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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

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Commemorating Michigan's History -- and Thanking Nancy Brown
Next Tuesday, August 28th, a dedication ceremony will take place at the Michigan Capitol building commemorating the State Bar’s 37th Michigan Legal Milestone  that recognizes the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act 

The State Bar Michigan Legal Milestone program began in 1986.  Until recently, few knew that Nancy Brown, the SBM’s Director of Member Services and Communications, played a huge role in its creation and development.  That changed a few months ago when Nancy received the Michigan Historical Commission and DNR’s 2012 Governor John B. Swainson Award for her work with this highly successful, long-standing program.  As the state’s website put it:
nancybrown.jpg"Nancy Brown, of Williamston, has worked for the State Bar of Michigan for more than 36 years, overseeing its communications division. She has been instrumental in developing and nurturing the Michigan Legal Milestones program, inaugurated in 1986, making Michigan's rich legal history accessible to everyone. The program's bronze plaques highlight significant decisions, trials, events and people who have made an impact on Michigan's history, landscape and laws. Each milestone is a unique story, and the program serves as a vehicle to tell that story, no matter how contentious it may be. 

"Topics covered by the Milestones include historic Michigan trials, the work of crusaders for justice, the legality of Native American tribal laws and customs, woman suffrage, the fall of McCarthyism, eminent domain, and the end of Jim Crow laws. This law-related educational focus is unique and would be lost without Nancy's guiding hand, oversight and careful budgeting." 

I’ve long called Nancy a “work horse” at the State Bar, and I’ve said that based on decades of experience seeing her in action.  Nancy is the former Editor of the Michigan Bar Journal and former Director of Communications.  She’s tremendously creative and can always be counted on to get things done – and done well.  This past year, I’ve been especially grateful for her hard work on the Practice Management Resource Center and its “Practice EZ” component.   

Please join us for the dedication ceremony of the bar’s 37th Michigan Legal Milestone, at noon on Tuesday, August 28 in the State Capitol Building.  You can find more information on the State Bar Legal Milestone program, and past milestones, here.

11:03 am edt          Comments

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Relationship-Building Seminar (Yes, it's Law-Related)
iPadSeminar8-20.JPGEarly this morning, I looked into a packed conference room in Lansing and saw lawyers and judges eagerly powering up their iPads.  Though I didn't stay long (I merely offered welcoming remarks in my presidential capacity ... and I don't own an iPad yet), I knew that when the program ended, everyone would come away with a much stronger working relationship with their iPads. 

This was the State Bar's second iPad seminar of the year.  The bar brought in a knowledgeable, well-regarded national speaker and developed an ambitious, fast-moving agenda.  Like the bar's last iPad seminar, called "Trial by iPad," it was sold out, with a long waiting list.  Based on popular demand, the bar plans to offer more of these seminars in the coming months. 

These are some of the many innovative offerings of the bar's Practice Management Resource Center.  JoAnn Hathaway and Diane Ebersole head the center, and through it have worked hard to help Michigan lawyers manage their practices, improve their work/life balance, and work better with technology.  Their boss, Nancy Brown, Director of Member Services and Communications, plays a very important role in the center, as well. 

I encourage everyone to visit the State Bar's PMRC and return frequently (it continually undergoes improvements and advances).  Watch for more seminars and programs offered through teh center.  And of course, please let me or the State Bar know if there's anything that we can do to serve you better. 
11:20 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Honoring Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center
August 7, 2012, was my last day in the ABA House of Delegates as SBM President.  That meeting left an indelible impression not only because it marked the end of ABA service I’ve treasured but it also allowed me to see Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center receive the ABA’s highest honor, the American Bar Association Medal. 

ABA President Bill Robinson commented that Dees “showed courage and leadership as one of the greatest civil rights lawyers of our time.”  “Courage” is certainly an understatement considering that Dees’s office has been firebombed and his family’s lives threatened throughout the decades of his career.

Standing before the House of Delegates —a group of hundreds of eloquent and accomplished lawyers—Dees gave a moving, unforgettable acceptance speech that had us glued to his every word. He began by commenting (6:50 on the video) that the ABA’s award “erases all that loneliness and tough fights that I’ve been through …” as a civil rights lawyer in the deep south in the 60’s and 70’s.  He thanked the judges, juries, and clients he has encountered in his career.  I’ll never forget the story he shared about one of his clients, Beulah Mae Donald (14:30), whose son Michael was lynched by a Ku Klux Klan group.  The criminal trial had already ended, and Dees handled the civil case against the klan group responsible for Michael’s death in an Alabama court.  A former klansman had turned over key evidence that was used in both the civil and criminal trials.  Dees recounted how the witness/former klansman, while testifying in the civil trial, was crying from the witness stand; in open court, that witness asked Mrs. Donald if she’d forgive him for his role in her son’s lynching.  Her answer was: “Son, I’ve already forgiven you.”  Dees commented that if he lived to be another hundred years or tried a thousand more cases, he doubts he’d ever be more moved than when he heard her answer.  Even the judge could be seen fighting off tears.  Later that day, the jury returned a verdict against the klan for $7 million.

I strongly encourage everyone to watch or hear Dees’s speech.  Maybe you'll be left misty eyed like me, but you'll unquestionably be proud that you entered this profession. 
9:26 pm edt          Comments

Monday, August 6, 2012

HOD8-2012.JPGDay #1 of the ABA House of Delegates blended the ceremonial and the downright serious.  The ceremonial front included passing the gavel of the ABA presidency to Laurel Bellows of Chicago.  The serious front included several resolutions for debate and vote, including resolutions and reports submitted by the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20.  This commission, after a three-year study of the effects of globalization and technology on the practice of law, set forth six proposals.  You can find a link to them here. 

One of the proposals involved lawyer solicitation in the age of social media and Internet marketing.  When the Model Rules of Professional Conduct were drafted, nobody envisioned that these would exist.   The House of Delegates approved revisions to Model Rule 7.3  [FYI, here’s a link to Michigan’s rules], regarding contact with prospective clients, and approved substantive changes within the comments.  Among them were these additional comments that seek to clarify when online communications generate attorney/client relationships: 

[1] A solicitation is a targeted communication initiated by the lawyer that is directed to a specific person and that offers to provide, or can reasonably be understood as offering to provide, legal services.  In contrast, a lawyer’s communication typically does not constitute a solicitation if it is directed to the general public, such as through a billboard, an Internet banner advertisement, a website or a television commercial, or if it is in response to a request for information or is automatically generated in response to Internet searches. 

The House unanimously adopted this language within the commentary along with other amendments to Rule 7.3.  Clearly, the underlying basis for these and other proposals was protection of the public.  The Ethics 20/20 Commission promised more proposals for consideration when the House of Delegates  meets again in February 2013.  By then, my service as a Michigan delegate will have concluded (this is my last meeting), but those interested can follow the commission’s work through its website and, of course, notify the ABA or the State Bar of your comments and concerns. 
2012-2013 ABA President Laurel Bellows (center)  addresses the ABA House of Delegates.
10:18 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Meet Karol Corbin Walker, 2012-2013 NCBP President
KarolCWalkerNCBP.JPGThe National Conference of Bar Presidents (NCBP) just wrapped up its meeting here in Chicago.  The NCBP is led by past bar association presidents, state and local, who try hard to keep their collective fingers on the pulse of our profession and also share their institutional memories so that existing bar presidents and presidents-elect can plan effective terms for the betterment of their members and the public.  Some of its meetings and events coincide with those of the National Association of Bar Executives, which holds the bulk of its meetings a day or two earlier.

The NCBP has also generated ABA leaders.  Laurel Bellows, the 2012-2013 ABA President, is a past NCBP President.  Closer to home, the late George E. Bushnell, Jr., past president of the State Bar of Michigan and the ABA, was also President of the NCBP.

Before this year’s NCBP Annual Meeting concluded, the gavel was passed to Karol Corbin Walker as its 2012-2013 President.  Karol allowed me to take this picture after I introduced myself and warned her that she’d be the subject of my newest blog post.  (I’m keeping my threat.)

Karol embodies essential ingredients we expect in leadership: warmth, sincere dedication, intelligence, selflessness, and a healthy supply of exuberance.  In 1995, Karol became the first African American woman to attain partner status at any major law firm in New Jersey.  In 2003 she became the first African American President of the New Jersey State Bar Association in its 105-year history.

Congratulations, Karol!  Best wishes for a wonderful year at the helm of the NCBP!   
6:08 pm edt          Comments

Bar President Education During the ABA Annual Meeting
You would think that bar association service — which, for me, has been a 23-year sustained effort — and everyday law practice would keep me aware of issues facing the profession.  Not quite.  As a State Bar President-Elect and President, I’ve had the privilege of attending meetings of the National Conference of Bar Presidents (NCBP) that coincide with the ABA Mid-Year and Annual Meetings.  The NCBP helps bar association presidents learn about current and emerging issues affecting our profession and offers suggestions and support.  Another benefit of the NCBP conference is that it offers a valuable opportunity to meet leaders of other bar associations around the country.   Let me share with you two of the NCBP workshops I attended on Friday.

Stemming the Exodus of Women from the Profession: A Roadmap for Bar Associations
.  “This is not a pipeline issue,” Deborah Epstein Henry, author of the book Law & Reorder, told us.  The problem is not encouraging women to become lawyers.  Rather, the problem is keeping them in the profession after they graduate from law school.  As the session began, Henry shared sobering statistics.  She explained that for the last 25 years, women have composed 40-50% of law school classes.  Yet, only 15% of equity partners and 25% of non-equity partners are women.  Women have been leaving private practice in significant numbers.  Henry explained that 31% of private practitioner women leave during their careers.  Where do they go? 37% go in house, 24% work in a non-legal capacity, 22% are unemployed, 8% work for non-profit entities, and 9% seek government employment.  Two reasons for the change: lack of work-life balance and lack of satisfaction with their careers.  The session discussed the impact on our profession and the role of bar associations as well as law firms in slowing down the exodus.

Global is Local: What You Should Know About Globalization and the U.S. Legal Profession. This eye-opening workshop addressed the reality that globalization of law practice is here, and it affects practically every field of practice.  Setting the stage is the fact that more of us have clients with legal matters outside of the United States.  32 of the Fortune 1,000 companies are in Michigan.  Michigan is a major exporting state.  A sizeable percentage of our population is foreign-born.  The U.S. entered into 14 free trade agreements, but state bar associations had no input.  Virtual law offices are emerging.  As our profession changes what, if anything, can a bar association do?  How should bar associations regulate?   

The conference concludes on Saturday, but the American Bar Association Annual Meeting is far from over.  Please check back for more updates.
1:02 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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