Diane Akers, of counsel to Bodman PLC in Detroit, has received the ninth annual Stephen H. Schulman Outstanding Business Lawyer Award from the State Bar of Michigan Business Law Section.
Akers worked as a key leader in the effort to establish business courts in Michigan, through the SBM Business Law Section and as a member of the SBM Judicial Crossroads Task Force. Business cases were once very expensive to handle and unwieldy in the circuit court system. So Akers and others began working together in 2001 to streamline the process, and it took them over nine years to get a law passed establishing business courts. They are now up and running across Michigan.
Akers was also involved in an effort to lessen the pressure that law enforcement officials at the federal and state levels were putting on businesses to waive the attorney client privilege in criminal investigations in order to gain favor with investigators. This effort was led by SBM Business Law Section's Attorney Client Task Force.
“We wanted to raise awareness as to how dangerous this practice can be. As a business owner if you think something internally going on is improper, you should conduct an investigation. But if there is a risk that if you find out something has happened that is against the law, and you let investigators know, they could use that information against you,” Akers said. Moreover, waiver of the privilege for one purpose constitutes waiver for all purposes, so the consequences can be very far-reaching, she added.
So Akers and many of her colleagues worked to raise awareness with Michigan businesses and met with prosecutors to change attitudes and practices.
Akers has held numerous leadership positions within the State Bar of Michigan, including service as chair of the 3,500 member Business Law Section, chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Climate Change and Sustainability, co-chair of the Task Force on Attorney-Client Privilege, chair of the Business Court Ad Hoc Committee, chair of the Commercial Litigation Committee of the Business Law Section, and a member of the Judicial Crossroads Task Force and co-chair of its Business Impact Committee. She is a former member of the executive committee of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Section of the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association.
The Business Law Section established the Stephen H. Schulman Outstanding Business Lawyer Award in 2006, to be presented annually and to honor business lawyers who consistently exemplify the highest quality of professionalism and practice and an unwavering dedication to service, ethical conduct and collegiality. It was named after Prof. Stephen Schulman, a beloved Wayne State University Law School professor who was instrumental in drafting much of Michigan’s corporate law.
Past recipients of the Schulman Award include Cy Moscow, Martin Oetting, Hugh Makens, James Bruno, Charlie McCallum, Verne Hampton, G. Ann Baker, Justin Klimko, Alex DeYonker, James Cambridge, Jeffrey Ammon, and Daniel Minkus.
Posted by Samantha Meinke