A student's non-traditional path to Wayne Law School

By Kurt Anthony King

Legal News

In her own words, Suzanne Quinn "meandered her way to law school" - if you can call being a staunch advocate of human rights "meandering."

"I didn't necessarily go straight through from undergrad to law school... Prior to completing my undergraduate degree, I spent some time overseas working with a humanitarian aid organization (Development Aid From People to People) in Mozambique before I figured out what I wanted to study for my (undergraduate coursework)," explained Quinn, 37, of Royal Oak.

The Detroit native is the daughter of two community activists: Robert Quinn, an engineer, and Shirley Grassflower, a nurse. Thanks to her parents, Quinn was attending peaceful demonstrations and marching for various causes in Washington, D.C. during her formative years. In 1992, she graduated from Renaissance High School in Detroit. In 1999, she graduated summa cum laude from Wayne State University with a double major in political science and peace/conflict studies. She was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and a recipient of the 1999 Stephen B. Sarasohn Fellowship Award.

During her undergraduate days, Quinn worked full-time as program director at the refugee shelter called Freedom House in Detroit, supervising staff members, interns, and volunteers.

"Part of my job was doing the initial intake as people were coming into the shelter; I wrote down the stories of what happened to them and shifted that information over to the legal department," Quinn said. "Many people suffered torture and persecution in their countries of origin."

Upon graduation, Quinn spent nearly three years working for AmeriCorps' Youth Leadership Development Program. From there, she moved to Miami, where she worked for the International Rescue Committee's Human Trafficking Program. Quinn also received her graduate degree in international administration from the University of Miami, graduating summa cum laude in 2004.

After she finished her graduate degree, Quinn served as the deputy director of Victim Response Inc./The Lodge, a domestic violence and sexual abuse shelter in Miami. There, she supervised the advocacy, resource development, and quality assurance departments.

"In Miami, I worked with victims of human trafficking for about three years, then I worked with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Much of my work was providing case management, social services, and raising awareness on these issues," she said. "In order to properly serve the survivors, we often collaborated with law enforcement, as well as legal service providers - I think that is what truly sparked my interest in going into the legal field."

Quinn continued: "I started working in victims' rights work, mostly for non-profits, working with individuals in more of a social services capacity but realized that what most survivors needed were legal remedies... As I acquired this life experience, I also realized what I needed was a legal background to better serve this population... I am building my path as I go as opposed to going directly from Point A to Point B."

Quinn returned to Michigan and to her alma mater, enrolling at Wayne State University Law School. She is expected to graduate with her juris doctorate in law in 2013. Through the law school, Quinn has a certificate in civil court mediation.

"It was a great experience because you're actually doing facilitative mediation for parties in conflict and helping them resolve some of their issues," she said.

She has high praise for her law school experience, serving as an intern in the Wayne County Circuit Court last year, where she worked specifically in the solution-oriented domestic violence prevention court. Currently, she is a student lawyer in Wayne State's Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic. According to Quinn, she can practice law under the supervision of a licensed attorney. In this case, it's law professor Rachel Settlage, who runs the clinic.

"It has been a wonderful learning experience. Wayne State offers a strong curriculum for people who are interested in public interest law. I am able to not only take the traditional law school classes, but also build a curriculum around my interest in public interest law while gaining practical experience - which was what I was looking for,"said Quinn. "For example, I was able to complete a judicial internship last summer. Last semester, I took a practicum course in dispute resolution. Now I am in the student clinic... For me this has been one of the greatest experiences at Wayne: taking academic classes and gaining more practical experience at the same time"

Published: Thu, Feb 23, 2012

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