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Thursday, April 26, 2012

GR Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative: True Leadership
Last year the Grand Rapids Bar Association (“GRBA”) invited managing partners of large and medium-size Grand Rapids law firms to meet for the purpose of discussing diversity and inclusion within their firms.  The result was the Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative

Last month, managing partners of 12 law firms [Barnes & Thornburg, Clark Hill, Dykema, Dickinson Wright PLLC, Foster Swift Collins & Smith, Miller Canfield, Miller Johnson, Price Heneveld, Rhoades McKee, Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge, Varnum, and Warner Norcross & Judd] and a representative of the GRBA signed the Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative Agreement.  It includes a five-year action plan to address “three initial challenges facing our organization and the bar.”  As stated in the action plan, the three initial challenges are:

          a. Increasing the number attorneys of color in our organizations within five years;  
b. Improving the rate of retention and advancement of female and attorneys of color in our organizations;
c. Expanding the pipeline of persons of color who enter law school and the profession.

The GRBA is Michigan's first bar association to undertake this effort within its community.  A copy of the Agreement can be found here,
 here is a link to a press release regarding last month’s signing ceremony.

MarkRSmith.JPGI congratulate and thank the GRBA, its President, Mark R. Smith (pictured to the left), and its immediate past President, Susan Wilson Keener, for their leadership in actively addressing the issue of diversity.  The program promises to become a model for other local bar associations.  For information regarding diversity initiatives at the State Bar level as well as resources, here is a link to the State Bar of Michigan’s diversity and inclusion page, and the SBM Pledge to Achieve Diversity and Inclusion.

2:10 pm edt          Comments

SBM's 'Supreme Court Victory'
SBMGrassroots.JPGLast week, I blogged about the State Bar of Michigan winning an ABA Advocacy Award  during a reception at the United States Supreme Court.  The ABA just released photos from this memorable event.
Realizing that the day may never come when I win anything at the U.S. Supreme Court, I had to share a photo.  Please remember that many people made this award possible – I merely accepted it on behalf of the State Bar.

Photo credit: American Bar Association.  Pictured (L-R): William C. Hubbard, Chair of "ABA Day," me, and William T. ("Bill") Robinson, ABA President.
9:07 am edt          Comments

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Two Packed Days on Capitol Hill Supporting Access to Justice
ABADay.JPGThis evening I returned from a two-day trip to Washington, DC, for the annual “ABA Day” where I joined the State Bar of Michigan delegation– Bruce Courtade (SBM President-Elect), Hon. Tim Hicks (President of the Michigan Judges Association), past SBM President Reginald Turner, Elizabeth Lyon (SBM Director of Governmental relations), and Janet Welch (SBM Executive Director)– to meet members of Congress or their staff and attend special briefings and meetings. Other bar associations around the country sent delegations, as well.  [Pictured are Bruce Courtade, Elizabeth Lyon, and Judge Tim Hicks.]

State Bar Awarded

Sotomayor.JPGLast night, the State Bar of Michigan received the ABA’s prestigious “Advocacy Award” during an ABA reception at the U.S. Supreme Court.  Meeting Justice Sonya Sotomayor at the event made it even more special.  [Pictured (L-R) are: Elizabeth Lyon, Justice Sotomayor, Bruce Courtade, and me.]

My acceptance remarks acknowledged SBM Executive Director Janet Welch for her efforts in the development of and work with the “Judicial Crossroads Task Force” as well as SBM Director of Governmental Relations Elizabeth Lyon who works tirelessly on state and national policy issues affecting our profession.

Our Meetings

With 17 congressional visits spread out over two days, the Michigan delegation often divided into two groups.  One of our key discussion topics was to encourage support for Legal Services Corporation funding, which provides a substantial portion of Michigan’s civil legal aid budgets.  The battle to fund the LSC grows tougher every year.  For example, over 2 years Congress cut LSC funding by $71.8 million, and last year a House bill, the Duncan Amendment, proposed to eliminate all LSC funding.  Michigan’s LSC-funded programs, Legal Aid and Defender Association, Legal Services of Eastern Michigan, Legal Services of Northern Michigan, Legal Services of South Central Michigan, Legal Aid of Western Michigan, and Michigan Indian Legal Services, rely heavily on LSC funding to survive.  For more information on the LSC funding we supported, please visit the ABA website.

I would like to thank the Michigan delegation for its hard work in DC.  I also thank Dykema, which allowed a few of its lobbyists to join us, at no cost, on our visits and helped schedule our appointments. 
10:04 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"What She Said": Echoing the SBM Blog's Support of "Soultivity"
My blog's been running a bit behind these days — my attention's been focused on lawyering when not making presidential rounds — but the SBM Blog covered one of my 'posts in waiting.' (Thanks, Janet!) Realizing that repetition can only benefit the intended beneficiary of this message, I'm echoing the SBM Blog's encouraging message to actively support "Soultivity," an all-lawyer R&B band.  "Soultivity" is currently in third place in the ABA's "Battle of the Lawyer Bands" Contest. 

The Washtenaw County lawyers of "Soultivity" are Robin Stephens (lead vocal), Stefani Carter (backup vocal), Joy Gaines (backup vocal), Jon Emmons (bass), Charles Groh (guitar), Robert Killewald (guitar), Mike Gatti (guitar), John Reiser (keyboards), and Robert Carbeck (drums). 

Soultivity occasionally performs for charitable organizations and has raised money or goods for Food Gatherers, the Humane Society of Huron Valley, Toys for Tots, and the Avon Breast Cancer Walkathon.  The group is now trying to raise money for the Washtenaw County Bar Association's Law and Justice Fund.  Here is a YouTube link to a performance.  If you scroll down the page on the link, you can find a link to vote in the ABA contest.

Please cast your vote today to support "Soultivity" in the ABA Battle of the Lawyer Bands.  The top three vote-getters will be invited to perform on August 4, 2012, during the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago.  (I look forward to cheering on "Soultivity" at its ABA performance, if not sooner, and learning whether band members use their "P-numbers" when they sign autographs.)

9:57 am edt          Comments

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The 'Happy Birthday' Song - Worth Millions?
birthday-candles.jpgPeople have sung the "Happy Birthday" song to me at least a dozen times this morning.  As a lawyer, my thoughts trail from my advancing age to the song that I've heard for 51 years — after all this time, is it still protected by copyright? 

Blogger John August writes that Warner Music Group acquired the copyright to "Happy Birthday" in 1988 and continues to collect about $2 million annually in royalties.  Rightfully so?  Maybe not.  August's blog quotes Professor Robert Brauneis of George Washington University Law School who commented that the song “is almost certainly no longer under copyright due to a lack of evidence about who wrote the words; defective copyright notice; and a failure to file a proper renewal application.” 

The payment stream, August speculates, can be attributed to risk-averse film financers who prefer to pay permission fees/royalties to Warner rather than risk litigation.

Photo courtesy of

11:04 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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