Wayne State Law student displays passion for debate

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Rhonda Haidar might perhaps thank the ancient Greeks for her interest in law, which seemed a natural progression from her passion for debate in high school and undergrad.     

“In college, I studied philosophy and was always fascinated by the ancient Greeks, the original orators which drew me even more into lawyering,” she says. “I like using my privilege and voice to help the greater good and I think that a law degree is the best way to put that skill to good use.”    

After earning her undergrad degree from Wayne State University, where she was an award-winning member of the debate team and a CEDA National Debate Scholar, Haidar remained a Wayne “Warrior” for law school.

“I enjoy the strong sense of community — I always know there’s a friendly face around the corner,” she says. “I also enjoy the strong alumni network. Whenever I meet a Wayne Law alum, whether in court or in the office, it’s like we have an instant connection.”

Interested in criminal law and civil rights, Haidar has been clerking since January in the General Trials Unit and Violent Crimes Unit of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, assisting with trial preparation, and legal research and writing. Last year she interned in the WCPO Community Prosecution Non-Fatal Shootings Unit.

She enjoys the advocacy aspect of her work at the WCPO.

“I like using my privilege and voice to aid those that are voiceless or in need,” she says. “I’m given opportunities to do most everything a practicing attorney does, and for that I’m so grateful.

“I’ve learned and grown so much in the office through all of my in court on-the-record and legal research and writing experiences. I have the best support system of experienced attorneys that are always guiding me in the right direction.”

Two of Haidar’s favorite WCPO Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys are Frank Simone and Kim Miles.

“They’ve both helped me so much over the last two years whether it be with legal issues or personal issues,” she says. “I can be quite pro-defense and everyone is always willing to my answer questions about procedure and how defendants are treated, no one has anything to hide.

“I love that Kym Worthy worked with Valerie Newman to start a Convictions Integrity Unit — I think it shows the office has nothing to fear and is acting ethically and in accordance with the Constitution every day with every case.”

Haidar’s career goal is to return to the Prosecutor’s Office and work her way up into heading a unit.

“I’m also very interested in civil rights work, so I could see myself at some point going down that route,” she says. “I want to do something meaningful with my law degree.”

As managing editor of the Journal of Law in Society, she relishes the opportunity to refine her legal research and writing skills while aiding younger law students in refining their skills.

“This year we’re working with the Levin Center to host a very timely and important symposium on gerrymandering, and that’s been very interesting and rewarding work,” she says. “I get to connect with legal scholars from all over the U.S. to discuss very relevant and pressing issues.”

A member of the Women’s Law Association of Michigan, she also served as president of the Women’s Law Caucus.

“I enjoy making memorable connections and sharing my experience as a woman in the law with other women,” she says. “Serving as president of the Women’s Law Caucus was one of the best experiences I’ve had in law school. I love the women I worked with and made memories that will last forever, while leaving a positive impact on women in the law.   

“I like connecting law students with practicing attorneys. It’s very important to me to make sure there’s a strong and united community of women at Wayne Law.”   

Haidar is working for Professor Peter Henning researching in the area of corporate criminal liability.

“We’re currently working on updating a book on corporate criminal liability and making sure all case law and statutes are correct and up to date while fleshing out new and developing areas of the law,” she says. “I’ve learned a great deal from Professor Henning and I really enjoy learning about areas of criminal law that I’m unfamiliar with.”

A lifelong resident of Sterling Heights in Macomb County, Haidar enjoys volunteering and giving back in any way possible.

“As a law student, I’m afforded a great deal of privilege and so it’s important to me to take time out to connect and give back to the world around me outside of law school — it’s easy to have tunnel vision in law school,” she says.   

Volunteer activities include judging for the Detroit Urban Debate League, that — through a generous grant from Allstate Insurance in 2009 — has partnered with Wayne State University, the University of Michigan, the local southeast Michigan Debate Community and the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues, bringing together students, teachers, administrators, and community leaders to improve the education and life skills of disadvantaged urban youth in Detroit.   

“I really enjoy working with young students who are just learning debate,” Haidar says. “I get to work with a lot of my former coaches, and it’s always nice to reconnect with them. Debate was a huge passion of mine in high school and college, so I really like working with kids to help them refine their skills and channel their energy in a positive way.”

Also passionate about cosmetics and skincare, she works at an ULTA Beauty store on the weekends. “It’s my personal outlet,” she says.

 

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