Thursday, September 20, 2012
FINAL POST: Keep Advancing Our Profession
I have officially completed
my term as President of the State Bar of Michigan and now “ride off into the sunset” and join a distinguished group of past presidents. (Since I’m a horse lover, who put riding on the back
burner over the years while other pursuits consumed my time, you might actually find me riding off into the sunset.)
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We will be well served by our new President, and my good
friend, Bruce Courtade. In case you missed it, here’s a link to my parting column in the September 2012 Michigan Bar Journal.
Both my column and my remarks today at the State Bar Inaugural Luncheon concluded with this final challenge:
Please join me in helping
to improve our profession.
We can keep each other updated
on substantive developments in our respective areas of practice.
We can serve our clients or manage our courtrooms
with integrity and honor.
We can congratulate each other
on our successes and console each other on our disappointments.
can serve the public through programs such as partnering with schools as visiting lecturers, teachers, or mentors.
We can donate time to pro bono service or make annual
donations to the Access to Justice Fund.
can mentor a student or young lawyer.
Through our collective words
and deeds, together we can create a forceful counter-current against those who criticize or demean our profession.
When we join forces, as we do through our bar association, we can make a powerful difference. We
already have, and for that I thank all of you.
used with permission of the artist, Linda LaRochelle www.muralsbylarochelle.com
Sunday, September 16, 2012
probably heard of “speed dating.” It’s a “match-making” event that brings people
together for a fast-paced series of 5-minute (or so), one-on-one interactions with the aim of seeking chemistry and finding
future dates. “Speed mentoring” is similar in execution but completely different in
all other respects.
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“Speed mentoring” brings together “mentors” composed of lawyers
and judges as well as “mentees” composed of law students and/or young lawyers. Interactions
in “speed mentoring” give mentees tidbits of valuable advice from a variety of perspectives on topics
spontaneously selected at the pairing's choice that include resumés, job prospects, participation in law school organizations
and activities, class selection suggestions for different areas of practice, opportunities in the profession, and numerous
The National Association of Women Judges has been actively promoting speed mentoring through its “Mentor Jet”
program. Judge Katherine Hansen, Midwest Regional Director of NAWJ, has worked hard to organize recent
“Mentor Jet” events at Cooley Law School, University of Detroit-Mercy Law School (both of which I attended) and
Wayne State University Law School. With U-D Mercy and Wayne, she teamed up with Women Lawyers Association of Michigan, Wayne Region, and the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association.
I thank Judge Hansen and the many volunteers who have given of their time to help law students and young lawyers
throughout Michigan. Photo taken from the “Mentor Jet” event I attended at Cooley-Grand Rapids on June 27,
Sunday, September 9, 2012
A Landmark Law and a Legal Milestone for the Ages
Last month, the State Bar held a ceremony to unveil its 37th Michigan Legal Milestone at the Michigan Capitol Building. This milestone paid tribute to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which was signed into law in 1977 — 35 years ago —and prohibits discriminatory practices in employment, education,
housing, public service, real estate transactions, and the use of public accommodations.
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In attendance at the event were Daisy Elliott and Mel Larsen, its sponsors (pictured
at left). Though they enjoyed distinguished political careers, it was easy to tell that this particular piece of
legislation was uniquely special to them. The Capitol rotunda, where the event took place, couldn't have been
a more perfect setting.
Speaking at the event were several well-known civil-rights leaders. Mr. Larsen
spoke about how the law came into being and the challenges of making its passage a reality. Ms. Elliott's great grand-daughter,
Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney Aliyah Sabree, spoke about the law and the importance of her great-grandmother's
work. Dean John Nussbaumer of Cooley Law School provided an historical backdrop for the law's passage.
Dr. Daniel Krichbaum, Director of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission and former COO of the Michigan Roundtable
for Diversity and Inclusion, spoke about the importance of diversity and inclusion. We also heard remarks
from Rep. Fred Durhal, Jr., Chair of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus for the 2011-2012 legislative
I thank the State Bar of Michigan Law Related
Education & Public Outreach Committee for recommending this Michigan Legal Milestone. I also thank the Davis-Dunnings Bar Association for co-sponsoring it. More will be unveiled in the future, and you can help. Please send your suggestions
to the State Bar.
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
The State Barís New Mentoring Center: Does It Work?
Last month, in response to strong demand from our members, the State Bar launched
its new Mentoring Center. Maybe you saw the bar’s announcement but were reluctant to give it a try.
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Take my advice: don't wait any longer. I gave
it a try last month and can share from experience that it works. The process was surprisingly easy
and, of course, was free of charge. I logged on, was prompted to create an account, and then
was asked to designate myself as a "Mentor" or "Mentee." From there I provided a
profile regarding my background and practice for potential mentees to see. Within a very short time –
a day or two – I received notification that a mentee was interested. I responded, and we took it from
My new mentee is a young lawyer from Grand Rapids (who’s also seeking employment - potential
employers, please take note). We met over lunch last week and discussed the practice of law,
the job market, and just about everything else. More meetings and phone calls are certain to follow.
Please give the
State Bar’s new Mentoring Center a try. Let
the bar know your experience with it. Let me know, too; I'll post pictures of mentor - mentee matches on
this blog, at your request. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
My new mentee through the Bar’s Mentor
Board, Grand Rapids lawyer Erica Hoodhood.
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.