Chicago Fellow Michelle Mbekeani Featured for Her Advocacy, Entrepreneurship

Michelle Mbekeani, University of Chicago Tony Patiño Fellow (2014) was recently featured in the University of Chicago Law School publication the Law School Record for her role in passing historic legislation and working to build a program to connect people who are incarcerated to legal advocacy and post-conviction assistance.

Michelle told the Law School Record: “My work is infused every day with lessons I learned at the Law School,” she said. “One of those lessons, learned in class and outside of it, was that real dialogue, deeply listening to and engaging with the positions and interests of all stakeholders, is the best way to reach an optimal solution that can be successfully implemented. I have tried to put that into practice in everything I do.”

Michelle, who currently serves as the senior legal and policy advisor to Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, points to this inclusive approach that played a role in securing the passage of historic legislation in Illinios, the first of its kind in the United States, to prohibit law enforcement from using deceptive tactics when interrogating minors. With a track record of demonstrated expertise and success passing legislation in Illinois, earlier this year, Michelle was invited by the Innocence Project to provide testimony before the Connecticut State Legislature Judiciary Committee in support of a similar bill to prohibit law enforcement from using deceptive interrogation tactics against minors.

Michelle is now pursuing her policy-minded goals in the entrepreneurial and tech space as an MBA student at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business where she is a Neubauer Family Foundation Civic Scholar.

Michelle is working to build up her startup business, a subscription-based digital platform that gives people in prison free access to legal advocacy, assistance for innocence claims, and post-conviction support, paid for by attorney subscription fees.

She told the Law School Record: “The current postal mail-based system for legal mail in prison is unconscionably inefficient, severely prolonging the possibility of exoneration … and creating substantial burdens not only for people in prison who are seeking justice but for attorneys and correctional staff.”