Wayne Law alumnus works to help bring stability to his homeland

Part of what drew Homayune Ghaussi to becoming a lawyer was the way that war altered the course of his life.

Ghaussi, a 2001 alumnus of Wayne State University Law School, was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, where his father, who had earned a master's degree in the United States, held a high-level government position.

"We were still living in Kabul when the Afghan communist coup happened, but we were lucky enough to leave before the Soviet invasion," said Ghaussi, who is a partner with Warner Norcross & Judd LLP in Southfield and has a diverse litigation practice handling complex commercial matters.

He was a second-grader in 1979 when his father took a job with UNESCO in Khartoum, Sudan, and the family moved there.

"While we were in Sudan, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan," Ghaussi said. "This made it virtually impossible for us to return. My father's brothers and sisters lived here in Detroit, so we immigrated to Michigan in 1981. I've lived in Michigan since then."

Ghaussi, who lives in Troy, has never been able to return to his native land, which has been the site of violence and unrest for decades. He is working to help change that.

"Since the Taliban left in 2001, I have looked for such opportunities," he said. "I was introduced to the Afghan Public Private Partnership for Justice Reform by an associate in our office whose sister worked with the program through the U.S. State Department."

He got involved and recently was named to the 15-member board of the Friends of the Public Private Partnership. The nonprofit group was established by then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2007 as a joint initiative of the State Department and leading national law firms. It has continued under subsequent secretaries of state. The organization promotes the rule of law in Afghanistan and offers master of laws scholarships and other training programs to Afghan lawyers to better enable them to strengthen the justice system in their nation.

"I truly believe in this program because I believe it is essential for the future of Afghanistan that Afghan people themselves be able to establish some type of rule of law within the country, through which they can provide a framework for society to thrive and grow," Ghaussi said. "These Afghan lawyers that come through the program have an opportunity to learn both through the school programs and through their interactions with Americans and other students around them what society can be like when there is firm commitment to rule of law. Going back to Afghanistan, they can share those experiences and use them to help Afghans establish a more stable society where personal and professional growth is possible."

He is happy to see elections taking place in Afghanistan, he said, despite the controversies that have arisen.

"I hope I can see Afghanistan return to the life I knew as a child there a normal life without constant worry of war and bombings," Ghaussi said. "The course of my life was changed early on by war. Based on these experiences, I've always found myself attracted to the idea that the pen is mightier than the sword. We should change our lives and the lives of those around us through persuasion rather than violence. I think this is part of why I became a lawyer."

Growing up in the United States, Ghaussi was a shy teenager and avoided any sort of public speaking if he could. But in his senior year at Seaholm High School in Birmingham, he took a class called Business Law that involved students arguing for a position once a week.

"I felt so passionate about arguing the positions that my fears of public speaking faded," Ghaussi said.

He argued and nearly always won the class debates. Thus was awakened the soul of a litigator.

He went on to earn a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Wayne State University and then to Wayne Law, where he was an outstanding student, said Professor Peter Henning.

"He really made an impression on me," the professor said. "He stood out as someone to be reckoned with. I knew he was a guy I'd be reading about some day."

Ghaussi said when he started law school he knew he wanted to be a litigator.

"During law school, I found myself loving anything related to litigation. My favorite part of my first year was my first-year oral argument in Legal Writing. During my second-year summer, I worked at Warner Norcross and found the work interesting. During my clerkship, I worked on a variety of cases dealing with complex commercial issues. That type of experience carried through my first years at Warner Norcross, and I've been involved in it ever since. At the start of my second year at the firm, I tried my first jury trial to verdict. This was the culmination of all I had worked for since that high school business law class."

In 2010, he was elected partner, and he's been earning accolades ever since, including being named one of Michigan Lawyer's Weekly 20 Up and Coming Lawyers, as a Rising Star and a Super Lawyer by Michigan Super Lawyers magazine, as one of The Best Lawyers in America this year by that publication and as a 2015 Top Lawyer by DBusiness magazine. This year, he was elected to Warner Norcross' nine-member Management Committee. He's also a member of the Board of Directors for Leadership Oakland and serves on the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Michigan's Pro Bono Council.

Ghaussi is still passionate about arguing his positions, but now his speaking takes place in state and federal courts a practice he calls "incredibly fun."

He advises law students interested in business practice to buckle down.

"Take advantage of law school and learn as much about business as you can if you don't already have a business background," he said. "Then, when in practice, pick an area that interests you and learn all you can about it. Become the expert in every way."

Published: Thu, Sep 25, 2014

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