Attorney Zarinah Nadir has recently published her wonderful layperson’s handbook Legally Savvy on what everyone needs to know to make good legal decisions. The basic premise of the book is to know how to deal with legal issues in day-to-day life and when to get an attorney involved.
Basically, Nadir suggests not to wait to call an attorney, but to know your rights and get legal help as soon as you need it. She outlines a number of situations in funny — and often frightening —anecdotes that are bound to make anyone take a minute to look closer at legal questions we all kind of gloss over.
Happily, Ms. Nadir agreed to speak to Muslim Girl and give us an exclusive interview on what made her write the book, what she hopes we get out of it, and other information that will hopefully inspire our readers to take a closer look at legal issues and know their rights.
MG: Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for our blog! We are excited to get the chance to hear more of your thoughts on your recently released book, Legally Savvy. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
ZN: Thank you for having me! I’m an attorney by passion and profession. My law school career opened with the tragedy of September 11th and the opening of the cult classic, Legally Blonde. I was influenced by both — whether it’s teaching at the university, building my business, or providing training, I support the saying “Laughter leads to learning.” I always believed it is pointless to have knowledge if it’s not accessible to the people.
I was born in New York City and raised in Phoenix, Arizona by woke parents who were brought up in the 1970s New York. I was raised up in community activism. So, as a teenager, along with 14 other brilliant teenage Muslim girls and 2 affirming advisors, I co-founded what is now the oldest Muslim civic organization in the Phoenix Metropolitan area, Al-Mu’minah, a young Muslim women’s empowerment association.
Many of these women went on to have prestigious careers, run masajid, community organizations, have beautiful families, and be single boss chicks Alhamdulillah!
In college, I was the vice president of my campus’s Muslim Students Association on September 11th. The overreaching of the FBI into the Muslim community confirmed my desire to go to law school. After majoring in Spanish as an undergrad, I decided law would be my next language.
I co-founded my law school’s Muslim Law Students Association, engaged in voter protection, and graduate student government. Post law school, my journey built upon each previous chapter.
For the last decade, I have been laser-focused on addressing one of the biggest problems in North America, affordable access to attorneys. I have a pesky sense of duty and loyalty that regularly propels me out of my comfort zone.
Most recently, I was given the opportunity to serve as co-counsel to my friend and fellow attorney colleague who was awarded a historic verdict of $2.75 Million dollars for speaking up about the discrimination and retaliation she experienced at the hands of the AZ Senate. My family and friends are rizq to me. I’m so grateful.
MG: What inspired you to write this book right now?
ZN: The pandemic! Despite the trauma of these past two years, Alhumdulilah, the lockdown slowed everything down just long enough for me to carve out time to write. It also put the Power Author Academy based out of Detroit online, which I joined and had a cadre of eight other women to write in solidarity — including my accomplished mother!
So, this book had been on my heart for about four years. I’ve seen the legal industry from various angles including private practice, law school administration while serving as the first Muslim Women Director of Admissions at Arizona State University’s College of Law, as a juvenile public defender, and working in access to justice.
I saw that people would check their wallets before they checked their rights. And I know that isn’t right! I also saw that when people had access to attorneys they still did not know how to utilize attorneys and when because those of us who did not grow up wealthy, like the Rockefellers, didn’t get trained to be legally savvy.
For years, I’d had the opportunity to share my tips to be legally savvy with clients, close family, and friends, and in my presentations. They gave me feedback about how it had positively impacted their lives, and that urged me to put those hacks in a book. That way, it could reach parts of the world I may never personally reach.
MG: What are some of the key takeaways you hope people have from your book?
ZN: Being legally savvy can save you headaches, heartaches, and to be real, it can save your life. I hope people will upgrade their thinking to that of the super-wealthy raised with unfettered access to attorneys. It’s a totally different way to live! The rest of us were locked out of having access to attorneys for so long that we think we don’t need attorneys when we need them more than we think.
If you don’t know your rights, you don’t have any. And, if you don’t understand the law you are subjected to it. Legally Savvy has 50 hacks to elevate your legal savviness.
I hope people will learn how to more swiftly spot when a matter in life is legal and to know how to address the legalities of life more proactively, so they can avoid the trauma so many good and kind people have sadly endured. I also hope they will use the tools available to them to regularly have access to legal counsels.
MG: Marriage is particularly relevant as many of us have had to deal with divorces, either family or friends or ourselves personally. What kind of advice do you think is most relevant about marriage from a legal standpoint?
ZN: With marriage, the stakes are a lot higher than we realize. When we marry certain legal rights and responsibilities trigger. You become bound to a person who can enrich you or destroy you literally, emotionally, financially, physically, and spiritually.
Most of us don’t take the time to choose a spouse wisely and if the marriage goes sour it can be disastrous. I have seen situations where the husband sold the family house right from underneath the wife’s nose. I have seen where the husband racked up debt pursuing wild business fantasies and the wife was left holding the bag for half of that debt.
I have seen where a spouse thought she was married, but it turned out he was still legally married to his first wife, and she was blocked from obtaining his inheritance at the time he passed away. I have seen a wife put into the hospital by the very spouse who holds the right to pull the plug on life support. I have seen women conned into sponsoring a charming spouse from overseas only to be left with a broken heart, a depleted spirit, and a depleted bank account.
Way before saying “I do,” in addition to consulting with a trusted sheikh and pre-marriage counselor, it is just as imperative to seek legal counsel. Family law matters are state-specific, so it is important to understand how marriage would impact your legal standing — especially living in a society like the United States where there are not unadulterated shariah courts, it is key to understand what laws will impact you and the tips to protect your Islamic values under that system.
It is doubly important to understand the laws you are dealing with if you consider getting married in a country foreign to you. Signing contracts, even marriage contracts, in a language you can’t read and under a culture you tangentially understand is a risk rarely worth taking.
MG: You say in your book that people should not wait to contact an attorney. Can you say more about this, so we understand this concept better?
ZN: Legally Savvy teaches you how to catch legal issues at the legal cough before it turns into legal pneumonia. It also teaches you to tie your camel. This hadith really sums it up. Just like our health, the more preventative we can be the better. That means you get to save precious time, stress, and energy.
A good majority of legal issues can be prevented. That is empowering information! That means that we do not have to just roll the dice and gamble with our future. We do not have to suffer as much as we have. The rest of us did not grow up understanding when a matter of life turns legal.
We have only thought about using attorneys when someone is getting arrested or getting sued. But, if it is gotten that far, you have probably missed several steps that could have prevented the issue from getting there.
MG: This all sounds great. I purchased the book, and it is super informative, funny, interesting, well-written, and thought-provoking. Why do you recommend people buy your book?
ZN: Thanks! This isn’t a dry book of laws. It is a guide to being more confident, competent, capable, calm, and legally empowered! There are accounts from my personal experiences and other stories that either serve as an example or cautionary tale of encounters with the legal system.
I recommend anyone who wants to avoid the headaches and heartbreaks they’ve experienced in the past in love, life, or business, or have seen their friends, family, or community members endure to buy this book.
Being legally savvy is a skill just like riding a bike, learning to read, or doing math. That means you can learn it and have the skills to live a more vibrant life. It is also a community responsibility.
The more legally savvy our Muslim community becomes, especially women, the more we can get that target off of our backs. We have been taken advantage of for far too long. Ignorance is not bliss. It can be dangerous at most and frustrating at least. You owe it to yourself to upgrade your life, and being legally savvy is an essential part of that!
MG: Any final thoughts you’d like to share with us?
ZN: I invite Muslim girls to join the Legally Savvy Movement. For long enough Muslim women have been given the impression that they should leave their finances and business matters in the hands of men.
Even if you are surrounded by men with taqwa, it is still important for sisters to understand their personal financial and business matters. For a number of reasons, including the death of a father or spouse, you will want to be able to seamlessly continue running your life and perhaps step up as the head of the entire family.
Muslim women deserve to have regular, affordable access to attorneys to assist in making decisions in their lives. Legally Savvy gives you the foundation to be the boss of your life and to live with more confidence and courage. Legally savvy women foster legally savvy societies.
MG: Thanks so much for agreeing to let us interview you about your new best-selling release. If people want to buy Legally Savvy it is on Amazon, where can they get it?
MG: Also, can you give us any social media handles where people can connect with you or your book?
ZN: Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn: @zarinahnadiresq
Hashtags: #legallysavvy #belegallysavvy
MG: Thank you so much again for this, we’re looking forward to more people hearing about your work. The book is great!