Multi-lingual student is pursuing Dual JD

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Ani Zheku got her first taste of the field of law by spending 14 months as a corporate legal assistant at Dentons, a large international law firm headquartered in Toronto.

“Working as a legal assistant happened by chance — I hadn’t thought about law school at that time,” she says. “However, the experience of working in a law firm environment allowed me to identify several fundamental attributes of a good lawyer – intelligence, good judgment, solid interpersonal skills, dedication, and integrity. I believed I possessed these attributes and decided to give the LSAT a try. I applied shortly thereafter and got accepted. So everything happened pretty fast.”

Now a 2L student in the Dual JD program offered by Detroit Mercy Law and the University of Windsor, Zheku was drawn to the unique nature of the program, the only such one in Canada.
“I wanted to learn not just about Canadian law, but also American law,” she says. “I enjoy comparing and contrasting the two law systems.”

Last year she interned for the Department of Attorney General Civil Rights Division in Detroit, assisting in litigation where plaintiffs were discriminated on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

“I enjoyed most the fact I believed I was helping and making a difference — striving for equality for all regardless of sexual orientation, race, and more,” she says. “I found the work to be challenging, engaging, and rewarding.” 

Zheku, who earned a certificate of distinction in the first year G. Mennen Williams Moot Court Competition at Detroit Mercy Law, does not as yet have a set legal role or title in mind.

“What’s important to me is continuing to learn new things, get better at what I know and progress in my career,” she says.

Like her fellow students, Zheku is meeting the challenge of online learning during the pandemic.

“It’s been an adjustment but thanks to a supportive family environment I’ve been able to adjust,” she says.

Zheku has spent 16 months — first as a research assistant and then as a data manager — working for the National Self-Represented Litigants Project (NSRLP), an organization that strives to bring access to justice and help self-represented litigants in Canada.

Prior to law school, she worked as an interpreter for the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, and then as a bilingual caseworker for Fragomen, a Toronto firm that is dedicated to immigration services worldwide.

Her background for these roles was an undergraduate degree in Modern Languages and Literature from the University of Windsor, where she majored in French and Spanish, followed by a master’s degree in Translation Studies from York University in Toronto.

 “I’ve used French throughout my various job positions,” she says. “Albanian is my native language and I learned Italian as a child.”

A native of Tirana, Albania, Zheku now lives in Windsor, and in her leisure time enjoys beach volleyball, traveling, and watching sports.

“Pre-COVID, I enjoyed going to basketball and hockey games, especially when the Pistons or Red Wings were playing a Canadian team,” she says.

She also has volunteered with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Canada's largest mental health teaching hospital and one of the world's leading research centers in its field. Affiliated with the University of Toronto, CAMH is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre.

“Mental health is cause that is very close and dear to me,” she says.




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