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Popular weekly Detroit newspaper features life of Joumana Kayrouz
The Popular Detroit weekly newspaper, Metro Times, featured a full-length 4,766-word interview and profile of prominent Michigan Accident Attorney Joumana Kayrouz in their April 22 edition.
The feature was written by award-winning writer, photographer and producer Drew Philp, who offered readers of the high circulation weekly Greater Detroit region publication a rare insight into the life and background of Kayrouz, who is one of the most talked about legal celebrities in Michigan and the Midwest.
Philp really did his homework, meeting with Kayrouz five different times including at her home and office, and at other public locations, totaling nearly 10 hours of interviews and observations. This was no quick write up, Kayrouz noted. Philp also interviewed family members, friends and legal associates for the magazine profile.
“I was very impressed with the professionalism of Mr. Philp and the extensive time he put into this writing assignment. I think it is reflected in the feature which captures my life so succinctly and in such compelling fashion, as a result of his amazing penmanship,” Kayrouz said.
“The response I received from readers of the Metro Times shows how widely circulated and read this publication is. It was a privilege to be featured in the Metro Times. What an honor it is for me.”
The magazine feature described Kayrouz’s life as an “against-all-odds” story that the writer compared to “Citizen Kane,” the fictionalized Hollywood film life-story of the elusive but powerful media mogul William Randolph Hearst played by Orson Welles.
Philp details his visit to Kayrouz’s opulent home in Bloomfield Hills where he noted that the prominent Michigan accident attorney often uses to host receptions and fundraisers for good causes, charitable organizations, and progressive politicians and community leaders.
Philp summarizes Kayrouz’s life in an opening paragraph, where he writes, “In the midst of the 30-year Lebanese civil war, she arrived in the United States with $1,000 in her pocket, half a college education and limited English language skills. Since then, she has built the second-largest personal injury law firm in Michigan, employing about 70 people, including a large team of lawyers. It’s the only major personal injury law firm in Michigan owned by a woman, and wields an advertising budget of approximately $4.3 million dollars a year. She holds a degree in ethics from Yale University, speaks four languages — English, Arabic, French and Italian, and is flawless in all but the last — and metro Detroiters can see her face on more than 750 billboards and buses, the wallpaper of the city.”
The writer summarized the interest as offering “insight on modern-day immigration and the American Dream, the continued challenges of what it means to be a successful woman of color in today’s America.”
And, he describes Kayrouz as, “… probably also the most visible Arab-American in southeast Michigan — an area of the world with one of the largest Arab populations outside the Middle East. She’s been a trailblazer in her profession, one traditionally dominated by white Jewish men, and to many who know her, she’s a quiet feminist icon. She serves as a cultural ambassador between Lebanon and the United States, and is an enormous donor to progressive politicians, especially those who advocate for the rights of women. She gives approximately 20 percent of her wealth to charity, tithing in accordance to her profoundly felt religion, and serves as a role model to many in the legal profession and the immigrant and Arab-American communities in Detroit.”
The article touches on the issue of gender discrimination that exists in American society, noting that as a woman, Kayrouz experiences much sexism and criticism that is exclusively directed at successful women but that is often absent when addressing men. Women are often the target of exaggerated criticism and some of the negative stories that are sometimes spread about Kayrouz were thoroughly looked into by Philp. He quotes Anne Duggan, director of the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s studies program at Wayne State University, as saying that it is not unusual for women in high profile public positions to be attacked viciously and without merit.
“It’s a way of undermining her authority instead of recognizing her talent and hard work,” Duggan is quoted as saying in the article. “People want to explain away a woman’s success.”
As such, Kayrouz is very topical in the news, he notes, quoting her as saying: “People who are mysteries stimulate the imagination until they can be put into a box. People have a desire to fit everybody and anybody in a box.”
Kayrouz tells the writer in the interview that she was born and raised in the Christian section of Beirut to a military-officer father and a housewife mother. She is the youngest of four siblings, the other three brothers, all of whom have University Ph.D.s.
Kayrouz told the writer that her driving motivation in life is simple: “All I want to do is serve.”
To her family, education was important next only to the family’s Christian faith. The Yale educated Kayrouz said she wanted to become a doctor but ended up becoming an attorney.
During her years at Yale, she was influenced by many factors including the high profile debate over the sexual harassment controversy involving Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill. She also said that she was impressed with American Democracy and freedom, especially when someone like an American president could be held to account for their actions, something that could not happen to presidents or monarchs in her native country of Lebanon or the Arab World.
After settling in Greater Detroit, she received her law degree and worked with the legendary personal injury attorney Harry Philo. Within four months of being hired, she was made a junior partner.
Even as a lawyer, Kayrouz constantly faced challenges. After Philo retired, loyal and true to her profession, Kayrouz launched her own law firm.
She shared a story with the Metro Times writer Drew Philp that she frequently relates to others, about a judge who did not believe she was a lawyer. He forced her to recite her “bar code” for the court. Kayrouz called it “a humiliating experience” but was driven to even greater success and achievement by the desire that the judge would one day remember her name and face.
And that is hard not to do today. A large part of Kayrouz’s legal practice success comes not only from her diligent legal services but her strong marketing campaign, which features her name and face on hundreds of billboards in the Greater Detroit region and on buses in Metro Detroit. You cannot drive through Southwest Michigan without seeing at least five of her billboards, which recently received a marketing facelift, or her call to action to protect the rights of accident victims. Her website is www.YourRights.com and her law firm service telephone number is 1-800-Your-Rights.
Philp concludes that while Citizen Kane lost something in the popular iconic American film, Kayrouz has found something in herself, her voice. A voice dedicated to serving the public.
To read the complete feature story by Drew Philp in Metro Times by clicking here.
For more information on Joumana Kayrouz, visit www.YourRights.com.
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Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist and author. He covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and for TheArabDailyNews.com, and TheDailyHookah.com.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com
Visit this link to read Ray's column archive at the ArabNews,com www.arabnews.com/taxonomy/term/10906
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