My Reflections on Time as a “Young Lawyer”

My Reflections on Time as a “Young Lawyer”

            Back when I passed the bar in 2011, I didn’t know a single lawyer in the State of Michigan. That was a problem because I was told that I needed a Michigan lawyer to move for/sponsor my admission as an attorney before I could practice law. I did not go to law school in Michigan and I was the first lawyer that I ever knew. My dad was an engineer and my mom was an auto line worker, mechanic, and jack of many trades in the auto industry during her career. I got so desperate that at one point I tried to track down my soccer coach from when I was 8 years old that my mom thought was “maybe a lawyer.” But then I found out that my local bar association – the Ingham County Bar Association – hosted a swearing-in ceremony for every bar exam and they would supply the lawyer sponsor for me. It changed my life forever.

            At the reception after the swearing in, where the number of lawyers that I knew in the State of Michigan expanded 2,000%, I met Shenique Moss and Melissa Keener – the ICBA Young Lawyers Section President and Past President. They encouraged me to get involved with the Section at a coming meeting. I attended the meeting and soon was President-Elect with a year to learn under Shenique’s leadership. I continued to serve on the Young Lawyers Board for years after I was president and assisted many amazing leaders build upon the foundation that came before them. Though not on the Board in years, I remain ready to help anytime I’m asked including at their Paper Chase 5K this past year – an amazing community event started during my time on the Board. Years later, when Shenique was Chair of the State Bar of Michigan Young Lawyers Section, she drafted me to join the Board of Directors for the State Young Lawyers Section as well. Through my decade plus of service to these (and other organizations) as a “young lawyer,” I have planned countless educational and social events, assisted and volunteered in our community serving the public on a regular basis, established colleague relationships with hundreds of lawyers across the state, and established lifelong friendships. As the ultimate bonus, what started out as tremendous respect and admiration for an amazing leader and hard worker has turned into a wonderful relationship with my amazing “Superwoman” that I will be lucky enough to spend the rest of my life with.

            What started out as a means to an end turned out to be an end in itself for me. As lawyers, we have tremendous power to make an impact in our community on lawyers and non-lawyers alike. Through my service on multiple bar associations as a “young lawyer,” I have helped to support many young lawyers as they shape and reshape the legal field and their communities and I’ve done my best to do the same for mine. As of July 1, 2022, I am no longer a “young lawyer” under the ICBA’s standards. As I write this, I am on the eve of my final meeting as a “young lawyer” with the State Bar of Michigan. I look back on my time as a “young lawyer” with pride, but I feel no sadness. My service to the bar and to my community will continue as I help to do my part to shape the next generation of young lawyers as they make their way in our community. I have also felt like the “old guy” in young lawyers groups for years so it will be nice to officially move to being the young guy in the “seasoned attorneys” club. Things recently came full circle for me when I was going door to door campaigning for my circuit court judge campaign. I knocked on a door that looked like the thousands before it and who should answer – the same attorney who swore me in as an attorney so many years ago. I thanked him again for swearing me in because I wouldn’t be a lawyer without him. I offered to give him my pitch for judge and he smiled and  said, “No need. I know who you are.” Despite being one of many he swore in that day, he still remembered me. These are the quality of people who serve in our local bar associations and I’m proud to have served the young lawyers in the past as I continue to serve on the Ingham County Bar Association Board of Directors – or what we affectionally called the “Big Board.”

            To all the “young attorneys” (and more seasoned attorneys alike), get involved. Your local bar associations have a lot to offer and you have a lot to offer to them. I know things may be overwhelming for you for now and you may be struggling to deal with all that practice and life has to throw at you right now, but I promise that your involvement will pay back immeasurable dividends for the rest of your life. Feel free to also get involved in non-profits and community service organizations that interest you and that would benefit from a lawyer with the time and passion to give (who also happen to be free).

            To those I have served with in my 10+ years as a “young lawyer” – you’re not getting rid of me that easily. It’s the same exact promise (threat) I made when I was first starting out and knew I could be a young lawyer board member for many years to come. Seriously though, thank you for your service, support, and friendship. I remain here to support you on your paths forward as colleague and friend as many of you continue to support me on mine. I look forward to serving our community with you in the future even as our paths diverge and I look forward to forty years down the road, when we’re fully-seasoned lawyers talking about our experiences including back when Chris got passionate (or unruly – you know how people like to exaggerate) over the importance of holding an educational event for free or how our choice in speakers for an event may be viewed as an endorsement of that person and their recent questionable behavior.

It has been my pleasure. Time and time again.


Chris Wickman

Former “Young” Lawyer

"Everyone Deserves A Second Chance"

On May 7, 2021, in partnership with Fulton County District Attorney’s Office and Georgia Justice Project, the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (“ABA YLD") facilitated a Record Restriction/Expungement Clinic as part of YLD’s annual public service project. This year, that project, as led by the YLD Public Service Team, is entitled Operation Second Chance and has two components: (1) a detailed, state-by-state toolkit with laws, resources and guides on expungement processes nationwide; and (2) in-person activation events just like this one. YLD Chair Choi Portis (and our very own longtime SBM YLS Executive Council Member) selected this project understanding the value of second chances and to not condemn folks forever based on their pasts.  With my background in expungement work for years and current work in the cannabis industry, it was a natural fit for me to serve as the YLD Public Service Director.

 Ultimately, the event was a resounding success! Over 100 citizens of the Atlanta area filed into the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church seeking a second chance. Not only were many of them helped on the spot, but a Superior Court Judge was also in attendance to sign corresponding orders that would be entered on the record the following week, thereby instantly restricting/expunging their criminal records.  Approximately 20 – 25 YLD leaders and members showed up to volunteer alongside the DA’s Office and GJP. 

For this initiative, not only was expungement on the menu, but in Georgia, the process covers "record restriction" as well, meaning arrest records are made confidential and unsearchable to most.  Plus, a variety of low level misdemeanors and some felonies were addressed during the program.  To that end, having attended the event, I can personally attest to the impact this made on the clients.  Some attendees were in tears even at the opportunity for change, just knowing they were in good hands.  Years ago, I had the honor of handling a very close friend's expungement in my home state, so I know precisely how much this means.

As for next steps on the public service project, the plan is to launch the Operation Second Chance Toolkit to serve as a resource to ABA members for years to come and look to do local activations on an ad hoc basis.  The YLD Public Service Team is also leaning on national partners to evaluate potential meaningful policy that could be presented to move the needle on criminal justice reform issues.  

Collaboration among the notd key partners was essential to making a huge impact in the lives of so many.  Indeed, how many states can say they have a district attorney’s office leading the charge on helping residents get a new lease on life?  Thankfully, even right here in local Michigan counties, “prosecutorial integrity units” and the like are springing up with the mission to review prior cases and, where possible, help right the wrongs of the past to ensure that these citizens do in fact receive a second chance.

This event is just another in a long line of necessary such activations that the ABA YLD intends to execute over time. Of note, following a connection with our friends at the Georgia Justice Project, the YLD Public Service Team is in contact with Cabrini Green Legal Aid and the nationally renowned Clean Slate Initiative to execute  powerful event during the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago.  Projects like this are vital because it teaches young lawyers the value of compassion and grace.  And it displays just how much change we can make given our understanding of the law and the ability to wield it to create new life for those we serve.  Remember, everyone deserves a second chance!


By Jerome Crawford Records Flyer_SOCIAL MEDIA (1)

On January 20, 2022, we were honored to have estate planning attorney, Mara Kent, speak on the importance of estate planning for young lawyers. The biggest takeaway was that no matter how young we are or how little we’ve accumulated so far, having an estate plan is crucial on both the personal and professional fronts. Mara helped attendees understand that there is so much more to estate planning than just the traditional route of wills and trusts and that many of the steps we can take to get our affairs in order are relatively straightforward, we just need to get them done.
On the personal side, passing away or becoming suddenly incapacitated without some sort of estate plan in place can result in a whole host of problems for your family and friends. To help alleviate these problems while you are alive, but incapacitated, the easiest thing you can do is have both a durable power of attorney for financial decisions and durable power of attorney for medical decisions. These documents will allow your designated attorney in fact or patient advocate to manage your affairs while you are unable to, without necessitating the invasive and time-consuming route of obtaining a guardianship or conservatorship. Note, however, you may want to check with your financial institutions about their own requirements for accepting POAs, as some institutions require that you sign their forms. ICLE has great forms for both types of POAs and you can also consider consulting with an estate planning attorney. Mara recommends naming an alternate attorney in fact, in case your first-choice declines or is unable to act. Of course, it is vital to only name persons whom you completely trust.
Mara also went over some of the ways you can help your family and friends avoid the probate process when you die. Having to involve the probate court can be an invasive, expensive, and a time-consuming process, and it is public. Your loved ones will thank you for organizing your affairs to help them bypass court involvement. Some steps you can take include always naming a beneficiary(ies) on your financial assets such as bank accounts, retirement assets, life insurance policies, and investment accounts. This is usually accomplished with simple forms through the financial institutions themselves. If you own real property, consider drafting a ladybird deed, which allows the property to automatically transfer to your desired remainder beneficiaries outside of the probate process.
On the professional front, whether a solo practitioner or part of a firm, Mara helped attendees understand that as attorneys, we also have the responsibility (both ethically and per court rules) to have a succession plan in place. Mara discussed the steps to make sure you have everything in order, including having a manual of office policies and procedures; a list of current clients, their contact info, and the status of their case; always keeping your calendar and due dates updated; and designating a successor or assisting attorney that will notify all your clients in the event of your death or disability and be able to step in to keep things moving. Relevant on both the professional and personal fronts, it is also useful to keep, in a secure location, an updated list of accounts and passwords.
At the end of the day, despite how unpleasant it might be to plan for your death or incapacity, it is vital to have a plan in place. Taking the time to organize your affairs, both personally and financially, will help alleviate some of the hardships your family and friends will face, and they’ll thank you for it!
Miriam M. Saffo

Nichols, Sacks, Slank, Sendelbach,
Buiteweg & Solomon, P.C.
Ann Arbor

YLS & Financial Literacy


Financial 3 (3)
On January 19, 2022, the State Bar of Michigan Young Lawyers Section, Ingham County Bar Association, and the Ingham County Bar Association Young Lawyers Section co-hosted a virtual presentation called, “Young Lawyers and Wealth Management.” Presenting was Mr. Gregory Friddell – a wealth management specialist at the Azar Glaser Group of Merrill Lynch in East Lansing. Mr. Friddell discussed the balance between paying off debts and investments depending on interest rates and expected return on investment. He focused on the long-term benefits of remaining in the market and the importance of investing early – even if it is a smaller amount – because of compounding interest. He also discussed student loans and the benefits and detriments of paying student loans off earlier. Finally, there was a discussion of investment mechanisms and the differences between them with regards to tax implications.

Thank you to Mr. Friddell of Merrill Lynch and all of our co-hosting organizations!

SBM YLS Names 2021 Winner and Finalists of the Regeana Myrick Outstanding Young Lawyer Award



The Young Lawyers Section (YLS) proudly announces Oliver Howell as the 2021 winner of the Regeana Myrick Outstanding Young Lawyer Award. The award is named for Regeana Myrick, who passed away in 1997. It is presented at the YLS Summit to a young lawyer in Michigan who has demonstrated many of her best qualities, including an overwhelming commitment to public service, exemplary service to the State Bar, and exceptional professional accomplishments.

Oliver is as an attorney at Lake, Parfet & Schau, PLC in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  He counsels clients on a variety of business, real estate, estate planning, probate, and civil litigation matters. Oliver grew up in Kalamazoo and has served on the Board of Directors for Kalamazoo Valley Habitat for Humanity (Past President), the Kalamazoo County Bar Association (2021-22 President), Board of Trustees for the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival (Vice President), and the City of Kalamazoo Citizens Public Safety Review and Appeals Board (Vice Chairman). Oliver demonstrates leadership, initiative, compassion, and dedication to the legal profession and the community at large.

Additionally, two finalists of the Regeana Myrick Award are being honored: Kaitlyn Elias and Corinne Rockoff.

Kaitlyn Elias is a Senior Associate practicing in the Real Estate and Commercial Litigation practice group at Kitch Drutchas Wagner Valitutti & Sherbrook in Detroit, Michigan.

Corinne Rockoff is an associate and member of Maddin Hauser’s Financial Services and Real Property Litigation Group.

These individuals will be recognized at the Annual Summit, which this year is being hosted by the Young Lawyers Section in conjunction with ICLE, on September 11, 2021. It will be held virtually to include a keynote discussion with Justice Welch, a panel featuring Justice Clement, several judges, and many other informative programs. Please join us!

Free Legal Aid & Resource Clinic

Legal aid

On Friday, May 21st, from 12-1pm, Disability Law Group together with the State Bar of Michigan-Young Lawyers Section hosted a free VIRTUAL event open to the public: Free Legal Aid & Resource Clinic. This event was free to the public, and brought together local attorneys and non-profit organizations, as well as free hygiene kits, to those in need.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many people in Michigan, and throughout the nation and globe, are faced with health issues, job loss, and financial struggles. Unfortunately, as a result, many people have lost critical medical insurance, along with the means to provide for themselves and their family. Significant life changes and struggles can be difficult for anyone to cope with. The saying ‘it takes a village’ certainly proves true during tough times, but it’s not always easy to locate community supports and know how to seek out the help that you need.

With May being Mental Health Awareness and Military Appreciation Month, the goal of this event was to help spread awareness, education, legal advocacy and support for those struggling with mental health symptoms, along with their caretakers and advocates. The attorneys at Disability Law Group presented on topics regarding Social Security Disability (by partner Randall Mansour), and Veteran’s Disability benefits (by attorney Bridget Barrett), including the application and appeals process, recent changes in the law, and other new developments. Michigan Law Center attorney Michele Fuller also shared her presentation on estate planning issues, particularly for those with mental health conditions and related benefits to be aware of, including ABLE accounts and Special Needs Trusts. Attorney Erika Riggs, partner at Disability Law Group, moderated the webinar.

Critical community supports, including those that can be found in organizations like Southwest Solutions were also discussed, highlighting the importance of mental health treatment, defying the stigma against seeking help, and resources available for the community. Southwest Solutions is a Detroit-based non-profit that offers mental health treatment in addition to housing for formerly homeless veterans, job training and literacy programs, home-buyer assistance, and more.

Disability Law Group in partnership with the SBM-YLS is proud to sponsor this event, and will continue to leave open the registration link for anyone who would like to request a free hygiene kit (while supplies are still available), mental health resources, and/or free legal consultations. For more information, please visit: You can also follow Disability Law Group through social media and on their website for additional resources, and to listen to their podcast ‘Disability Lawyers for the Community’ where they spotlight local non-profit organizations that help the community in need (including most recently ‘Mala Child & Family Institute’ with helpful mental health strategies and looking at mental health in terms of preventative care):

Erika Riggs

Disability Law Group


Being a Counselor to Your Client: Recognizing Mental Health and Referring to Treatment

Mental helath

On March 18, 2021, the State Bar of Michigan Young Lawyers Section and the Ingham County Bar Association partnered to host, “Being a Counselor to Your Client: Recognizing Mental Health and Referring to Treatment” via Zoom. As an attorney, our job is often to research the law, advise the client regarding the law, and advocate on behalf of the client. In some practice areas, however, getting the best positive outcome under the law requires that we also counsel the client on areas to improve their life and the outcomes in the case. Particularly in cases involving criminal charges or family law, addressing an existing mental health disorder or substance use disorder may make a critical difference in the case, but also in the client’s life.

Presenting via Zoom on March 18, 2021 was Ms. Debra Willard. Ms. Willard is a supervisor within Adult Mental Health Services of Clinton, Eaton, and Ingham Community Mental Health. She presented on common mental health conditions and the symptoms associated with such as well as discussed how to refer clients to services. As a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor, Ms. Willard was able to describe common symptoms for common mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar, anxiety disorders, thought disorders, and substance use disorders. Ms. Willard shared the accepted consent form that is accepted for mental health treatment and discussed what steps a client should take if they have private insurance or whether they have insurance through a public program. She also discussed the different levels of care that exist within the adult mental health system and answered the questions of participants.

It was an excellent program and presentation and has been recorded for future viewing.To view the program in its entirety, please click here:

Important Disclaimer: None of the information contained within establishes a patient-client or attorney-client privilege and is intended for educational purposes for attorneys only. As a reminder, attorneys are not licensed mental health professionals and attorneys should refer clients to competent mental health professionals to address mental health and substance abuse problems.

Christopher Wickman

Nichols Law Firm

East Lansing

Deontology - Part II


"But now, I've come to the conclusion that the "dynamite behind the door" was in plain sight. It was trump himself. The oversized personality." - Bob Woodward in his book, Rage

I beg your pardon. This inquiry is directed to me regarding the legality and underlying intent of Donald Trump's wave of 41 Presidential Pardons to people adjudicated guilty of egregious crimes. In addition, Trump skirted the formal Justice Department process for pardons. The bigger question is Donald Trump guilty of obstruction of justice? I have to provide a lawyer-like answer - maybe or maybe not. Obstruction of justice is any willfull interference with the orderly administration of law and justice.

Obstruction of Justice

Obstruction of justice is a possibility if Trump premised the pardons with the intent and understanding with the recipients not to testify against him for alleged criminal conduct. Ironically, Attorney Michael Cohen has not received a pardon. Did Michael Cohen, a convicted felon act on his own or at the direction and for the benefit of Donald Trump?

Civil RICO

It appears that the predicate acts of Michael Cohen and others performed in agreement constitutes a conspiracy. If so, we may have a criminal and civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) case. The civil racketeering provisions of RICO involve three main sections of the statute: section 1961 provides the definitions, section 1962 describes the prohibited conduct and section 1964 (c) which creates the civil RICO cause of action. To determine who may bring suit under RICO has been liberally construed to include not only people, partnerships, corporations but also domestic state governmental units. See County of Oakland v. City of Detroit, 866 F. 2d 839 (6th Cir. 1989).

A showing of injury for a civil RICO claim requires proximate cause and proof of a concrete financial loss to the plaintiff's business or property. Money is a form of property. See Reiter v Sonotone Corp., 442 U.S. 330, 332 (1979); Canyon County v Syngenta Seeds, Inc, 519 F. 3d 969, 976 (9th Cir.) cert. denied, 129 S. Ct. 458 (2008). Can Trump's conduct affecting millions of people, businesses and domestic governmental units satisfy a concrete financial loss and standing to sue.?


The answer to these questions can be gleaned from my article, Civil RICO: A Tool of Advocacy, New York State Bar Association Journal, Nov/Dec 2016, Pgs. 11-14 and my link to published articles

James A. Johnson



Beating Zoom Fatigue

Zoom Fatigue

Probably by now it is safe to say, we’re all getting “Zoomed out.” So in the spirit of last week’s blurb, here are eight quick and simple ideas for beating Zoom fatigue.

  1. Make at least one day a week a “Zoom-free” zone. You say you are already taking one day off? Look to the second tip.
  2. Set up time blocks (every day) that are Zoom free. Take a walk instead. Play with your dog. Do yoga. BUT set time aside daily that are completely off limits for virtual interfacing.
  3. Meetings. Shorter. Everysingleone. One of our conscious goals when virtually meeting is to be efficient and engaged. This is good for our own personal wellbeing as well as our colleagues. By being mindful of the time we spend on Zoom, we can try to cut down how much we actually need to spend on virtual interfacing.
  4. Say no. It seems these days there is a video call for almost everything. And in so many ways, these are great opportunities. The trouble is, we often feel we have to be at everything all at once. So, learn to say no to less valuable Zooming.
  5. Take breaks during longer meetings or between virtual meetings. Some people spend 12 hours a day at their kitchen table with very little movement. Let’s mix it up and get some steps in around the house (or neighborhood).
  6. Minimize multitasking. We have become very accustomed to attending virtual meetings and doing about ten other things at once. While it may sound counterintuitive, stopping the multitasking may actually Remembering to stay engaged and present helps us focus better and to pay closer attention to the event at hand.
  7. Change your location. If you’re one of those folks who ends up spending 12 hours a day at your kitchen table, mix it up a bit. Take your laptop to another room in the house. Take it outside to the patio. The change of scenery may be a refreshing transition.
  8. Switch up your views. For some meetings, keep gallery on, others simply focus on the speaker. Turn your video off when appropriate. By switching up the views for different meetings/events can provide different dimensions to otherwise very similar meetings.

Please feel free to share additional ideas you found helpful. Happy (less) Zooming.

Kristina Bilowus

Michigan State University College of Law

East Lansing