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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Gearing Up for the UP

Upper PeninsulaA long-standing tradition for each State Bar President is the multi-day, multi-city tour of the Upper Peninsula.  This year's tour starts on Monday, October 3.

The effort is worthwhile.  Though we stay connected with UP members electronically, telephonically, and through the Michigan Bar Journal, in-person contact is infrequent.  Geography certainly takes the blame.  In recent years, fortunately, distance hasn't prevented some distinguished UP lawyers from State Bar leadership.  Ron Keefe of Marquette was our 73rd President from 2007-2008, and Victoria Radke of Escanaba is our immediate past Chair of the Representative Assembly.  Their commitment is even more admirable considering that a drive from Marquette to Lansing, alone, takes 7 to 8 hours, and the drive from Escanaba is a bit shorter. 

Through my blog, I'll share information on lawyers and bar associations in the UP.  State Bar member statistics confirm that these groups are a small fraction of the size of those in the "lower peninsula."  Dickinson and Iron counties have a combined total only 72 SBM members, but the Oakland County Bar Association has over 3,000 members.  Consistently, lawyers in the UP have a smaller clientele to serve.  Wikipedia reports that although the UP contains almost 25% of Michigan’s land area, it holds only about 3% of Michigan’s total population.  Bar associations in the UP are small but mighty.  Their member turnout during these Presidential UP visits has historically been very strong.  Let's hope this year is no different.

Joining me on the UP tour will be our State Bar Executive Director Janet Welch, Representative Assembly Chair Steve Gobbo, State Bar Director of External Development Candace Crowley, and State Bar Commissioner Jim Erhart of Petoskey. 

Please join me, too.  Check in for highlights from our travels next week to Sault Ste. Marie, Escanaba, Menominee, Iron Mountain, Ironwood, Hancock, and Marquette.  (And, yes, there will be coverage of the gorgeous Fall foliage.)
3:47 pm edt          Comments

Monday, September 26, 2011

Janet Welch - Woman of the Year!
Janet Welch Those who know State Bar of Michigan Executive Director Janet Welch know her to be a tremendously modest person.  By her own admission, she enjoys working behind the scenes.  With no expectation of credit, she devotes considerable effort to planning, strategizing, sweating out the details, and generally making others shine.  And when Janet puts her talents to work, great things happen.  Numerous recent examples prove this to be true, not the least of which are the Judicial Crossroads Task Force and the State Bar of Michigan Blog

But today Janet's knack for being "under the radar" finally met its delightful end.  Michigan Lawyers Weekly honored her this afternoon as its "Woman of the Year."  Moments before the announcement was made, Janet had just received her award as one of twenty "2011 Michigan Women in the Law"; no doubt, Janet thought that was recognition enough.  Fortunately, it wasn't.

I snapped the photo, above, of Janet and her husband, Ben, when the "Woman of the Year" announcement was made.  You can see Janet's surprise.  The audience — including several members of the State Bar staff who attended at their own expense to witness a rare chance to honor Janet —gave her thunderous applause and a standing ovation.  True to her character, Janet's acceptance speech was a tribute to others with whom she works at the State Bar offices and to the State Bar membership and leadership. 

Congratulations, Janet!  This was your day.  With everything you do for others, the recognition you received today was long overdue!

3:35 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Raising the Bar in Rapidly Changing Times

Today wasSecOrient.jpg Section Orientation Day in the State Bar boardroom.  Its topic (no doubt chosen by Candace Crowley, the Bar's Director of External Development) was: “Raising the Bar in Rapidly Changing Times.”  Of the Bar’s 39 sections, 32 sent leaders to attend, primarily to learn how the State Bar can assist and work with sections throughout the year.

A constant theme in today’s all-day meeting was that the world has changed - and so has section leadership.  Gone are the days when a section council’s agenda was solely composed of CLE programming, topics for (print version) newsletters, and which local pubs would host the networking events.  Rather, with rapidly changing technology and increasing globalization, innovation has become the unwritten, but inescapable, agenda item.  Leaders face added challenges of making their sections relevant and accessible.  Some of the discussion included:

-       The Business Law Section Chair noted that its most valuable resources have been “content” from educational seminars and materials.  It is attempting to manage and use social media to deliver services and expand its membership.

-        Yet, it was apparent that sections, whose members include undisputed experts in their fields, no longer have a lock on valuable content these days.  As the Litigation Section Chair noted, 43% of in-house counsel now receive their information from blogs.

-        Social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) have become virtual necessities for member engagement and retention, according to some sections.  Other sections, such as Taxation and Prisons and Corrections, once questioned the relevance of social media (but have not ruled it out) since their members are largely more “senior” lawyers; for example, about half of the Taxation Section’s members are “Master Lawyers” (age 60+ or 30+ years of practice), and the Prisons & Corrections Section notes that 62.5% of its members are over age 50.

-        Technology is now an integral part of section programming, marketing, and outreach.  The Appellate Practice Section plans to educate its members on e-filing.  The Probate & Estate Planning Section has long boasted of its robust list-serv.  The Antitrust, Franchise, and Trade Regulation Section abandoned its print newsletter in favor of an electronic-only version.  These are just some examples.

Congratulations, new State Bar section leaders, on your accomplishments.  You achieved your leadership positions because you distinguished yourselves in your areas of practice.  You also “paid your dues” within your section councils, which brought you to the helm.  More importantly, and as further evidence of your leadership skills, you accepted the challenge to add “innovation” to your agenda. Best wishes for a successful year. And please remember that the State Bar and I are available to help! 
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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

SBM Pres Meets Eternal General: Who Has More Energy?
FrankKelleya.jpgOn my first full day as State Bar President I attended the Michigan Legal Milestone Luncheon during the Bar's Annual Meeting where a distinguished panel of professors and practitioners offered commentary on the landmark Detroit-based school desegregation case of Milliken v. Bradley.  Afterwards, the State Bar (joined by the Wolverine Bar Association) unveiled a new Legal Milestone regarding the case.

One of the distinguished speakers was Frank J. Kelley, best known as "the Eternal General" (picture).  Aside from the fact that we stood together for this picture, we have a few things in common:

- We have a connection to 1961.  He took office that year as Michigan's youngest Attorney General.  And, well, I was born that year.
- He loves writing.  His office issued 3,000 AG opinions, in fact, during his years in office; no predecessor or successor has come close.
- We both have a presence on Facebook.  There's a page for him, if you check.

But that's where the similarities end. He has tremendous energy at age 86 (that comes through in the photo). He has a very strong work ethic. He's as sharp as ever. He's still a dynamic, charismatic speaker. 

Frank:  Thank you for never resting on your laurels and for being an inspiration. And could you please send over some of that excess energy...?
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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Julie and Julia: A Story of Mentoring (Not the Movie!)
DarlowBouqueta.jpgTake a look at the photo.  Some of you see a beautiful bouquet of flowers; to me, however, I see a visible sign of a valued mentor relationship.  This bouquet was a gift from friend and mentor (and the State Bar of Michigan's first woman President), Julia Darlow.  Julia had it delivered to the hotel the day before my installation as State Bar President because her duties as University of Michigan Regent kept her from attending.

Julia's presidency began in 1986 -- the same year that I was admitted to the Michigan Bar.  Seeing her face on the cover of the Michigan Bar Journal and reading her columns gave me hope that women could, over time, join the ranks and follow her.  After Julia's term ended, four women (myself included) have become State Bar presidents.  A few years ago, while I was moving up the State Bar officer ranks, I sought out Julia's counsel and wisdom.  She is among my mentors.

Flowers, we know, don't last, but mentoring relationships leave an indelible impression.  Flowers decorate our environment; mentoring relationships enrich our lives.
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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Celebrating Innovation in Bar and Public Service
OCBAAward2011a.jpgIn bar association circles, we're always struggling to find that unique service project that can make a difference for lawyers.  The struggle is no easier as we seek out meaningful service projects to help the public.  With that in mind, the Oakland County Bar Association (OCBA) receives my personal congratulations for developing and launching an innovative new service project that accomplishes both simultaneously. 

The project is called the "Pro Bono Mentor Match."  Its creator, Jennifer Grieco (immediate past President of the OCBA, now a State Bar of Michigan Commissioner), thought of it during her presidential year when she considered the number of lawyers seeking a solid mentoring relationship (many of whom were seeking employment) as well as the strong public need for pro bono services.  The project combines a mentorship between a more seasoned lawyer and a less experienced lawyer; together they are assigned a pro bono matter. 

I'm not the first to applaud this innovative new project.  It just received, in fact, a national award during the American Bar Association Annual Meeting in Toronto last August.  Although Jennifer was not present (she was in trial), I joined an enthusiastic cheering section at the awards ceremony that included OCBA Executive Director Lisa Stadig-Elliot (pictured), OCBA President-Elect Judith Cunningham (pictured), State Bar of Michigan Executive Director Janet Welch (not pictured - she took the photo, below), and State Bar of Michigan Director of External Development Candace Crowley (not pictured).  Congratulations, OCBA!
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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Preparing for the Year

State Bar of Michigan staff do an excellent job helping bar leadership in the strategic planning process.  As one shining example, Anne Vrooman, the State Bar's Director of Research and Development, has provided especially timely and useful service.  In recent months, she has played an integral role in developing and implementing our member surveys.  Anne has also helped us understand and interpret the results.  Thanks to her assistance, we are better able to understand our membership and evaluate ways to serve them.

In addition, as a State Bar President-Elect I have the privilege of attending meetings of the American Bar Association and the National Conference of Bar Presidents to learn more about national trends and emerging issues that affect our profession.  (More on that, and the issues we've explored, later.)  These meetings are consistently well-organized, well-run, and well-attended by lawyers from all over the country.  Below is a photo I took at an August 2011 meeting of the National Conference of Bar Presidents during the ABA Annual Meeting in Toronto.

10:40 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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