Ann Arbor to Accra

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The ongoing legacy of Michigan Law’s connection to Ghana

By Kristy Demas
Michigan Law

Last May, Christine Dowuona-Hammond and her husband, Arthur, traveled from their home in Ghana to Ann Arbor, where they had dinner with Michigan Law Professor Emeritus Joseph Vining and his wife, Alice. Nearly 28 years earlier, Dowuona-Hammond had been Vining’s student.

“She is a major figure in Ghanaian law,” Vining says of Dowuona-Hammond, who took his Corporations course and went on to teach at the University of Ghana and author “The Law of Contract in Ghana.” “Wonderfully, she has a son here at U-M who is an undergraduate in political science.”

Vining says Michigan Law has other connections to the University of Ghana School of Law — and to Ghana itself — although no formal partnership exists. Beverley J. Pooley, LLM ’58, SJD ’61, taught there from 1960 to 1962. The late Michigan Law Professors William B. Harvey and A.W. Brian Simpson were there as deans. And, according to the Michigan Law Library, 10 Ghanaian students have attended Michigan Law since 1972. LLM student Alfred Momodu from Lancaster University–Ghana is the 11th, and he hopes his LLM degree will deepen his knowledge of the law while helping him become a better lawyer.

Momodu was impressed with the Law School’s friendliness and knew it spoke volumes about the collegial nature of Michigan. Combined with the opportunity to study with professors who were giants in their fields, it was an easy choice, he says. Although his exact path is still undecided, “I am sufficiently confident that I will teach in some capacity for extended periods in the future,” he says.

Teaching is a common thread among Michigan Law LLMs from Ghana. Dominic Akuritinga Ayine taught at the University of Ghana Law School before co-founding and serving as managing partner of Ayine & Felli Law Offices. He is a member of Ghana’s Parliament, representing the Bolgatanga East, and is the deputy ranking member of the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs.

“After completing law school in Ghana, I was invited to be a teaching assistant at the University of Ghana Law Faculty, which already had a well-established relationship with Michigan Law,” he says. “Some of my former lecturers, including Christine Dowuona-Hammond, had done graduate work in Ann Arbor and recommended Michigan Law to me as the best place to go for my LLM. I listened and have not regretted doing so.”

Ayine credits his Michigan Law LLM degree and studying with experts like Professor John Jackson as pivotal to his success. His time at Michigan helped him to start his trade and investment law practice and to consult for international organizations such as the International Finance Corporation and USAID.

Alumna Jaime Loda is yet another link to Ghana. As a vice consul at the U.S. Embassy in Accra, she adjudicates non-immigrant and immigrant visas and handles the capital’s adoption cases. Before joining the Foreign Service, Loda was a lawyer who represented victims of human trafficking and domestic violence in family court and immigration proceedings. Prior to law school, she served with the Peace Corps as an English teacher in a Ukrainian village.

Loda graduated from Michigan Law right as the legal field was dealing with the effects of the financial crisis.

“I was able to spend a year working with Professor Bridgette Carr’s Human Trafficking Clinic in one of its first years at Michigan. That experience really shaped what I looked for in a job — I loved the immigration aspects of the work. Helping people access the services they were entitled to and working to regularize their immigration status was really rewarding.”

As a consular officer with the U.S. State Department, Loda is no longer an advocate nor practicing as a lawyer. But her background has helped her immensely with understanding the law and regulations surrounding immigration policy, allowing her to occasionally help untangle the tricky situations that visa applicants present.

Loda appreciates the connection between the University of Ghana School of Law and Michigan Law. “Ghana has a strong university system and a robust judicial system, and I think both schools benefit tremendously from the partnership they have grown over the decades. Many of the lawyers I’ve met here have a strong commitment to helping Ghana.”

Theresa Kaiser-Jarvis, Michigan Law’s assistant dean for international affairs, agrees about the importance of nourishing the relationship between the schools.

“Michigan Law is fortunate to have such strong, historical connections to the legal community there, and we understand the importance of maintaining those bonds,” says Kaiser-Jarvis. “The Law School, our faculty, and our students benefit immensely from having the Ghanaian experience and perspective part of the academic conversation.”

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