Legal News Interview with Julie Fershtman

news3Julie Fershtman is president of the State Bar of Michigan and a partner in the firm of Foster, Swift, Collins, and Smith in Farmington Hills. She practices primarily in the areas of insurance defense, insurance coverage, business litigation, premises liability, and sporting and recreational liability. She is also considered to be one of the nation’s leading practitioners in equine law. In the American Bar Association she is a vice-chair of a committee of the Tort, Trial and Insurance Practice Section. A frequent author and speaker on legal issues, she has written hundreds of articles, three books, and has lectured at seminars, conventions, and conferences in 27 states on issues involving law, liability, risk management, and insurance.

Mathis: Is being a lawyer everything you hoped it would be back in Emory Law School?

Fershtman: Actually, it’s more than I expected. Law school never taught me that a career is truly what you make of it.

The expectation when I graduated 25 years ago was that we’d find jobs in firms, with the government, or in-house at a corporation. Never were we told that we could develop a unique area of practice. Never were we told the benefits of involvement in bar associations. I discovered these on my own years later. In my experience, it was through exploring opportunities that I’ve found a very fulfilling practice in the law. I love what I do.

Mathis: What is it about trial work that you love so much?

Fershtman: A trial practice instructor in law school once said: “A trial is like a play where you write the script.” In some respects, she was right. But in other respects, she wasn’t. A trial is a continuing challenge. Witnesses surprise you, forcing you to think on your feet. Trials also allow us to be a bit theatrical. For example, I’ll sometimes ask a witness to repeat an answer–pretending that I didn’t hear it even though I surely did–just to emphasize that answer to the jury. On other occasions, when a witness testifies in a manner that I know is damaging but for which I cannot object, I’ve called upon my high school acting experience to keep a stone face in case the jury is looking for a reaction. That isn’t easy.

Mathis: You often lecture on liability, insurance, and risk management. How do you keep them glued to their seats?

Fershtman: Well, I really can’t say whether an audience is glued or not, but I get plenty of repeat engagements around the country. I like to give the audience a verbal road map of what I intend to cover. Also, I give examples of real-life cases. With 25 years of experience, there are plenty of real-life case studies to share. Audiences get caught up in these interesting, and sometimes tragic, stories. And they’re all true.

Mathis: Why did you go into law?

Fershtman: My father, Sidney Fershtman, was an attorney with a general practice in the Detroit area. He died when I was a first-year law student. As I grew up, I saw first-hand the impact he had on his clients. They looked to him for help with family law matters, such as divorces and child custody disputes, and criminal matters. He counseled his clients at tremendously difficult times in their lives and gave them comfort, assurance, and hope. A lawyer’s work also seemed fascinating from the “scholarly” side, too, in that answers could be found through statute and case books, and persuasive writing and speaking were essential. Being a lawyer, as I saw it, required a unique combination of skills, including an element of creativity.

Mathis: What do you most hope to accomplish as the 77th president of the 41,500-member State Bar of Michigan?

Fershtman: I will work hard to advance the bar through its Strategic Plan. But as a former solo practitioner for 17 years, joined by an associate for a few of them, I’m committed to enhancing the bar’s services that benefit solo and small firm practitioners. One example is the State Bar’s Practice Management Resource Center. It offers information on how to manage and market a practice. These difficult financial times have impacted Michigan lawyers, and many are forced to do more with less. This service could help make a positive difference for Michigan lawyers. I also intend to be accessible. My goal is also to listen to members to determine how the bar can better serve our members. Fortunately, the bar is assisted by its recent member survey and Economics of Law Practice Survey. Also, I launched the first-ever State Bar of Michigan president blog––that will chronicle my travels around Michigan and nationally.

Mathis: Your father, the late Sidney Fershtman, was a lawyer and your husband, Robert Bick, is a lawyer. Do you talk about anything other than law in your house?

Fershtman: My husband practices transactional corporate law and mergers and acquisitions law. He knows I’d never understand any of it. And since he has no interest in litigation, I don’t discuss my work with him. Our 15-year-old daughter, at least, finds my work interesting. I’ve been known to test case theories and opening statements on her. She’s an insightful kid.

Mathis: Do you have a favorite lawyer joke?

Fershtman: I’m not one to joke about lawyers, but I’ll never forget an ad campaign decades ago from a bar association–I think it was the New York State Bar Association. The top of the page stated: “Did You Hear the One About the Lawyer?” You expect a lawyer joke to follow, but you read on to learn something positive about the lawyer pictured — a volunteer service project he did or a major pro bono case he handled that saved someone’s life.

Mathis: What’s your idea of the perfect day off?

Fershtman: Day off? I’m a confirmed work-alcoholic so my husband plans our vacations. In the last few years he’s arranged family trips to the Middle East, Italy, and New York City. Our daughter is a Broadway theater fan and loves museums and galleries. Each summer we never miss the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

Kristen Murphy Elected President of the WBA

Bloomfield Hills Mich., May 22, 2012 — Rader, Fishman & Grauer PLLC is proud to congratulate Managing Partner Kristin L. Murphy on her recent election as president of the Women’s Bar Association (WBA) – Oakland County Region of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan (WLAM). Rader, Fishman & Grauer develops strategies for maximizing the value of intellectual assets including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets.

Murphy has been an active executive board member of the WBA – Oakland County Region of WLAM for nine years.  She is also an executive board member of the Michigan Intellectual Property Law Association (MIPLA), a former co-chair of the Industrial Advisory Council for the School of Engineering at Western New England University, and serves on the Board of Directors for The Pink Fund; a Michigan-based charity that provides short-term financial aid to women and men who are in active treatment for and recovery from breast cancer.

Murphy joined Rader, Fishman & Grauer in 1997 as an associate attorney.  In 2003, she was elected as a partner at the firm.  As of January 1, 2011 Murphy serves as a managing partner on the firm’s Board of Managers.  Murphy is the first woman to be elected as a managing partner at Rader, Fishman & Grauer.

See Kristin Murphy’s biography.

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Julie I. Fershtman Sworn in as SBM President

news5Julie I. Fershtman, of Farmington Hills, has been sworn in as the 77th president of the State Bar of Michigan. She is the fifth woman to lead the Bar.

Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert P. Young Jr., officiated at the Sept. 15 ceremony. The swearing-in took place in conjunction with the SBM Annual Meeting at the Hyatt Regency in Dearborn.

Ms. Fershtman is a shareholder with Foster Swift Collins and Smith, PC, in Farmington Hills, where she practices in the areas of commercial litigation, insurance defense and coverage, and equine law, for which she is nationally known.

Also sworn in as officers for 2011-2012 were President-Elect Bruce A. Courtade, of Grand Rapids; Vice-President Brian D. Einhorn, of Southfield; Secretary Thomas C. Rombach, of New Baltimore; and Treasurer Lori A. Buiteweg, of Ann Arbor.

Ms. Fershtman will lead an organization of over 41,500 members that works to improve the administration of justice, promotes the legal profession, and builds public understanding of our legal system. Ms. Fershtman has been involved in State Bar work for over two decades and has served on many of its committees and groups. She was chair of the State Bar Representative Assembly in 2001-2002, and chair of the Young Lawyers Section from 1995-1996. She served her first term on the State Bar Board of Commissioners in 1994.

She is also active in the American Bar Association, where she is a member of the ABA House of Delegates and a vice-chair of a committee of the Tort, Trial, and Insurance Practice Section. Ms. Fershtman is a trustee of the Michigan State Bar Foundation and a fellow of the American, Michigan, and Oakland County Bar Foundations.

Ms. Fershtman is a frequent writer and speaker, and authored over 200 published articles and three books—the ABA published the third in 2009.She also lectures frequently on topics such as liability, insurance, and risk management at seminars and conferences nationwide.

A 1983 graduate of Emory College and 1986 graduate of Emory Law School, she is married to Robert Bick, who is also an attorney. They have one daughter, Kathryn, and reside in Franklin.