WSU alum to spearhead Detroit Mercy Law SBA


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Aryell Pasternak was inspired to pursue a law career during undergrad at Wayne State University, when he shadowed his friend’s father, a criminal defense attorney.

“He took me to his firm, where I was able to sit in on interviews with clients and watch him in the courtroom, fight and advocate for the rights of criminal defendants,” Pasternak says.

Pasternak earned his undergraduate degree from WSU in political science.

“I always knew I wanted to go to law school and I think having a political science background really helped me understand the philosophy and politics behind the law,” he says.

He then headed to the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, and after his 1L year interned at the Washtenaw County Office of Public Defender in Ann Arbor, where he was able to go on the record and defend various criminal defendants in domestic violence cases, DUIs, shoplifting, minor drug possession offenses, and other lower level felonies.

“This experience reminded me of just why I wanted to go to law school — to help those who are in need of it,” he says.

This summer, he is clerking for Perrin Law Firm in Mt. Clemens, a firm that specializes in elder neglect and abuse, child sexual abuse and neglect, legal malpractice, business litigation, and personal injury cases.

“I’m still getting used to everything and trying to get the hang of how everything works, but I mainly am doing research for an attorney,” he says.

Immigration law has become a major interest after a friend told him the Immigration Clinic in her 1L year was a favorite class, piquing his interest in taking it.

“Immigration has always seemed like an interesting area of law to me due to the impact it has on individuals and their families,” he says. “My family immigrated here from Jamaica but growing up I never thought to ask how or why they decided to leave Jamaica. It wasn’t until I took the immigration clinic that I began asking questions and learned my mother came to the U.S. to create a better life for her and her family due to the conditions in Jamaica at the time.

“My mother went to both medical and dental school and is now an oral surgeon.

“Her story especially sparked my interest in wanting to help individuals claiming asylum because I see first-hand the opportunities this country has to offer and I believe everyone, regardless of what country they are from, should be afforded the same. A large portion of my mother’s side of the family came to the U.S. from Jamaica and although it may not have been as difficult for her, due to her education, I wanted to assist those who may not have had such ease entering the U.S.”

The incoming president of the Student Bar Association, Pasternak says his goals include an emphasis on mental health and student involvement.

“I remember my first year of law school being very stressful and having a rough impact on my mental and physical health,” he says. “We’re so focused on studying and trying to get the best grades that sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves. I want to make sure the students always have some way to relieve stress and always know they have someone to talk to. I want to provide students with different avenues of relieving stress, whether it be making additions to the student lounge or generating more student involvement in extracurricular activities — any way to take some sort of mental break after hours of studying.”

Pasternak also founded and served as co-president of Delta Theta Phi, a legal international fraternity that helps young law students and attorneys network and excel in their legal career.

“My friend and I were recently able to restart the chapter at Detroit Mercy and we are already planning a number of events for our chapter, some of which will take place at the Detroit Athletic Club along with Detroit Yacht Club,” he says.

Pasternak credits his background as a college athlete in helping him persevere in law school. He swam in high school at De La Salle and in college at Wayne State University, where his team won the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Conference two consecutive years.

“When I began swimming, I was in high school — I had to work twice as hard to compete with the majority of the swimmers who had started at a very early age,” he says. “While everyone else was sleeping in, I was up at 5:30 a.m. swimming 10,000 yards in a freezing cold pool, and anticipating the second swim practice that was to come in the afternoon.

“It’s been the same situation for me in law school. I didn’t come from a legal background. I never had any family members who were lawyers or worked in the legal field. It was all new to me so I knew I had to work that much harder to be successful. I still swim occasionally whenever I’m not studying in the library.”

A native of Tampa, Fla., Pasternak currently lives in downtown Detroit, and enjoys exploring the area.

“I just moved down here and I’m looking forward to spending the summer in this beautiful city,” he says. “I also enjoy watching sports, specifically college football, and spending time with my dogs.”


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