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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.)

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. 

We 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. 

We 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.

Artwork used with permission of the artist, Linda LaRochelle
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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Speed Mentoring
You’ve 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.

“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 others. 

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, 2012
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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.  

Elliot-Larsen.JPGIn 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 session. 

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.
10:23 am edt          Comments

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. 

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 there.

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.
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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Dana Warnez: Bar Leadership Runs in the Family
Dana-Warnez.jpgRecently, Dana M. Warnez became the 84th President of the Macomb County Bar Association.  For many in our profession, that achievement and responsibility would be enough.  Not for Dana.  Next month, during the State Bar's Annual Meeting, she'll also be sworn in as the next Chair of the State Bar of Michigan's Representative Assembly.

Some might say that leadership is in Dana's blood.  Many of us recall Dana's sister, the late Kimberly Cahill, who was President of the Macomb County Bar Association and President of the State Bar of Michigan.  Their mother, Florence Schoenherr-Warnez, practices law along with Dana.  Florence, a pioneer in her own right, was the inspiration that led both Kim and Dana to pursue the practice of law. 

The months ahead will bring us more information about this energetic and talented lawyer whom I'm immensely proud to call my friend.  For now, congratulations, Dana, for what you have accomplished so far and for your dedication to the bar.  Alao, thank you, Florence, for bringing us two wonderful daughters and for showing them leadership by example.
9:15 am edt          Comments


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About Me

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.

Law Books

It has been a pleasure writing this blog to chronicle many of my travels and experiences as the 2011-2012 President of the State Bar of Michigan.  My one-year term ended in September 2012.  Throughout my presidency, your comments and suggestions were always welcome.  Please contact me at any time if you would like to discuss your own involvement in a bar association.

Julie I. Fershtman, Esq.• Foster Swift Collins & Smith, PC • 28411 Northwestern Hwy. • Ste. 500 • Southfield, MI 48034
Direct Line: (248) 785-4731 • E-mail:

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