'Changing closets' Law grad's article takes top spot in National Law Review contest

By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

Dahlia Seligman capped her legal education at Michigan State University College of Law by winning a National Law Review contest with her article, "Changing Closets: Transgendered Youths' Right to Dress in Public Schools and the First Amendment."

Seligman received national recognition, having her article published for two years in a forum dominated by esteemed legal practitioners. Her article includes an analysis of how a court would look at such cases, and ultimately gives guidance to school administrators on how to become proactive.

"Winning the contest was especially important to me it was a way in which I put myself out there and accomplished a goal," Seligman says. "I always believed myself to be stronger in oral advocacy than writing and I've tried to push myself with my writing.

"Submitting an entry was a huge push to prove to myself I can do anything I set my mind to. When I found out I won it was just days before my law school graduation, what a present it was I was ecstatic!"

Written a few months before the current controversy over transgender bathrooms, Seligman views the topic as still important and relevant.

"I hope the bathroom controversy also sparks the thought about other legal issues like clothing choice," she says. "When I wrote my article I knew the legal rights of transgendered persons were soon going to be evaluated. Obergefell, to me, really pushed the door open."

Seligman knew from a young age that she wanted to become a lawyer.

"I wanted to be the voice for those who could not express their legal rights on their own," she says.

A "proud Canadian," and native of southern Ontario, she earned her bachelor's degree, with honors, in Ethics & Society, from the University of Ottawa in Canada. Her minor was French as a Second Language and she is certified bilingual in French by the university.

A spring graduate from MSU Law, during law school, she took part in advocacy and arbitration competitions, served as a student ambassador for the admissions office, was a chapter member of the American Inns of Court, and took the Street Law class teaching law classes to students in Lansing.

She spent four months earlier this year at the MSU Law Immigration Clinic, where she enjoyed making a meaningful impact on peoples' lives.

"Helping children facing deportation from the United States to stay in the country legally and guiding them on the right path to obtain legal status and citizenship was an amazing feeling," she says.

Her externship in early 2015 for Judge Rosemarie Aquilina at the 30th Judicial Circuit Court in Lansing gave her a first exposure to the practice of law.

"I enjoyed reading motions from each side, researching the legal issues, and subsequently drafting a bench memorandum for Judge Aquilina," she says. "Judge Aquilina was always full of wisdom and advice for us future practitioners. I think of her very highly and will always keep in touch."

Seligman interned last summer at the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel for the Senate of Canada in Ottawa, where she carried out a great deal of legal research and writing.

"I enjoyed working in both of Canada's official languages during my time at the Senate," she says. "It was a great opportunity to work on important legal work as well as keep abreast proceedings in the Senate. My favorite assignment was when I was able to help draft proposed legislation."

As an extern for the next six months at the Livingston County Prosecutor's Office in Howell, she worked a district court docket appearing with supervision on various matters such as probation violation hearings, evidentiary hearings, pleas, and sentencings.

"All of the assistant prosecuting attorneys were so patient and took the time to educate and mentor me and I forever have them to thank," she says.

"During my externship, I'm proud I was able to solely draft a response brief to an appeal for the appellate prosecuting attorney. Every day was memorable but the highlight experience, without a doubt, was when I successfully tried a criminal bench trial in district court."

Seligman, who now makes her home in Sterling Heights, is studying for the Bar exam and looking forward to launching her legal career as a litigator with Hewson & Van Hellemont in Oak Park.

"While I love the law in all avenues, I know I need to be in the courtroom trying cases," she says.

"To me, I need the excitement and adrenaline that comes from the adversarial nature of a courtroom."

Giving back to the community has always been important to her. She has volunteered in multiple capacities and durations in Canada and in Michigan.

"One volunteering position that was very rewarding was when I participated in preparing wills and power of attorneys for deployed soldiers at Camp Grayling," she says. "Pro bono work and giving back to the local and larger community is so important."

As a new practitioner, she looks forward to more volunteer work in her future.

The middle of three sisters, Seligman hopes her determination and ability to follow her dreams encourages her siblings to do the same.

"I come from a rather non-traditional family with divorced parents; I was not only the first to receive a juris doctor, but even the first to obtain a bachelor's degree," she says. "I'm very thankful to my family and grandparents for motivating and encouraging me to pursue my dreams. My father always told me to pursue what makes me happy, and that's what I have done."

Published: Mon, Jun 27, 2016

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