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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Does Groupon Fit, Ethically and Otherwise, With Lawyer Advertising in Michigan?

My friends rave about their deals on Groupon.  And I can’t seem to avoid those pesky “Deal Chicken” ads on the newspaper front page, offering their version of a discount program.  Can Michigan lawyers offer services through discount programs like these?  Should we?

The discussion has already begun.  As the State Bar of Michigan Blog reported on January  26, 2012, following a post in the ABA Journal report, the New York State Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics conditionally approved lawyers in that state using them. 
Michigan has not weighed in on the issue.  But with the rapidly growing popularity of these discount programs, I am positive that many of our members are interested.

What can we do when confronted with these and other complex ethics questions involving how we serve our clients, whether we accept certain clients, and how we market our services?  We need not encounter these issues alone.  The State Bar offers free resources to help, such as:   

·         The Ethics Helpline - (877) 558-4760

·         We can request a written ethics opinion from either the Standing Committee on Professional Ethics or the Standing Committee on Judicial Ethics by sending a letter to the proper committee.  Learn more here.

·         An entire section of the State Bar’s website provides ethics resources, including past opinions and more.

The State Bar’s Professional Standards Division, headed by Dawn Evans, works hard on numerous fronts to protect our profession and the public.  Please take advantage of the bar’s many ethics resources when you need them.  And, please let me or Dawn Evans at the State Bar know if we can serve you better.
11:11 am est          Comments

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Congratulations to Marietta Robinson

Julie Fershtman and Marietta RobinsonThe Washington Post carries this story today about President Obama's appointment of Marietta Robinson to serve on the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission. A trial lawyer who served for eight years as a federally appointed trustee of the Dalkon Shield Trust, Marietta was nominated by the Democratic Party to run for the Michigan Supreme Court in 2000. She was married for 27 years to James K. Robinson, past President of the State Bar, a former U.S. attorney in Detroit, dean of the the Wayne State University Law School and assistant attorney general in charge of the criminal division in the Justice Department.

I had the pleasure of spending some time with Marietta last September when she accepted the posthumous award of the State Bar’s highest honor, the Roberts P. Hudson Award, on behalf of her husband at the State Bar’s Annual Awards dinner. Her remarks and their emphasis on public service, I think, illustrate why such honors come her way.

2:10 pm est          Comments

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Professionalism in Action Orientation: A Weapon in the Battle Against Incivility

Volunteer lawyers and judges introducing themselves to the Cooley Lansing law students at a January 2012 Professionalism in Action Orientation Program.

Our profession has become increasingly uncivil.  I hear this in my presidential travels, and last year’s Member Survey seemed to confirm it.  35.4% of respondents were “extremely concerned” about civility, and another 49% were “very” or “somewhat” concerned.

We can complain about the problem or we can do something.  Fortunately, the State Bar has been taking action, and the “Professionalism in Action Orientation Program” is one shining effort.  SBM past President Ed Pappas initiated it in 2009, and nearly every Michigan law school has replicated it ever since.  Here’s how it works:  Near the start of the semester, the law school brings together the new first year law students along with a group of volunteer lawyers and judges for a few hours.  Seated at several round tables, with a ratio of about 1-2 lawyer/judge volunteers for each 9-10 students, they review a series of hypothetical ethical scenarios and discuss what is expected of members of our profession.  Two of the scenarios were:

·       The “Rambo” litigator who disrupts deposition proceedings and seeks to intimidate opposing counsel and witnesses.

·         The law student who accidentally receives his law professor’s teaching and planning notebook that could hold valuable clues to future exam material.

The program concludes with a friendly mixer, allowing the students and lawyers to develop valuable connections.  Not surprisingly, the program consistently receives high marks from students and volunteers alike.  Everybody benefits, and the discussions, mentoring opportunities, and lessons learned will stay with the students long into their careers.

8:57 am est          Comments

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Time is Always Right to Do What's Right

MLK.jpg"The time is always right to do what's right." These were the simple, powerful words of Martin Luther King, Jr., during a speech he gave in 1964.

The Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday is this Monday. I'm old enough to have watched his funeral procession from the small black and white television in our living room. I'm old enough to have seen a segregated water fountain. I'm old enough to have driven through a Livonia neighborhood where house after house posted signs stating: "This family will not be bussed."

44 years after King's death, the pursuit of equality and inclusion still has a long way to go. For example, among law firms, diversity is rarely seen in the ranks of equity partners and managing partners. Also, the State Bar's 2010 Economics of Law Practice survey confirms that pay disparities still exist.

Martin Luther King, Jr., gave us hope. He inspired peace and advancement through tolerance, unselfishness, and non-violence. Very soon you'll receive the January 2012 Michigan Bar Journal, with the theme of diversity. My President's Page, entitled "A Little More Conversation, A Little More Action," lists 9 different efforts that the State Bar has been undertaking to promote diversity. Let's keep pursuing the dream.

7:46 pm est          Comments

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Show Appreciation: Nominate

At last year's awards ceremony, I had the privilege of
presenting the Roberts P. Hudson Award, the State Bar's
most prestigious award, to Marietta Robinson, widow of posthumous award recipient, Jim Robinson.

Thank you.

Do you ever get the sense that these are the most under-used words in the English language?  When lawyers volunteer considerable time, the only compensation they might expect is these two words.  But people rarely express them.

It doesn't have to be that way.  Between now and April 2, 2012, the State Bar of Michigan is accepting nominations for several prestigious awards.  Here's a link to the newest State Bar awards announcement and how to nominate for each award.

Do you appreciate someone's service, leadership, selflessness, and exemplary conduct?  Please do something about it.  Let him or her know.  Nominate him or her for a State Bar award.  And please mark your calendar to join me at the State Bar of Michigan Awards Banquet on Wednesday, September 19, 2012, at the Amway Grand Hotel in Grand Rapids where we'll applaud the 2012 award recipients, meet them personally, and be inspired and energized by their efforts. 

3:07 pm est          Comments

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy 2012 – A New Year’s Diversion

Two weeks before 2011 ended, my 15 year-old daughter offered a head start on my #1 New Year’s Resolution: take myself less seriously in 2012.  She didn’t convey the idea by preaching or arguing, but, instead, by sharing a holiday cookie she just decorated in the style of an artist she loves: Mondrian.  (Cookie on the left, below, and sample Mondrian painting on the right.) 

 Making sure that the State Bar stays on top of critical issues affecting our profession, listens carefully, and stays steadfastly focused on our Strategic Plan are very serious matters.  Please continue to let me or the State Bar know how we can serve you better in 2012.  And, by the way, you won’t find many beautifully frosted cookies in my household this year … that’s another New Year’s Resolution altogether.

10:42 pm est          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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