Forged by war: Attorney from Beirut now advocates for less fortunate

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Born and raised during Lebanon’s 15-year civil war, Rabih Hamawi saw first-hand the pain of injustice.

“I’ve always viewed law as an equalizer – a power that forces everyone to play by the same rules, and have the same rights and responsibilities,” says Hamawi, now an attorney with Fabian, Sklar, & King in Farmington Hills. “But in Lebanon, you may only go ahead in life if you come from a political family, have deep roots within a religious sector, are ready to be a mercenary for a foreign country, or are willing to carry arms to fight your neighbors or even siblings as a method to move ahead.”

Setting his sights on becoming an attorney and advocating for the less fortunate, Hamawi attended law school in Lebanon for four years, graduating in the top 2 percent of his class. Immigrating to
the United States in search of a brighter future, he worked as an insurance agent for the UNITRIN family of companies before launching his own insurance and financial services agency in 2005, which he owned until this year. He holds licenses in Property, Casualty, Life, Accident, and Health insurance, is a Licensed multiple lines Property and Casualty, Life, Accident, and Health
Insurance Counselor (LIC), and earned the Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter (CPCU), Certified Insurance Consultant (CIC), and Certified Risk Manager (CRM) designations.

“Running the agency opened my eyes to the practices that insurance companies utilize to try to avoid or delay payments of legitimate claims,” he says. “To insurance companies, an insured is a good customer so long as he or she is paying the hefty premium, but as soon as the insured tries to obtain benefits under the policy, insurers often look for a way to try to deny or delay payment.”

The same year he opened the agency he started graduate school at Walsh College and earned a master’s degree in finance with a concentration in financial planning. He then spent six years working and saving money to attend law school.

The long struggle was well worth it. Hamawi earned his Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, from Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, where he was honored with the Law Review Board Award and Student Leadership Achievement Award. He served as a student attorney for the Immigrant Rights and Civil Advocacy Clinic, served on the moot court and mock trial executive boards, was a member of the national trial team and the first year moot court team, and was a symposium editor on the Cooley Law Review.

Selecting Hamawi for a federal court internship through the Wolverine Bar Association program for minority students, U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts placed him with Judge John Corbett O’Meara of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

“The experience was amazing – I met lots of great people I still keep in touch with,” Hamawi says. “Judge O’Meara is a great person who taught me a lot through this experience. He was always open to talking and discussing various topics, which I didn’t expect to receive as an intern. I still remember the citizenship ceremony for new United States citizens that he conducted and invited me to attend. His staff was also very supportive and made me feel like one of their family members.”

During an internship for the U.S. Department of Justice in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit, Hamawi worked on cases involving one of his favorite classes: Criminal Procedure, and represented the United States in front of federal magistrates in federal misdemeanor cases.

“I enjoyed doing the duty-ticket calls because you’re trying to send a message that there are consequences for a person’s actions,” he says. “I also learned from a couple of assistant U.S. attorneys the value of rehabilitative justice by trying to give violators a second chance and encourage them to become better citizens.”

When he owned the insurance agency, he dealt with a marketing representative who was a cousin of Michael Fabian – and after passing the bar exam, Hamawi was able to get an introduction that ultimately led to him joining Fabian, Sklar, and King PC, a law firm that specializes in handling insurance disputes.

“I’m excited about the opportunities I now have working with a group of attorneys who have been so successful in achieving the same goals I’ve always strived to achieve,” he says. “I now get to utilize all of my knowledge and skills to fight for others who have lost their homes, businesses, and their most precious personal items due to disasters, and who now must persevere against an insurance company to get their lives back together. This has been a great and fulfilling journey and I know it is only the beginning.”

In his leisure time, Hamawi enjoys travel, with California, Canada, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Germany, and France as favorites. He also enjoys working out, kickboxing, chess, ping pong, and boating and other outdoor activities. He attends the Islamic Center of Detroit, participating in events and volunteering in community-outreach programs.

“It’s nice living close to Detroit and being able to spend my free time downtown, by the river, or watching any of the Detroit sports teams,” he says. “Living in Michigan also provides the opportunity to experience all four seasons which is especially nice during the warm summer months when I travel up north to enjoy the lakes.”

The oldest of six, in 2005 the Dearborn resident was able to bring three of his siblings and his parents to the United States, where they live close to Hamawi and his wife Amy.

“Although two of my siblings still reside in Lebanon, I’m very fortunate to have the majority of my immediate family in close proximity,” he says.

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