Law School Students of the Year: Sam Faisal, Suffolk University

Sam Faisal, president of Suffolk Law’s Black Law Student Association, is a student leader at the Boston school, helping students get through their challenges as a liaison with school administrators. He also offers a sense of community and support for underrepresented students, represents low-income clients and back to working-class neighborhoods and the immigrant community.

His path to such success was not an easy one. 

After witnessing and ultimately falling victim to crimes in his neighborhood, Faisal saw himself becoming a police officer. He needed some life experience and intellectual impetus to begin imagining himself as an attorney or a judge, he said. That came in part from two Suffolk Law students who visited his school weekly to train him and a small group of high school juniors in Constitutional law. 

He went on to compete in a national high school moot court competition and then a light switched on in his brain: “I started to think: What could I accomplish with knowledge of the structure of the law? My sense of what I could be just got broader.” 

Serving in the program that changed his own thinking
What he could accomplish turned out to be significant: He became a law student leader at Suffolk Law and a mentor in the same program that had changed his life. He traveled by subway twice a week to teach a group of Boston area public school kids about the complex subtleties of Con Law in a case involving high school protesters in the age of social media.

The teenagers and Faisal were equally enthralled with the moot court case. His high school mentee went on to win the national competition before a panel of federal judges in Washington, D.C.

Show cause hearings and asylum cases
During his 1L summer Faisal volunteered at show cause hearings in Boston Municipal Court working with indigent clients attempting to get their cases dismissed so that no charges would appear on their records. Criminal charges can result in a loss of public housing, school scholarships and make it difficult to get a job. He went nine for 12 on the dismissals he says, convincing the magistrate to allow one of his clients to pay back a store for a stolen iPhone and another to enter treatment for drug addiction.

As a 3L Faisal, serves in the Suffolk Law Immigration Clinic. Among other cases, he is working on the asylum application for a gay Brazilian man who fears continued harassment and persecution in his home country if he is forced to return there. Faisal and his clinic partner spent countless hours preparing the client’s affidavit, researching country conditions under the regime of Jair Bolsanaro and crafting a legal argument. Faisal is also working as an immigration law clerk at Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, a Boston law firm specializing in business immigration law. 

The Elephant in the Room
As president of Suffolk Law’s Black Law Student Association, he led the school’s effort around Black History Month with a series of empowering events culminating in Elephant in the Room. During that event, underrepresented students shared their law school challenges anonymously; Faisal listened and shared relevant issues with law school deans. In the “Black Legal Love” event, he brought in black alumni to share how they had overcome personal challenges — from caring for young kids during law school to finding ways to balance their personal and professional lives.

Training 200 students
He also spearheaded a complex mock exam/Thanksgiving Celebration, bringing in multiple professors to help prepare 200 students for exams in civil procedure, contracts, property and criminal law. The event reminded students that they were part of a larger community and that they didn’t need to face the fear of exams in a vacuum.

On the Board of Governors
While serving on the Board of Governors of the Student Bar Association he sought opinions from law students on whether Suffolk’s Police Department should be armed, sharing those views with school administrators and school police. Faisal reached out to legal leaders from Dell, inviting them to speak to students about the company’s diversity scholarship and also provided a student perspective by taking part in the interviews of potential new faculty members.

Good things happen
“Sam has this great quality of being gentle, at ease and warm, yet tenacious—and with the good sense to know when the latter is called for,” says Professor Ragini Shah, director of the Immigration Clinic. “Whether he’s helping clients in the immigrant community, teaching high school kids, or representing fellow students, he brings that warmth and determination to bear — and good things happen.”

When it came time to choose a nominee, Faisal came quickly to mind, said Suffolk Law Dean Andrew Perlman. “It’s one thing to talk about improving your community, but Sam makes it happen, both at Suffolk Law and in the larger Boston community. He is innovative, has a willingness to talk about difficult subjects on behalf of the students, and brings tenacity to his work that has allowed him to give back in spite of his law school obligations. We’re proud to put his name forward.”  

 

 

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