Advocate: Law student to focus on criminal prosecution


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Shelby Lubienski originally intended a career in social work, earning her undergrad degree in psychology from the University of Michigan–Dearborn. However, while interning in a local Foster Care and Adoption Department, she saw the impact abuse, neglect, and abandonment had on foster children, and felt powerless to help.

“Social workers are at the front line, responding to cases of abuse and neglect, but they have little say in what happens to the children – they report to the Department of Health and Human Services and then let attorneys advocate for the best interests of the child in court,” she says.

“Watching this cycle, I wanted to be the person standing up and fighting for the people without a voice. I wanted to advocate in court for foster children to try and help achieve a positive outcome in their case—and this is what ultimately inspired me to go to law school.”

Now a rising 3L at Wayne State University Law School, Lubienski is focusing her studies on criminal law, specifically prosecution and juvenile law.

“I’m hoping to practice in this field and have a special interest in the welfare of and treatment of children by the justice system,” she says.

Her goal is to work in a prosecutor’s office or the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, ideally in the Special Victims Unit.

“My background in psychology and social work has given me a unique perspective on the psychological impact on victims of abuse, neglect, sexual assault, and domestic violence,” she says. “I feel this experience will provide me the tools necessary to be both a sympathetic listener and a knowledgeable advocate for victims of these types of crimes.”

Lubienski is following in the footsteps of her father and grandfather, Wayne Law grads in the class of 1985 and 1957, respectively; and she has worked at her father’s law firm for several summers.

“They speak very highly of both the education they received as well as the metro-Detroit alumni connections that resulted from their legal education,” she says.

She particularly appreciates the sense of community she has found at Wayne Law.

“The people I’ve met have been amazing cheerleaders and incredibly supportive of each other,” she says. “Even though over half of my law school career has been remote due to the pandemic, I’ve maintained contact with many of my classmates, participating in virtual study groups every semester. Law school can be tough at times, and this support system has been invaluable.”

In her 2L year, she participated as a Junior Member in the Wayne Law Mock Trial team, where she had the opportunity to compete in in-house competitions. In her upcoming 3L year, she will act as the Judge and Witness Coordinator on the Mock Trial Executive Board. In addition to helping the other E-Board members select a new team of Junior Members, she will work closely with the Trial Coordinator to ensure trials run smoothly.

Her primary duties consist of recruiting judges and witnesses for in-house competitions. Typically, Mock Trial judges are practicing attorneys and judges in the Metro-Detroit area; and witnesses typically are 1L students.

“Participating in Mock Trial has been one of the best decisions I made during my law school career, providing me with a safe and supportive environment to build a strong foundation in trial procedure, oral advocacy skills, and knowledge of the Federal Rules of Evidence,” she says.

She received the award of Best Oralist in the finals of the Winter 2021 In-House Competition.

“Given that I’m hoping to be in a courtroom daily in my future career, the knowledge and experience provided by Mock Trial will be invaluable to me going forward,” she says.

Lubienski had to adapt her learning style when the pandemic forced classes to be remote via Zoom.

“Prior to the pandemic, one of my weaknesses was self-motivating when doing online classes,” she says. “Being forced to do everything online, I’ve had to learn very intensive time management techniques and how to keep myself motivated. In a way, this pandemic has helped me grow a lot as a student—my learning style is more versatile now.”

An Ann Arbor native, Lubienski now makes her home in Dearborn, where she has lived part-time since starting undergrad.

Photography has been a passion since middle school, when her parents bought her a digital camera; and her favorites subjects to photograph include nature, landscapes, and cityscapes.

“One of my favorite things about Detroit is the skyline,” she says. “Whether looking at the skyline from I-75, the top of local ski hills, or from within the heart of the city, the Renaissance Center coupled with the river in the background is beautiful! I especially enjoy bringing my camera to downtown Detroit for an afternoon to take pictures of the magnificent city.”

She also enjoys being outdoors. In spring, summer, and fall, she enjoys biking, swimming, and rollerblading almost daily; and in winter, she skis and snowboards at least once a week through participation as an Alpine Patroller in a local branch of the National Ski Patrol (NSP). Completing the requirements to join the NSP in her 1L and 2L years, she became certified in Outdoor Emergency Care, which provided medical training equivalent to that of an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT); and she also passed both the ski and snowboard on-hill transportation test.

“These two certifications have allowed me to respond to medical emergencies on the skill hill, safely treating the patient on the hill and transporting them to the base of the hill to receive further medical care,” she says.

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