WSU Law student sports criminal justice background

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

The daughter of immigrants from Montenegro (the former Yugoslavia), Marina Vuljaj remembers her aunt being unable to obtain a visa to visit the family in the U.S.

“It really upset me,” she ssaid. “I wanted to be able to do something about it. So to me that meant becoming a lawyer.”   

Now a 2L at Wayne State University Law School, Vuljaj credits her parents with her success.

“Both have shown me what it means to work hard and build a life for your family,” she said. “Education was something my mom always stressed was key to being successful.”   

Vuljaj started on her career path by earning an undergraduate degree in criminal justice at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

“Mostly I’m interested in why people do the things they do, and the details of what happened in the crime,” she said.    

As part of her studies, in 2014 Vuljaj interned as a probation officer at the 20th District Court, where she assisted Magistrate Yvonna Abraham with the input of traffic tickets at traffic court.

She also made sure defendants understood the terms of their probation and the programs they needed to complete. She met with defendants for probation reporting, ensuring they kept up with the terms of their probation.     

“What I liked most was learning and getting to know each individual probationer and doing my best to help them stay on the right path,” Vuljaj said. “I was also able to learn more about the sentencing process as a whole. I really enjoyed the environment and the people I worked with.”   

In her final year, Vuljaj worked as an assistant to the case intake specialist at the Law Offices of Jason Waechter in Southfield, getting her first real taste of the work of attorneys.

“Jason is very good at what he does, and it was great to see how paralegals and the attorneys work together on a case,” she said. “I was able to see what went into building a strong case, and I had the opportunity to conduct a number of client intakes, which taught me the importance of asking the right kind of questions to obtain relevant information.”    

Immigration and criminal law continue to be her top interests in her Wayne Law studies, although several recent employment law classes have piqued her interest.

“I’d like to gain experience in this field to see how it plays out in real life,” Vuljaj.    

Last year, she spent eight months as a law clerk at Stacer PLC in Plymouth.

“I worked closely with two really great attorneys who taught me a lot of the ins and outs of immigration law and criminal law,” she said. “Since immigration was the main reason I went to law school, being able to directly work in that field was a great experience.”   

The Novi resident joined the Women’s Law Caucus in her 1L year, and went on to serve on the board.

“I believed in what the group stood for and wanted to be a part of a group that allowed me to meet so many great women at our school,” she said. “We also do a variety of volunteering, which I enjoy.”   

As professional development cair for the group, Vuljaj continued a mentor-mentee program that started last year, matching local women attorneys with students.

She also coordinates the group’s networking events, including last November’s event at Traffic Jam and Snug, held with the Wayne Chapter of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan.

She also is organizing a spring kickoff event scheduled March 22 at the Detroit Beer Company.

“Being able to meet so many attorneys and establish so many new connections has probably been the highlight of this experience,” Vuljaj said.    
The social side of law school has also been a pleasure.

“I enjoy the people I get to be around every day, and that includes my peers as well as the professors,” she said. “I also love Midtown and being minutes away from the Tigers Stadium, The Joe and great restaurants. I really enjoy the energy Detroit has, especially, when I’m downtown for hockey games or baseball games, the energy and love everyone has for the city is the best.”

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