Select few: Lawyer is among just a handful of Samoan-American attorneys

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

One of only a few Samoan-American attorneys in the U.S., Macie Dru Ann Tuiasosopo calls it an honor to be among these ranks. "I hope to inspire and encourage many to follow," she says. "We have a very small network, and work together to try to increase our numbers.

"When I passed the California Bar, I was told of one other Samoan attorney in the state of course, I immediately contacted her and we've been friends ever since."

Tuiasosopo owns her own firm, Toa Law Group, in downtown Detroit and also is of counsel with Adam Shakoor & Associates, P.C., in Detroit, Marilyn Thomassen & Associates, P.C., in San Diego, and Tuiasosopo Law Group, P.C., in Long Beach.

"I'll always keep my office in L.A. since I'm from there and am dedicated to serving those in my community," she says. "L.A. has the highest concentration of Samoans, which I make myself available to, if within my abilities."

The Detroit Mercy Law School alumna, who was named to 2015 "Michigan Women in the Law," specializes in probate and family law with a heart for underrepresented people.

"I practice probate because it allows us to protect the most vulnerable citizens in society specifically, developmentally disabled, mentally ill, and incapacitated individuals who need their assets and personal decisions protected," she says.

"With family law, I always hope I can ease the burden on families when they navigate through the family law system to establish paternity, child custody, parenting time and child support. This can be emotionally draining, and I hope to be the one to ease the stress that comes along with it."

She recently took the NFL certification exam to become a contract adviser for NFL players.

"I come from a family with at least 20 NFL players or retired players and believe it's appropriate to provide representation they can trust," she says.

Tuiasosopo started her career path with an undergrad degree in political science from the University of Arizona.

"I was interested in the political process and how minorities can mobilize to become a force in it," she says. "I learn more each day, but have learned the most participating in it.

"This year I was elected Precinct Delegate for the Democratic Party on August 2 and hope to continue growing and learning about the process."

While an undergrad in Tucson, she worked as a campaign organizer for Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.

"It was one of the best because she was so engaging and welcoming, despite my lack of experience in the arena," Tuiasosopo says. "She taught me true democratic values and how we advance them through local elections, canvassing and voter outreach. It encouraged me to work on more campaigns."

Tuiasosopo also was in charge of organizing and voter outreach for Barack Obama in an area of Tucson with low turnout. "We had local events that catered to the population to make the voting process easier," she says.

After graduation, she spent the summer as a legislative intern in the nation's capital, where she enjoyed going to the Capitol every morning and meeting fellow interns and elected officials from different states. Working for Congressman Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa, she learned how territories interact with the other States.

"We often found ourselves aligning with other interns from Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Mariana Islands and Guam when it came to social events because we were often grouped together," she says.

"It was amazing to attend Congressional hearings and committee meetings to gain more understanding on how a bi-partisan government truly works. It was also exciting to meet students from different backgrounds and states to share ideas and experiences."

She taught English to children from the Tohono O'odham Nation at Ha:San Preparatory and Leadership School in Tucson, before heading to Detroit Mercy Law School, where she initially wanted to compel change in education from a more powerful standpoint.

"As a teacher I was often disappointed in the process and wanted to effect change from the Board of Education, or through case law as a litigator," she says.

She founded the UDM Law American Civil Liberties Union chapter with her fellow civil libertarian friends; served as treasurer and class rep for the Student Bar Association; was involved in the Sports Law Association, Moot Court Board of Advocates, and Black Law Students Association; and served as editor of the school newspaper, In Brief.

She worked for 14 months at the Misdemeanor Defenders office at the 36th District Court. "I loved it because it made me feel like a 'real lawyer' in law school," she says.

"The job allows you to request permission from the judge to practice law under the supervision of an attorney, which pretty much allowed us to do arraignments, client interviews, pre-trial conference hearings, sentencing hearings, and possibly trials if any cases went that far. I was able to represent hundreds of individuals through first hand litigation."

Tuiasosopo currently serves as president of the ACLU of Michigan-Metro Detroit Branch and is the community outreach chair of the Wolverine Bar Association.

Tuiasosopo says her huge Samoan family takes time to build each other up and success is shared. "We all play sports growing up, and are encouraged to become anything we want," she says.

A rugby player in college, her sports passion is running, an activity she says liberates her mind and challenges her. She belonged to the Running Club at UDM.

"I ran my first marathon in law school, and continued after," she says. "It was the one thing that taught me we can push ourselves beyond any limits ever imaginable. I never thought I could really run 26.2 miles without stopping after training and improving each week, it was possible!

"I'm also very religious and thank God for what he chose to use me for as an attorney and the ability to share my gifts that he has provided me with to do one thing serve the people."

Published: Mon, Sep 12, 2016

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