The State Bar of Michigan welcomed the new lawyers of 1964 to the annual Golden Celebration. Held in conjunction with the 2014 SBM Annual Meeting, the event celebrates attorneys for 50 years in the practice of law.
Thomas C. Rombach, of New Baltimore, has been sworn in as the 80th president of the State Bar of Michigan. Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert P. Young Jr. officiated at the Sept. 18 ceremony, which took place in conjunction with the SBM Annual Meeting at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids.
Mr. Rombach is a solo practitioner and focuses his practice on representing criminal and civil litigants.
Also sworn in as officers for 2014-2015 were President-Elect Lori A. Buiteweg, of Ann Arbor; Vice-President Lawrence P. Nolan, of Eaton Rapids; Secretary Donald G. Rockwell, of Flint; and Treasurer Jennifer M. Grieco, of Birmingham.
Mr. Rombach will lead an organization of over 43,000 members that works to improve the administration of justice, promotes the legal profession, and builds public understanding of the legal system. He has been involved in State Bar work for almost a decade and has served on many of its committees and groups. He was elected to the SBM Board of Commissioners in 2006 and has served as treasurer, secretary, vice president, and president-elect.
He is an elected member of the National Conference of Bar Presidents and an elected member of the American Bar Association House of Delegates. He was the chairperson of the SBM Representative Assembly in 2002-2003. He has served as president of the Macomb County Bar Association and as a member of the Macomb County Board of Commissioners. He has also served on the boards of directors of 15 charitable and civic organizations.
He received his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and his law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School.
Vanessa Peterson Williams, of Southfield, has been sworn in as the chair of the State Bar of Michigan (SBM) Representative Assembly for 2014-2015. The Hon. Cynthia D. Stephens officiated at the Sept. 18 ceremony, held during the SBM Annual Meeting at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids.
The 150-member Representative Assembly (RA) is the final policy-making body of the State Bar. It was created in 1971 by the Michigan Supreme Court at the request of SBM's Board of Commissioners in order to increase geographical representation and member participation in SBM policy. Ms. Williams represents Oakland County.
Ms. Williams served as editor-in-chief of “The Brief,” journal of the Tort Insurance and Trial Practice Section of the American Bar Association, and has also served as president of the Association of Defense Trial Council, a member of the board of directors of the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association, and she serves on the ABA House of Delegates. She is a fellow of the Michigan State Bar Foundation and a fellow of the American Bar Foundation.
Since 2013, Ms. Williams has been the vice president, chief legal counsel and global privacy officer at iHS Automotive in Southfield. Prior to that she served as vice president, deputy general counsel and chief compliance officer at R.L. Polk & Co., a senior attorney at Michigan Basic Property Insurance Association, and an associate at Plunkett & Cooney P.C.
She graduated from the University of Alabama in 1992, earned her law degree from the College of William and Mary – Marshall Wythe Law School in 1995, and received her M.B.A. from Wayne State University in 2008.
Members of the legal community will gather Sept. 17-19 at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids for the State Bar of Michigan Annual Meeting and Solo and Small Firm Institute.
Among this year's highlights:
Members of the legal profession who have achieved the highest honors in the areas of leadership, professional integrity and pro bono and community service will be recognized at the SBM Awards Banquet, beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 17. Award winners from the Michigan State Bar Foundation, Michigan Defense Trial Counsel, and Michigan Association for Justice will also be recognized. SBM President Brian Einhorn, SBM President-Elect Tom Rombach, former SBM President Wallace Riley, MSBF Board of Trustees President Margaret Nichols, MDTC Immediate Past President Ray Morganti, and MAJ President Scott Goodwin will present the awards.
The State Bar of Michigan dedicated the 39th Michigan Legal Milestone at noon on Thursday, Aug. 28, on the campus of Ferris State University. The milestone celebrates the perseverance of Governor G. Mennen "Soapy" Williams in ensuring that Ferris State University became a public university, even after the majority of campus burned down in a devastating fire in February of 1950.
Speakers from the dedication ceremony, from left to right, include the 49th Circuit Court Judge Ronald Nichols, SBM Executive Director Janet Welch, Osceola County Prosecuting Attorney and President of the Mecosta-Osceola County Bar Association Tyler Thompson, Ferris State University President David Eisler, and SBM President Brian Einhorn.
The State Bar of Michigan Representative Assembly will present its Michael Franck and Unsung Hero awards to two outstanding members of the legal community on Thursday, Sept. 18 at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids. The presentation will take place at 9:30 a.m. during the assembly's general session, which is being held in conjunction with the SBM Annual Meeting.
Michael Franck Award
Julie I. Fershtman is a brave and bold leader. She paves the way in her field of equine law, traveling the country trying cases, writing books and a blog, and speaking to attorneys as an equine expert. She has long been a leader at the State Bar, heading up the Young Lawyers Section, Representative Assembly, and serving as president of the Board of Commissioners in 2011. During her SBM presidency, she spearheaded the creation of the Bar’s mentoring center. She takes her role as a mentor seriously, encouraging young female attorneys to follow in her footsteps. She wrote a section for an America Bar Association book on women lawyers who took risks to form their own practices and was chosen out of 100 authors to share her experiences at the ABA Annual Meeting.
Unsung Hero Award
Susan F. Reed believes everyone deserves quality legal defense regardless of the horrific crimes they are accused of committing. She has represented drug dealers, serial rapists, and murderers. She is currently representing a notorious handyman-turned-alleged hitman in a very tough case since the defendant gave multiple stories to police and details of the murder have been leaked to local media. The judge said he assigned the case to Reed because he believes she does an exceptional job with clients in challenging situations. Beyond representing clients other attorneys may not want, Reed works to improve the work of all defense attorneys. A longtime active leader in the Wayne County Criminal Defense Bar, she currently serves as the organization’s president.
Click the caption below each photo to download a high resolution version of each award winner's photo. Note: We have provided the highest resolution photo available of each award winner. More information about the Annual Meeting can be found in the SBM Annual Meeting Media Kit.
The State Bar of Michigan Equal Access Initiative and Committee on Justice Initiatives will present a panel discussion on “Language Access – Best Practices in Michigan Courts” at 9 a.m. on Friday, September 19 at the SBM Annual Meeting in DeVos Place in Grand Rapids.
The Michigan Supreme Court adopted language access rules in September of 2013 to assure access to justice for people with limited English proficiency. All of the state’s trial courts have adopted plans to improve access to the courts for those with limited English proficiency, and they are working with legal practitioners and their local communities to implement the new rules.
The panel discussion, moderated by SBM Equal Access Initiative Co-Chair Maya Watson, will review MCR 1.111, MCR 8.127 and the American Bar Association Standards for Language Access in Courts. The panel will include Hon. Christopher Yates, Hon. William Kelly, Donna Bos and Angela Tripp. They will show attendees how to use the request and order form for interpreters on the Michigan Legal Help website and introduce the Spanish version of the website. The panel will discuss judicial discretion in determining the need for interpreters, criteria and tests for certification of foreign language interpreters, practical tips for how to work with interpreters and best practices for courtroom and courthouse operations.
The program is free to attend for anyone who is interested, but organizers hope as many judges, attorneys, court staff members, access to justice advocates, language interpreters and community partners as possible will attend. Registration is requested to allow for proper facilities planning. Visit the SBM Annual Meeting page for more details or to register.
The State Bar of Michigan congratulates the SBM Young Lawyers Section for winning First Place Awards of Achievement in two out of four categories from the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, as well as the Outstanding Public Service Award from the American Bar Endowment. The awards were presented at the ABA Annual Meeting in Boston on Aug. 9.
The SBM YLS won the Comprehensive Award of Achievement for the full breadth of new and expanded programs they offer throughout the 2013-2014 bar year, including their New Member Orientation, Sports & Entertainment Symposium, Annual Summit, public speaking workshop, immigration law workshop, back to school program, and much more. Visit the YLS website for a complete list of their programs and projects.
The YLS won the Service to the Public Award of Achievement for a new program they launched March 1, “Cracking the Legal Field Pipeline Diversity Mock Trial Competition.” The mock trial competition hosted approximately 80 metropolitan Detroit area students aged six to 18 at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. The day-long program taught students criminal courtroom procedures from attorney volunteers. Elementary students served as bailiffs in their respective courtrooms, and older participants were split by age into teams of four. Half of the students served as prosecutors and the other half as defense attorneys, and each team prepared an opening statement, direct examination and closing statement. Local judges presided over competition rounds, and attorney and law school volunteers served as witnesses and helped draft arguments and questions. A more complete summary of the program appeared in the May 2014 Michigan Bar Journal.
The YLS also received the American Bar Endowment Outstanding Public Service Award for its “Cracking the Legal Field Pipeline Diversity Mock Trial Competition.” The American Bar Endowment sponsors a special award for outstanding public service in recognition of an exceptional, unique and exemplary project of a young lawyer bar group.
The first place finishes in the ABA Young Lawyers Division Awards of Achievement contest are especially significant because this year, for the first time, the SBM Young Lawyers Section exceeded 8,000 members, and they competed for awards with the biggest state bar association young lawyer divisions in the country.
Pictured in the image above, from left to right: YLS Ex Officio Felicia Johnson, Shenique Moss, Kara Hart-Negrich, YLS Diversity Committee Chair Donald Rencher YLS Diversity Committee Chair, YLS Chair Hope Shovein, Mwanaisha Sims and YLS Chair-Elect Andrea Irons
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.
How much do you know about the legal issues involved in crowdfunding?
If you've heard about sites like Kickstarter and you've wondered about the legal ramifications of utilizing them, you're in luck.
The SBM Arts, Communication, Entertainment & Sports Section will host a program called "Crowdfunding: The Next Frontier of Financing Start-Ups & the Legal Issues Associated with It" from 11 a.m. to noon on Friday, September 19 at the SBM Annual Meeting at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids.
A panel moderated by Todd Redden will discuss legal issues related to crowdfunding on such websites as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, peer-to-peer lending and equity crowdfunding through the JOBS Act.