New graduate is passionate about politics

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Emma Shoucair came to law out of local politics. “I noticed that lawyers got to do all the cool stuff,” she says. “I recognized there’s tremendous power in the law to shape the society we live in, and I wanted to be a part of that.”

Not only is Shoucair a part of that, but the recent University of Michigan Law School graduate has been honored as a Next Generation Leader by the American Constitution Society.

 “ACS has provided a community of like-minded lawyers with whom I can geek out over the politically focused law that I enjoy,” Shoucair says. “I’m very excited to join the NGL community so I can help build networks, both for myself and for Michigan students who come after me.”

Earlier this month, Shoucair planned to head to the ACS National Convention in Washington, D.C., where she hoped to meet former U.S. Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, dismissed earlier this year by President Donald Trump. Last year Shoucair met Gold Star parent Khizr Khan who received international attention with his speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention that criticized then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Shoucair, who holds a bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, from Princeton University in classics and linguistics, and a master’s degree in linguistics from Harvard, volunteered on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 primary run, followed by Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

She landed her first paying job in politics as executive director of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee, serving Pittsburgh and the surrounding suburbs—and the largest committee in the state outside of Philadelphia. She managed the party apparatus, put out candidate slate mailers, and planned countywide events, before leaving the position to join her now-husband on a congressional campaign he was working on in Ithaca, N.Y.

“I met a lot of really great young political talent working as campaign and party staff, and one really wonderful thing is that even though a lot of us have moved on to other endeavors, we all came back to do GOTV for (U.S. Representative) Conor Lamb in March. It’s like a big family,” she says.

While applying to law schools, Shoucair worked as a legal writer at May Law Group, an immigration firm in Pittsburgh – “To make sure I didn’t hate the day-to-day experience of working in a law firm,” she says. “It was a really good introduction to just how much paper is involved.”

Shoucair has enjoyed her three years as a Wolverine, where she was honored with the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan Julia D. Darlow Award as a student who demonstrated a commitment to advancing the interests of women members of the legal profession and to promoting equity and social justice.

 “I love the people—the faculty at Michigan is wonderful, supportive, and engaged with students,” she says. “Law school has a reputation for being cutthroat, but Michigan is truly different—my classmates are brilliant, kind, hardworking people, and I wouldn’t have traded going through the experience with them for anything.”

She also continued her political passion, coordinating law schools across Michigan for voter protection for the Michigan Dems/Hillary Clinton in 2016. In her 3L year she served as president of the Michigan Election Law Project and the Democrats at Michigan Law. “In the latter capacity I dragged a dozen of my classmates with me to the old PA-18 to do GOTV for Conor Lamb, and they kindly indulged me even though it was the middle of the semester,” she says.

 In her 1L summer, Shoucair interned for U.S. District Judge John Bates in the nation’s capital.

“I learned at ton,” she says. “I got to work on some opinions with the clerks, got helpful feedback from my judge, and actually used the doctrines I’d learned during my first year. We got to observe a trial and some arguments, which was really helpful for determining which kind of argument styles I like.”    

Aiming for a career in civil litigation, after the bar exam she will work at Williams & Connolly, a litigation firm in D.C. where she spent the summer of her 2L year, and then clerk for a federal judge.

“I enjoy constitutional and administrative law, and long-term I’d like to focus on voting rights, election law, and campaign finance,” she says. “I’d like to be involved in litigation around what I’m now calling democracy-maintenance. Our institutions require constant upkeep and attention, and I’d like to be part of that kind of work. I’d also love to do some scholarship in legal history and the use of linguistics in the law.

“I’ve been truly lucky in my journey in the law, in that both Michigan Law and Williams & Connolly are filled with kind people,” she adds. “I had a great experience my 2L summer at the firm where I got to work on a variety of cases, including some pro-bono work on asylum and an Innocence Project case. The litigation focus of the firm suits me perfectly, and I’m happy to be headed back.”

The Pittsburgh native is currently in Philadelphia, with her husband, the deputy campaign manager for Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA). Although busy studying for the Pennsylvania bar exam, Shoucair still keeps the political flames lit by helping MLaw professor Samuel Bagenstos in his bid for the Michigan Supreme Court.

“He’s going to be a fantastic justice and I encourage all Michigan voters to check him out and his impeccable record fighting for civil rights,” she says.


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