Law student strives to 'bridge the gap'

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Growing up, Shanice Leach was always interested in shows and movies about mysteries, true crime, and criminal justice.

“At first, I thought I wanted to do forensic science or forensic psychology but then I was introduced to the legal side through my law and public safety class in high school,” says Leach, who earned her undergrad degree in criminal justice and corrections from Wayne State University, and is now a student at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.

“I love the idea of being able to help people when they are going through a tough time in their life—bridging the gap between the community and the legal system is extremely important to me.”

After graduation, Leach spent 9 months as a domestic violence advocate for the AmeriCorps Urban Safety Project (AmUS) in Detroit, where she enjoyed the community interaction. Helping more than 800 victims of domestic violence receive assistance in their time of need, Leach said her work consisted of emergency planning and helping victims file personal protection orders.

“My favorite thing to do is emergency planning—specifically because most people think the only way you could help a victim in a domestic violence situation is to make them leave or force them to understand why they should leave this situation at this very moment, when in reality, they can only leave when they are ready,” she says. “Planning for emergencies includes making two to three realistic escape situations so that when it’s time for the victim to leave, he or she has an effective escape route that is logical and nothing important is forgotten.”

Leach then spent 15 months as a domestic relations specialist for the Wayne County Circuit Court, where she enjoyed meeting and interacting with attorneys, judges, and referees.

“They were extremely friendly and always available to answer any questions I needed,” she says. “Friend of the Court is like a big family.”

Now a rising 3L at Detroit Mercy Law, Leach particularly enjoys the culture.

“Professors are extremely involved inside and outside the classroom—they’re knowledgeable and tell the best stories,” she says. “The competitive atmosphere is still there, of course, but everyone is still friendly and gets along well.

“I wanted to study law because I understood the importance of law is in everything we do,” she adds. “Additionally, the legal field is still one of career paths that is the least diverse with only 5 percent of lawyers being African American. It’s important to me to help diversify the legal field because diversity brings new and refreshing viewpoints that may help to change some of the injustices and discrimination we face here today.”

Leach is passionate about her goal to increase diversity in the legal field.

“I come across students and adults who tell me how they wanted to go to law school but something happened that prevented them from following their dreams,” she says. “I want to be the voice and the influence in the community that helps combat those negative thoughts and the fuel that inspires them to continue even when things may not look the clearest. The fact that only 5 percent of lawyers are African American is one that law students know so well, but it’s important we’re continuously fighting that uphill battle to increase diversity for minorities as a whole.”

Leach wants to continue to increase diversity by using mentoring programs and allowing Black Law Student Associations from all law schools to be more involved in the community.

She notes her own BLSA experience at Detroit Mercy Law, where she serves as parliamentarian, has been “awesome”—and last year she helped create the Big/Little Sibling mentoring program, giving one-on-one mentorship to incoming freshmen.

“Having the opportunity to teach what I learned about life as a law student and the legal career allows me to help do my part to increase diversity in the legal field,” she says. “I would have loved to have had a mentor my first year of law school—I think it would’ve been awesome to have had that positive reinforcement when stepping into a new chapter of my life.” 

Currently a judicial extern at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Leach is particularly interested in criminal and family law.

“I’d like to help bridge the gap between people’s understanding of the law, which usually comes from television and family that have went through similar experiences, and the reality of what it really entails,” she says.

Leach is member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., which hosts multiple community service events including an annual expungement fair.

Leach also started a career as a financial strategist with Elevated Wealth Group. This allows her to further her passion for serving the community. Aware that many Americans struggle financially due to financially illiteracy, she works to close the financial literacy gap, assisting citizens in living the lives they truly desire and establishing a legacy of wealth for them and their loved ones.

Leach has enjoyed doing remote studies at home during the COVID-19 crisis.

“The pandemic has been an excuse for me to set up my home office to be as decorative and comfortable as possible,” she says. “I’m a visual person so I use my walls as canvases for sticky notes on important topics. I’ve even installed a white board so I can continue to memorize important information.”

A native of Syracuse, N.Y., and the oldest of three girls, Leach attended high school in Orangeburg, S.C. She moved to Detroit in 2017 to run track and field on a scholarship at Wayne State University; and currently coaches track and field and enjoys working out with her athletes.

Recently engaged, Leach and her fiancé and enjoy working out, watching Netflix, trying new restaurants, and “fowling,” in which footballs are thrown to knock down bowling pins.

She enjoys the culture of the Motor City.

“Detroit is unique,” she says. “My favorite part is the people, they all move to their own rhythm and are passionate about giving back to their city, adding to the city, educating everyone on city culture and appreciating all that Detroit has been through. There are always things to do and places to go. The food is great, and entertainment can be easily found.”

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