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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sneak Preview of Our Newest Member Benefits and Discounts

Members often ask me what the State Bar is doing on the member service and discount front.  The answer is: "Quite a bit."  Some of the newest ones are just plain exciting.  Let me give you a sneak preview:

  Apple and Dell Computer Discounts (on the way - not official as of 6/26/2012).  The State Bar is in the final stages of negotiating a discount program for our members with Apple Computers and Dell Computers.  

  State Bar of Michigan’s New Mentor Board
 (on the way - not official as of 6/26/2012).   The bar is about to launch its MentorBoard.  Participation in this program will be voluntary, and I strongly encourage all members to sign up, when it's available, to help ensure its success.  

  Downloadable Practice Management Library
(on the way - not official as of 6/26/2012). For many years, the bar’s Practice Management Resource Center included a lending library that shipped hard copies of books upon request.  Members, however, have requested  digital downloads.  The bar listened.  A free Downloadable Library is on its way through the Practice Management Resource Center library that will allow the bar to send e-books and audiobooks upon request for downloading to office computers, laptops, smartphones, or tablets.  Unlike the book lending library, that requires return shipping, the Downloadable Library requires no return; the e-books will automatically delete themselves after a few weeks.

I applaud the State Bar staff and the Membership Services Committee for expanding our member benefits this year.

Learn more about the wide range of State Bar member benefits by following this link.  And, of course, please don't hesitate to contact me or the Membership Services Committee if you have ideas for new benefits and discounts.

11:08 am edt          Comments

Friday, June 15, 2012

Bob Dylanís Secret for Staying 'Forever Young'

Youngoldwoman.jpgToday's post was composed by guest blogger, Kate Birnbryer White, who serves as Executive Director of Elder Law of Michigan.

This spring I attended four graduations and a funeral. One of the most moving events featured the song “Forever Young,”  written by Bob Dylan in 1973. The song begins:

“May God bless you and keep you always

May your wishes come true

May you always do for others

And let others do for you”

Thirty-nine years after Dylan composed those lyrics, with over 122,000 older adults in our state facing poverty, deprivation, and hardship, and with only one legal aid lawyer for every 13,226 low-income persons in Michigan, I heard the song in a new way. To paraphrase, to stay forever young, we have to do for others and when it is our time, let others do for us. Whether through contributions of time or money, it is the secret to staying young and leaving a legacy of hope.

The song ends…

“May you grow up to be righteous

May you grow up to be true

May you always know the truth

And see the lights surrounding you

May you always be courageous

Stand upright and be strong

May you stay forever young

May you stay forever young”

Every day is a new opportunity to embrace Bob Dylan’s secret for staying “forever young.”  I hope we can count on you to give generously to the Access to Justice Fund or donate time to the legal aid program of your choice.

2:37 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Five and Counting


Last night I gave my second and final commencement speech as State Bar president.  This one was for the Michigan campus of the Academy of Court Reporting, Inc. (my first-ever commencement speech, which took place last month at Cooley Law School, was the subject of this blog’s May 21 entry).  Before I took the podium, the school introduced me as the “fifth woman President in the State Bar of Michigan's 77-year history."  The audience immediately interrupted with loud applause. 

With the substantial percentage of women in our profession today, opportunities abound for women to follow me into this position as State Bar President.  In a few years, the very capable Lori A. Buiteweg of the Ann Arbor firm Nichols, Sacks, Slank, Sendelbach & Buiteweg, the current State Bar Treasurer, becomes our next female president.  

My March 2012 President's Page in the Michigan Bar Journal was entitled “Be Bold, Be Wiser: Overcoming the Glass Ceiling in Michigan’s Legal Profession.”  Here's a link.  It offered statistics on women lawyers in Michigan and nationally and concluded by challenging women to seriously consider stepping up on a number of fronts.  I am ready to help.

Women —and men —SBM members, please contact me any time to discuss how you can become more involved in the bar.  If I can do it, so can you.

Pictured above: me, the late Kim Cahill, 2006-2007 SBM President; Hon. Victoria Roberts, 1996-1997 SBM President; Nancy Diehl, 2004-2005 SBM President; and Julia Darlow, 1986-1987 SBM President.

7:34 am edt          Comments

Monday, June 11, 2012

Special Interests and Sections

If you follow horse racing, you might have shared my hope for another triple crown winner this year.  “I’ll Have Another” seemed to have the right stuff (though my favorite has always been the handsome “Union Rags”), until his retirement was announced days ago. Now that “I’ll Have Another” is about to begin his second career, some Equine Law practitioner is probably forming his new syndicate and drafting breeding contracts.


This led me to think about niche practices and special purpose bar associations and committees to which lawyers belong.  In the State Bar of Michigan, unique sections include Animal Law,  Aviation Law,  and Information Technology Law.  In the 1960's, the Michigan Bar had special committees on topics such as Atomic Energy and Space Law.

EquineLaw.jpgNationwide, special interest bar association sections include Utah’s Cyberlaw section.  
Also, state bar associations in Georgia, Kentucky, and Texas (to name just 3)  have established Equine Law Sections.


New sections and special purpose bar associations continue to form in our state.  Some SBM members, in fact, are now considering an Agricultural Law Section.  They'll soon contact Candace Crowley, the State Bar’s Director of External Development, for advice and details on how to make this happen.

Graphic courtesy of

10:47 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Bringing Diversity to the Grass Roots Level (Literally)
I write this in the middle of a ‘bar association blitz’ – typical for the May and June months – during which numerous bar associations hold their annual meetings and special programs.  I’m trying to attend as many as I can, as you can see from the “My Travels” section of this blog. 

Of the many events I’ve attended during my presidency, a standout is last March’s “Celebrating Our Diverse Bar” (previously reported in this blog) for its massive attendance, fun venue, and, of course, the wonderful diversity among its attendees.   It was one of those evenings that you truly wished would never end.

Apparently I wasn’t alone in my enthusiasm for the event.  Last month, several special-purpose bar associations, looking for a good opportunity to meet again for a beneficial purpose, organized “Diggin’ Our Diverse Bar.”  A local organization called The Greening of Detroit offered supervision and training. 

Bar associations that joined forces for the event included the South Asian Bar Association, Real Property Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan, Albanian American Bar Association of Michigan, Federal Bar Association - Eastern District of MichiganMichigan Asian Pacific American Bar Association,  Armenian American Bar Association of Michigan, and others.  Here’s a link to an article from the Legal News, with a few photos.

To everyone who helped organize and execute last month’s “Diggin’ Our Diverse Bar” event,  your creativity and enthusiasm have given “running bar association activities into the ground” a new meaning.  Thank you for collaborating so successfully and capitalizing on the community spirit of Michigan lawyers.
10:19 am edt          Comments

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

5th Annual Bench Bar Culinary Challenge: A Multi-faceted Feast

barbecue.jpgRarely do judges open their chambers for social events.  And even more rarely does a judge open her back yard to more than 200 lawyers, judges, and law graduates for a casual evening bar-b-que.  This was no ordinary bar-b-que.  It was the 5th Annual Bench Bar Culinary Challenge, and Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Kirsten Frank Kelly hosted it tonight at her home in Grosse Pointe Park.   

You couldn’t possibly leave tonight’s event hungry.  Food was everywhere – in a tent, on tables, and circulated around the sizeable crowd.  The event featured the annual grilling competition between "Grilled from the Bench" (the judges) and "Grilled by the Hour" (lawyers), a dessert competition for judges, and an appetizer competition for lawyers.   Although the lawyers took tonight's top prize in the grilling competition, the judges certainly did not disappoint.  Everything was grilled to perfection (especially the salmon cakes and tenderloin sliders).  

Some of the gossip heard among the crowd tonight: A judge (name withheld) hired a professional chef to prepare sauces; another (name withheld) judge, who confessed that she doesn’t cook at home, drove a considerable distance to join the festivities as a sous-chef; and an exceptionally good dessert was brought by a judge (name withheld) who, I’m told, rarely cooks.   

This was not the work of a bar association but, rather, a committee of 14 dedicated women lawyers and judges, co-chaired by Lavinia Biasell and Valerie Newman (who, incidentally, is awfully modest over the fact that she recently won a case that she argued before the U.S. Supreme Court).  Attendees like me left with great memories, plenty of laughs, full stomachs, and lighter wallets thanks, in part, to raffle tickets for a trip to Napa wine country.  Proceeds from tonight’s event benefited the WLAM Foundation, Alternatives for Girls, and Crossroads for Youth. 

Image courtesy of

11:21 pm 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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