Imran Syed, 30, of Canton, Michigan, was awarded last week with the Regeana Myrick Outstanding Young Lawyer Award at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Novi.
Syed is an assistant clinical professor of law at the University of Michigan Law School’s Innocence Clinic. There, he is a professor who also takes on cases of people writing to him claiming they have been wrongfully convicted. For example, many of the cases that come to his desk involve arson wrongful convictions that were determined based on outdated fire science. He often speaks and writes on the topic of wrongful convictions, including compensation for those exonerated of crimes, the inaccurate eyewitness testimonies, and the need for reform in Michigan’s public defense system.
“Wrongful convictions happen more than they should…There are more people wrongfully convicted in jail then there should be,” Syed said.
He added that one out of every five prisoners in jail is there for a crime they didn’t commit.
“We get applications from thousands of inmates, but we are very selective on the cases we take on,” he said.
Syed is a graduate of University of Michigan’s law school. His junior year in college he decided he wanted to go into law school because he felt it would give him an intellectual challenge. That’s when he started with the Innocence Clinic as a student attorney where he worked for two years. Being apart of this project reaffirmed his commitment to becoming a lawyer. He grew a passion for this project, and after graduation, served as a clinical fellow and staff attorney in the clinic for another three years.
Awarded by the State Bar of Michigan Young Lawyers Section, it is named after Regeana Myrick, who was a very active member of the State Bar of Michigan Young Lawyers Section Executive Council when she died in 1997. It is presented annually to just one young Michigan lawyer who has been practicing law for less than five years and has a record of public service for the community.
His former boss, Bridget McCormack, who was elected to the Michigan Supreme Court in 2012, first nominated Syed. His current boss also wrote a letter of support, along with several others who felt he was deserving of this award. Each nominee is evaluated based on their legal history and service to the community. Syed received his bachelor’s degree in law and in political science from the University of Michigan and graduated in 2011.
“I’m honored that I received this award. I see it as a reflection of the work that the innocence project does. It is the best way to use my legal skills to help the community,” said Syed.