Litigation vocation: Law student prepares for a career in business

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Photo courtesy of Isra Khuja

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Isra Khuja was fascinated from an early age by her attorney brother’s stories of experiences with cases and clients.

“There can be so much injustice in the world and a lawyer can help right those injustices through passing the mic to those whose voices have been systemically silenced or historically ignored,” she says.

Aiming to follow in her brother’s legal footsteps, Khuja earned her undergrad degree in political science and English from Wayne State University—and remained a Wayne Warrior for law school.

“I thought political science would give me a preview of what to expect in law school and English would help me improve my writing skills,” she says. “I’ve since learned nothing can truly prepare you for law school, but I still think those majors were beneficial.”

Interning during undergrad for Judge Charlene Elder in the Third Judicial Circuit Court allowed Khuja to observe the ins and outs of the courtroom, an invaluable experience before attending law school.

“This opportunity allowed me to understand the routine of the courtroom and see some skillful attorneys at practice,” she says. “I was fortunate enough to be mentored by Judge Elder from very early on in my forage into the legal field and what I learned in her chambers was incredibly enriching.”

Khuja has thoroughly enjoyed her three years of law school that will culminate in her upcoming graduation.

“Not only has Wayne Law allowed me to foster relationships with my classmates who will go on to become my colleagues in law, Wayne Law also has some of the most knowledgeable and insightful professors who truly value the growth of their students and root for their success,” she says. “There’s definitely a sense of community and diversity within the halls of Wayne Law which I’ll always cherish.”

And attending Wayne State for undergrad and law school has made Detroit her “home away from home.”

“The city is filled with opportunities and there’s always the chance to meet new people and explore different parts of Detroit,” she says.

Clerking at Vahdat Weisman in Dearborn after her 1L year was Khuja’s first experience at a law firm.

“It was here I was finally able to see what a complaint and all the documents we discussed in Civil Procedure actually looked like,” she says. “The skills I acquired have assisted me in each endeavor since clerking there.”

Since joining Moot Court her 2L year, Khuja has dedicated as much time and effort as possible to improving her oral advocacy skills in order to become a good litigator for future clients. She received the Best Oralist Award at the 2021 Evans Constitutional Law Competition, from among 16 law schools across the nation, and her partner Hallisey Travers received Second Best Oralist.

“This has materialized both of our hard work and dedication to the program,” Khuja says.

“Moot Court has not only helped me to get to know my peers better, it has allowed me to fully understand what it means to zealously advocate for your client – even a fictional one,” she adds. “Moot Court is the perfect opportunity for growth. What better way to prepare for the future than in a setting where coaches are giving you feedback throughout the journey? Once in the real world, there won’t be much of that. The coaches, Monica Batsford and Kayce Nieto, and the judges gave us advice that helped us grow and prepared us for the competition and for real world practice.”

Khuja participated in Wayne Law’s Corporate Counsel Externship program in order to get a better understanding of what being a general counsel entails, and was thrilled to be selected to intern last year at Crain Communications in Detroit.

“This experience was very helpful because it allowed me to practice in numerous areas of the law,” she says. “Counseling a large company like Crain threw me into areas of the law I never expected—analyzing contractual terms, ensuring the company’s trademarks were not misused, and even researching immigration law for overseas employees.”

Serving for five months last year as a research assistant for Professor Vincent Wellman allowed Khuja to dig deeper into the subject of one of her favorite law school classes—Contracts.

“I’ve been able to research and better understand incredibly nuanced portions of the subject, which will undoubtedly assist me in enhancing my skills and better grasping issues I will face as a business litigator,” she says.

Her current clerkship with Rossman, P.C. in Troy, where she assists the associates with a variety of cases in each of the firm’s practice areas, has been in-person for the most part, and has solidified her commitment to becoming an attorney.

“I enjoy working with such an amazing and supportive team of highly skilled attorneys,” she says. “Having Mark Rossman as my boss and mentor as I prepare to graduate law school and enter the legal profession as an attorney has been instrumental and a true privilege. He’s equipped with a wealth of knowledge from his years of experience and from starting his own law firm – his advice and training prepared me to begin my career as an attorney as soon as I take—and hopefully pass—the Michigan Bar Exam and join Rossman, P.C. as an associate attorney.”

Khuja is excited to utilize the skills she developed as a law clerk and be able to lead cases on her own.

“Seeing the current associates coordinating with one another as a team and strategizing on how best to serve our clients makes me eager to be an equal among them,” she says.

Khuja is particularly interested in business litigation.

“Although a niche area, shareholder and minority member oppression have sparked my interest since clerking at Rossman,” she says. “There are certain intricacies of the business world business litigators must understand, and since each business and client is unique, it keeps me on my toes and always learning.”

While remote studies have been an adjustment, Khuja notes she has embraced the challenges of the pandemic.

“It was an experience like no other to go to an entirely remote setting, and this experience has equipped me to adjust to whatever challenges will be thrown my way,” she says. 

Khuja is also leaving her own legacy at her alma mater. In the second semester of her 1L year, she and classmate, Hend Alhakam, yearning for a solid coalition with fellow minority law students, were inspired to re-activate the Middle Eastern Law Student Association, and served as co-presidents for the following year along with a full board of peers.

“We were able to better connect with law students from similar backgrounds and share our experiences as minorities within the legal field,” she says. “The organization now has a new board and will hopefully be a staple organization at the law school for the years to come.”

Khuja has volunteered on many political campaigns, both within local government and many presidential elections, from as early as Barack Obama’s initial run for presidency.

“There’s no denying the flaws within the American government system and the need for necessary and effective changes – and one of the most efficient ways to achieve these reforms is by helping to elect people who advocate for improvement at all levels of government,” she says.


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