Monday, November 28, 2011
Rochester Bar Association: A Spirit of Good Fellowship and Cooperation
9:20 pm est
A few weeks ago I was invited to join a lunch meeting of the Rochester
Bar Association at the Rochester Mills Brewery (watch out SBM President-Elect Bruce Courtade ̶ this brewery is definitely your kind of place).
Many in attendance were solo or small-firm practitioners who learned about the PMRC and the bar’s commitment to serving them.
its current President, Robert D. Sheehan, is a private practitioner, its past Presidents include judges
of the 52-3 District Court, including immediate past President, Hon. Julie Nicholson. In sharp comparison, judges cannot serve as State Bar of Michigan officers due to Rule 7 of the Supreme Court Rules Concerning the State Bar of Michigan. It states:
No person holding judicial office may be elected or appointed an officer of the Board
of Commissioners. A judge presently serving as an officer may complete that term but may not thereafter, while holding judicial
office, be elected or appointed an officer. A person serving as an officer who, after the effective date of this amendment,
is elected or appointed to a judicial office, must resign as an officer of the board on or before the date that person assumes
a membership that exceeds 75 attorneys, and all of the Rochester District Judges, the Rochester Bar Association’s website states that it “remains committed to the original goals
established by its founders and will continue to promote justice, maintain the integrity, honor and courtesy of the legal
profession within the community and cultivate a spirit of good fellowship and cooperation among our members.”
It offers luncheon meetings (often at the brewery), a golf outing, and an annual holiday party. It
also sponsors several public service projects including essay and public speaking contests for the local schools and free
my friends at the Rochester Bar Association: Thank you for inviting me to join your bar association at the bar.
Your spirit of good fellowship and cooperation definitely presented itself at the meeting.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
This is NO “Wayne’s World”: A Look at “Practical Law”
8:39 pm est
Sorry, but when I think of local-access
cable programming, my thoughts immediately turn to “Wayne’s World,” the hilarious movie about two happy-go-lucky high school grads who ogle
over Heather Locklear and high-powered electric guitars. They also host a local-access cable show.
For 15 years, Oakland County lawyer Henry Gornbein has hosted a popular and informative
local-access cable show called “Practical Law.” The show has already aired 600 episodes.
Through the programming, he brings the law to people in an interesting, down-to-earth way and invites a variety of
guests from the legal community, including:
Gail Pamukov-Miller and her pro bono client Ken Wyniemko, whom she helped free from prison through DNA evidence in
collaboration with Cooley’s Innocence Project.
- U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Rosen (this episode was actually filmed in his stunning, historic
of the Michigan Supreme Court.
- A lawyer who battled, and overcame, substance abuse and a gambling addiction.
“Practical Law” educates. It humanizes
the law. It improves the image of lawyers. And it has earned numerous awards, including
the 2009 Philo T. Farnsworth Award for Excellence in Community Programming. Thank you, Henry, for your efforts to bring law-related education to the public through your
show. To quote Wayne Campbell: "Excellent."
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Dog on Death Row - A Sad Update and Hope for Reform
10:28 am est
Despite a flurry of court
filings aimed to save the life of "Ace," the dog was euthanized on Thursday, November 10. A Detroit
Free Press story can be found here.
As it turned out, the State Bar Animal Law Section had
some involvement in the effort to save "Ace." Margo Miller, a member of the Animal Law Section
Council, advised me that she and Michigan lawyer April N. Malak obtained a Temporary Restraining Order from Wayne County Circuit
Court Judge Gershwin Drain at about 2:30 p.m., the same day that Detroit Animal Control put down the dog.
(Contact me if you'd like to see a copy of their Verified Complaint, Motion for TRO, and TRO.) Margo
advised me that they could not officially serve Detroit Animal Control or any government entity due
to the furlough day. The day prior, a woman purporting to be “Ace’s” true owner secured
a TRO with the assistance of Detroit lawyer Corbett Edge O'Meara.
Margo Miller and April Malak
represented The Lexus Project, Inc., a New York non-profit that advocates nationally for animals and provides assistance.
Though their efforts could not save the dog, Margo advised that "[a]t the least, for all the Aces, we hope to
cause some change in DAC’s 'policy' [that led to the dog's destruction]." She also thanked fellow
Animal Law Section member Richard Angelo for sharing forms and advice. (Richard Angelo saved "Cola,"
as reported in my last blog entry, below).
Thank you, Michigan lawyers, for trying to save "Ace." At the very least, maybe you'll
convince the City of Detroit to change its policy to allow pit-bull dogs to be transferred to rescues, appropriate shelters,
or new homes.
(Photo of "Ace" from freep.com.)
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
State Bar Animal Law Section - Can You Perform Another Death Row Rescue?
7:55 am est
There's a new dog on death row in Detroit. He hasn't been known to hurt anyone, and he seems friendly and well-mannered.
But because the Detroit City Council didn't pass a resolution designed to save him, the dog (affectionately called "Ace"
because he was found wandering near an Ace Hardware store) is expected to be put to death simply because he
was a stray — and of a pit-bull breed. Detroit Channel 4 covered the story this morning.
This definitely looks like work for the State Bar of Michigan
Animal Law Section. In addition to the great services this section provides for its members, such as its newsletter, annual symposium,
and public policy work, it also saves lives. The section is credited for saving animals from "death
row," and its success stories are practically guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes.
I'll never forget the
story reported by section member Richard Angelo in the Animal Law Section's Spring 2009 Newsletter on how he volunteered to save "Cola," a pit-bull mix, from death row in Saginaw County a few years ago. Cola
was abandoned and left in a vacant home living on anything he could find within the home such as furniture,
feces, and woodwork. Neighbors sometimes slipped him food and water under the door. Animal Control could
not step in until his condition deteriorated. It did. In April 2008, after about a year of solitary, involuntary confinement
, Cola was rescued. His owner was charged with animal cruelty.
But what happened to Cola,
the rescued dog? Having committed no crime, he was nevertheless placed on "death row" because of Saginaw
County's unwritten rule forbidding the adoption of pit-bull or pit-bull mix dogs. The Animal Law Section's Spring 2009
Newsletter, p. 12, shares Richard Angelo's story of how he tirelessly worked with the court, the county, and rescue facilities
to save Cola's life. He also shares the unforgettable, but short, time he spent with Cola before the
dog was sent to a Colorado rescue. That rescue since placed Cola in a loving home.
To my Animal
Law Section friends: Detroit and Saginaw County have different policies and ordinances, but can you help save "Ace"
from death row? Please let me know, and I'll share your efforts on my blog.
Picture source: ehow.com.
(This is not the actual dog at issue in Detroit.)
Friday, November 4, 2011
My Personal Challenge to the Michigan Lawyers Auxiliary
On November 2, I attended a board meeting
of the Michigan Lawyers Auxiliary. MLA members
are relatives and spouses of Michigan lawyers. (An "auxiliary," by definition, is "an organization allied with, but subsidiary to, a main body
of restricted membership, especially one composed of members' relatives.") It supports our profession
and our communities. Its best-known projects include:
9:56 am edt
- Crystal Apple Award recognizing teachers who make outstanding contributions to law-related education.
- Courthouse tours for students
- Law Day essay contest
- Distribution of You and the Law
Before I left the meeting, I was asked what more the MLA could do. My personal suggestion was to help
advance "A Lawyer Helps."
MLA, thank you for your work and your enthusiasm. Drawing on your state-wide network, consider seeking
out and writing entries for the website on the good things lawyers do through pro bono and community service.
And in these difficult financial times, consider encouraging donations to the Access to Justice Fund. Thanks for asking, MLA. Next question?
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Ingham County Bar Association: Much to Celebrate
7:27 pm edt
you missed last night's Ingham County Bar Association 117th Annual Dinner because you were turned away. The event was sold out. It
was a wonderful evening that celebrated the legal community as well as a bar association that has made a commendable rebound.
The Ingham County Bar's President, Scott Mandel
(one of my law partners), has worked steadily with its leadership to create and build momentum. He's part
of a talented group of officers and directors that include people well-known to State Bar leadership such as Liisa Speaker,
William Josh Ard, and Mary Chartier, to name a few. Added to its team is new Executive Director, Madelyne Lawry,
who is well-known in Michigan lawyer association management.
was much to celebrate. For starters, the group's membership increased by 200 over last year. It
achieved growth in this difficult economy through careful planning and hard work. For example, it personally
phoned (not e-mailed) members who dropped to encourage them to re-join and listen to any concerns, and it initiated
a new dues structure. Convincing members to re-join is not a "hard-sell"; this group offers
solid programs (including last night's Annual Dinner, Meet the Judges, an annual shrimp dinner, and many more), and an e-newsletter.
Last night's celebration included presentations of
several annual awards, some of which were the "Thomas E. Brennan, Sr., Lifetime Achievement Award" given to Michigan
Supreme Court Justice Michael F. Cavanaugh; the "Theodore W. Swift Civility Award" given to Shauna L. Dunnings;
the "Leo A. Farhat Outstanding Attorney Award" given to Karen Bush Schneider; and the "Liberty Bell Award"
given to Sgt. Major David L. Dunckel (a volunteer for the Ingham County Veterans Treatment Court) and Heather Spielmaker (founder of Cooley Law School’s Service to Soldiers Legal Assistance Referral Program). In presenting Heather's award, Frank Reynolds stated:
demands sacrifice and requires leadership. ... This honor ... stresses 'citizens' individual responsibility
by recognizing their duties as well as their rights.' Heather founded Cooley Law School’s
Service to Soldiers Legal Assistance Referral Program in 2007. This nationally recognized program provides
no-cost legal representation to deploying, deployed, and returning troops. ... To date, over 300 returning Michigan service
men and women have received free legal representation through this program. ... Heather has followed in the steps of Louisa
May Alcott who said, 'Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and
see their beauty, believe in them and try to follow where they lead.' Heather is now in Law School.
Congratulations to the Ingham County Bar Association for succeeding in difficult economic times, engaging its membership, and for last night's positive, popular, fun,
and inspiring 117th Annual Dinner. Best wishes for another 117 years!
Are Women Lawyers Risk Averse?
My inaugural column in the October 2011 Michigan Bar Journal, p. 16, offered a personal opinion: "[L]ike it or not, the practice of law is also a business."
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As lawyers, we're smart, creative, and compassionate people. But can we be entrepreneurial, too?
Definitely, according to last month's ABA webinar called "The Road to Independence," sponsored
by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession. I was one of 5 panelists from across North America who spoke and offered tips on topics such
as marketing and management.
Joan Feldman blogged about our webinar in www.attorneyatwork.com, an interesting blog with a goal of "giv[ing] you everything you need to create a law practice
− and a life − you can love." To read her review, called "Risky Business: Startup Advice From
Women Lawyers," visit here.
The panelists and I can't say enough encouraging words to women lawyers seeking to form a law firm.
We began by contributing sections to the ABA's new book called "The Road to Independence: 101 Women's Journeys to Starting Their Own Law Firms." Last August we spoke in Toronto during the ABA Annual Meeting. Last month we gathered again for the
ABA webinar. All of us agreed that success takes hard work and careful planning but offers innumerable
rewards, personally and professionally.
The ABA has probably heard enough of my panel already, but resources are
close to home. The State Bar's Practice Management Resource Center can help, and its lending library should have the new book. The Law Practice Management and Legal Administrators Section can help. I'll never stop encouraging lawyers, male and female, to be entreprenurial −
contact me any time.
Thank you for visiting my blog.
My name is Julie Fershtman, and I was the 77th president of the 42,000-member
State Bar of Michigan from
September 2011 through September 2012. A member of the State Bar for over 26 years, I practice with the
law firm Foster Swift Collins & Smith, PC, in its Farmington Hills office, where I'm a Shareholder.
My areas of practice include commercial litigation, insurance defense and coverage, sporting and recreational liability,
agribusiness law and liability, and equine law. As a lawyer, I especially enjoy trial work; I've tried cases before
juries in 4 states (Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, and Connecticut) and have been admitted as pro hac vice counsel
on cases in 12 jurisdictions nationwide. Business will continue during my State Bar presidency, with assistance
of lawyers in my firm and the cooperation of fellow counsel and judges.
Aside from my law practice, I
also enjoy speaking and lecturing on liability, insurance, and risk management at seminars, conventions, CLE programs,
and conferences across the country, including the Insurance Skills Center. In 2011 I spoke on a panel at the ABA Annual Meeting in Toronto; I also spoke as a panelist on ABA webinars in 2011 and 2012. I also love writing. I've written 2 books and have contributed to or co-authored 4 ABA books, most recently in 2009 and 2011,
as well as 5 law journal articles for the ABA Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section. My writings include about
200 articles on legal subjects.
I grew up in the Detroit area and graduated from Emory College in 1983 and Emory Law
School in 1986. On a personal level, my father (the late Sidney Fershtman) was a Michigan lawyer, and my husband is
a lawyer. Although work, family, and bar activities leave little time for hobbies, my favorite hobby is horses.
With an empty horse barn on our property in the Detroit suburbs, chances are good that I'll be riding horses some time after
my service as State Bar President concludes.