Detroit law student spearheads school's OutLaws organization

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President of the Detroit Mercy Law OutLaws organization, 3L student Serena Gupta, who is a Dean’s Fellow, is working in the school’s Family Law Clinic, and also is interested in marijuana law.

Photo courtesy of Serena Gupta


By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

Detroit Mercy Law student Serena Gupta serves as president of the school’s OutLaws organization that serves the needs of the LGBTQ+ community at Detroit Mercy Law. The group recently held a very successful bake sale to raise funds for the Ruth Ellis Center, a Detroit area social services agency that serves the needs of runaway, homeless, and at-risk LGBTQ+ youth.

The OutLaws also have a joint event on October 28, between OutLaws, the Criminal Law Society, the Family Law Society, and Lawyers Lending Hands, of a panel discussion on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in Michigan.
“I would recommend it for anyone who is curious about family law or criminal justice,” Gupta says. “We also are looking into our annual Drag Queen Bingo event, the proceeds of which will be donated to an organization that will be determined soon.

“I’m very happy at all the new members we have gained this year, as well as the continued efforts and hard work of the old members. I hope to leave Detroit Mercy Law knowing that OutLaws will continue to be in good hands.”
Gupta started her academic studies by earning a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in Mandarin from Michigan State University.

“I was never really good at any other subjects growing up—math, science, history, basically any other core subject came hard to me. The only class I liked was English, because there were no such thing as wrong answers and you wouldn’t be shamed for having a different conclusion—similar to how in law, things can be argued both ways, although sometimes you’re just objectively wrong,” she says.

“I went into college for a degree in linguistics and English literature because I felt I wouldn’t be good at anything else, and frankly my highest grades were consistently in all my English classes.”

Gupta started learning Mandarin as a second language in high school.

“I had spoken a little when I was younger, but my teachers and peers quashed it out of me pretty early—‘We speak English here’ mentality, and all that. However, I got tired of not being able to speak to my grandparents or relatives overseas so I decided that since it was being offered, I might as well take it.”

Although she attended the MSU College of Education with the aim of becoming a teacher, she eventually nixed that plan.

“Lot of disagreements between myself and my professors in the College of Education at my university, particularly on how the education system ignores the voices of minorities and how the curriculums don’t translate well to those on the outside of the dominant group,” she says.

“My teaching professors and I eventually came to the mutual conclusion I would be better off doing something besides teaching, so I decided to leave the college of education. However, there isn’t really much you can do with 75 percent of a degree in English literature, but luckily law school doesn’t require a specific degree.”

As a junior in college with one year to go – and no future plans after leaving the College of Education – Gupta felt she did not have many options. But when Lady Justice called her name, she switched her focus to legal studies, and is now in her 3L year at Detroit Mercy Law School.

“Little did I know, the years of studying writings and reading hundreds of pages a night would finally come in handy with law school,” she says.

Prior to law school, Gupta dipped a toe into legal waters by clerking for a law firm that dealt with product liability and corporate litigation.

“It was a pretty general legal experience that taught me things like document review, proofreading motions, and prepping for depositions,” she says. “My second position was at a legal aid clinic—I wanted to go the opposite direction from my first law clerk position so as to get as much of a rounded experience as I could. This was more contact with clients, drafting my own memos and motions, and appearing on the record in court.

“My third and current position is somewhat of a return to the first position in that it is a business firm, but it’s smaller and deals with a very new area of Michigan law—marijuana. So think of it as a corporate firm, but in a constantly changing and exciting field. I like the marijuana industry—it’s a very exciting time to be in the legal field due to the relatively recent legalization of recreational marijuana in Michigan.”

She would also like to keep up with family law, as a good skill to have and is currently working in the law school’s Family Law Clinic.

Gupta enjoys her student experiences and studies at Detroit Mercy Law.

“First and foremost—Nathan’s Deli is right next door to the school, and they have the best pickles in Detroit,” she says with a smile. “However, a close second would have to be my friends at Detroit Mercy Law—a good study group you can grab drinks with after class during the week is hard to come by, and should not be overlooked.

“I like the city of Detroit, especially the downtown area – there’s always something going on, a new restaurant to try out, a new exhibit to head over to,” she adds. “It’s convenient to head out after a Thursday evening class and meet up with friends to blow off some steam after school.”

And her eventual career goal?

“Superhero for sure, but I’d also like to stay in the marijuana legal field for a while,” she says. “Maybe one day open up a Micro Grow of my own and have a farm-to-table marijuana business that people can come and hang out at.”
She is grateful for having received a Dean’s Fellowship for law school.

“Many thanks to (Recruitment and Admissions Specialist) Barbara Stockwell–Buslepp for encouraging me to interview for a scholarship—I would not be here without it,” she says.

Her advice to other students is to focus on whatever area they want to go in.

“If you aren’t interested in litigation, don’t stress about judicial clerkships,” she says. “Similarly, if you see yourself in a courtroom one day, try to get as much courtroom experience and trial preparation in ahead of time.

“I would also recommend applying to firms and internships on your own if you have the time—worst case scenario is you get ghosted, or you have a mediocre interview, but I’d just clock that as preparation for the next interview.”
Gupta readily admits she found online studies during the pandemic to be a challenge.

“I tend to focus better in-person and at school—I’m just too easily distracted at home,” she says. “Work was the same—I almost cried with relief knowing my current law clerk position would be in person. Some people really thrive during at-home work and school – I wish they would teach me their ways.”

A native of Rochester Hills, Gupta currently makes her home in Sterling Heights, where she enjoys eating at new places, playing video games, reading fantasy novels, hanging out with friends, roller-skating, watching TV shows and movies—especially movies with giant monsters—and planning her wedding.

She jokes she is currently on the hunt for the best Chicago Dog (an all-beef frankfurter on a poppy seed bun) in Michigan.

“I don’t like Coney Island hot dogs—sue me,” she says with a wink.


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