simply have lunch with,” she says. “I’ve also appreciated the opportunity to meet and speak with women in the workforce who can shed light on the reality of being a woman lawyer.”

The communications aspect of her role as Student Bar Association Executive Secretary provides an opportunity to encounter many new faces. “It has helped to refine my communication skills and professionalism,” she says.
“Working with people from all the student organizations and class levels has made my experience invaluable.”

Serving as 1L Class President was memorable because of all of the friendships and professional relationships she made. “Having that position pushed me to be more involved with what other people were doing and to support all of the students around me,” she says. “I found myself attending as many events as possible and taking advantage of those opportunities so I could encourage other 1Ls to do the same. I felt that, as a leader figure, it was essential to show how much I genuinely care about this law school and the many exciting things happening here.”    

Haji has several career goals, but one, in particular, is to add to the diversity of the legal field.

“As a woman of an ethnic minority, I see the importance of increasing diversity by way of action,” she says.

“Being involved in the local community, as well as serving as a leader to the youth, are things that I plan to do throughout my career while still performing at my fullest potential for my future clients and employer.”

Haji is the youngest of five children of Chaldean immigrants. “Growing up, our parents emphasized the importance of working hard and never giving up on our goals,” she says. “My parents and older siblings have served as an inspiration to me, and I feel truly blessed to have such a reliable support system. I would not be who I am today without them. My family is my rock.”

Inheriting a love of oldies music from her father, a deejay in his younger years, Haji enjoys searching through vintage record shops to expand her collection of vinyls that she plays on her 1980 Technics turntable and 1973 Kenwood receiver.

Another passion is rock climbing, and she was a member of the GVSU Vertical Earth Rock Climbing Club. She has traveled as far afield as Kentucky and Arizona to climb mountains.

“Climbing is an activity I adore,” she says. “Climbing is a challenge that helps me to turn off worldly thoughts and turn on my problem-solving ones—I become one with the route and forget about everything else, which is essential for self-health, both physically and mentally.”