PILI is excited to welcome Usama Ibrahim to our Alumni Network Leadership Council as the 2020 Graduate Fellow Alumni Representative. Each year, PILI appoints one Intern and one Fellow from the most recent class to serve on the Council for a two-year term. Usama Ibrahim is a first-year associate at McDermott Will & Emery and was a 2020 Fellow at Legal Aid Chicago.
What have you been up to since your PILI Fellowship concluded?
Since my Fellowship last summer, I’ve had the honor of continuing to do impactful and consequential work. As a first-year associate at McDermott Will & Emery, I’ve been blessed with an incredibly supportive environment of mentors who are interested in my success as a person, and as a litigator. Through my affiliation with McDermott, I’ve had the chance to work on a variety of pro bono matters including the creation of a not-for-profit for an aspiring artist and to help support an international charity in completing annual filings. Additionally, I’ve been invited to work on a case that I had actually studied in law school. Though certainly a rare privilege in any context, this case is of particular importance to me as it explores the contours of qualified immunity on Transportation Security Administration officers. At a time when qualified immunity has gripped the nation’s attention, I’m grateful to be part of a courageous movement to hold local, state, and federal officials responsible for their actions.
What was your favorite thing about being a PILI Fellow?
My most treasured experiences of being a PILI Fellow stem from the nature of direct advocacy and the relationship that one forms with the clients. By securing a victory for a client, you’ve immediately improved their condition. For some clients, that meant being separated from an abusive partner. For others, it meant being protected from harassment. To watch clients in tears, and to be in tears with them, celebrating a professional and personal victory is an unparalleled reminder that this work matters. That it will forever matter. That we have a responsibility, regardless of sector and seniority, to commit some of our time to public service and to aid those who are less privileged than ourselves. Every day as a PILI Fellow was a reminder of that reality.
How has your commitment to service played a role in your life and career?
I would not be who I am today without the selfless service of others. In appreciation of the sacrifices of my parents, teachers, and community leaders, I emulate and honor their service by finding acts of service in every action that I pursue. From thanking the postal worker who tirelessly delivers packages to traveling to Tijuana, Mexico at the height of the border crisis to help refugees seek asylum, there are avenues for us all to incorporate service into our daily lives.
As an aspiring member of the legal profession, I sought to take advantage of as many opportunities to assist others. When Hurricane Harvey struck Houston, my colleagues and I at the law school mobilized a crew of volunteers to aid victims in that time of crisis. When there was an uptick of reported hate crimes, I worked at the State of Illinois Human Rights Commission and reviewed civil rights complaints. As the child of two educators, I recognized the value of education and pursued volunteer opportunities with Street Law in order to combat misinformation and empower young people with knowledge, resources and skills to make informed decisions. Each experience was not only an opportunity to hone my advocacy skills, but an opportunity to serve others. As someone who has now been privileged with membership to the bar, I commit to utilizing that privilege to serving others.