Ten Quick Leadership Goals


Let’s see a quick show of hands. Who is stressed? Who is busy? Forget the nice expression “Zoom fatigue,” who is Just. Over Zoom. Period.? If the answer is yes to one  or more questions, you’re not alone.

But chances are, you neither have the time or energy to read a “touchy-feely” piece about how we’re all in this together and brighter days are ahead. Rather, here are ten quick, straightforward tips that were chosen from the ABA Bar Leadership Institute featured as “Making the Most of the Moment: 40 Tips for Bar Leaders’ that took place last week. And, yes, only a quarter of the tips are being featured in the interest of time. If you want to know more, just let me know.

  1. Be authentic.
  2. Put on your own oxygen mask first.
  3. What’s your mantra?
  4. Communicate to build trust.
  5. Lead with compassion. Show people some grace, and start with yourself first.
  6. Laughter is good.
  7. Communication is the key to a successful and unplanned year.
  8. Communicate clear boundaries about what you can and can’t do at any given time.
  9. Double down on connection.
  10. It doesn’t matter if you fall down 7 times, as long as you get up 8.

Simple enough, right? Maybe a little too simple and maybe harder to actually put into practice, all at the same time. Nevertheless, as leaders, advocates, counselors, and life learners, let’s pause and seek to implement the advice above. It can’t hurt to do so. Most importantly, let’s move forward implementing tip 5.  Show others grace but start with yourself first.

That’s all.

Kristina Bilowus

Michigan State University College of Law

East Lansing

Mediation Methodology: What to Avoid Doing


As a follow up to a posting a couple weeks ago, I indicated there would be a second article detailing what not to do at mediation. Scott Brinkmeyer was one of the speakers who presented during the joint webinar on 2/18/21 between the ADR Section and the YLS. Read on to learn more about what Scott says are “no-nos” during mediation.  (The following material has been found in Scott Brinkmeyer’s handout entitled “Seven Highly Unsuccessful Habits of Mediation Advocates.”)

First and foremost, he cautions about the danger of not involving the client in planning and strategizing the mediation session. Rather, the attorney advocate should explore the client’s expectations about possible outcomes to determine if the client’s vision of the end result is realistic and attainable. Additionally, time should be spent counseling the client concerning risks at trial, cost of litigation, and analyzing the other side’s position. Secondly, to ensure a well-developed strategy, Scott advises that the advocate should create a series of possible moves, similar to a chess game strategy, rather than leaving the process up to the mediator. Rather the well-prepared advocate develops a detailed strategy, incorporates the client’s opinion regarding the same, and analyzes the opponent’s position.

Scott’s third tip flows naturally from the second where he encourages attorneys to prepare for mediation as if they were preparing for trial. You wouldn’t “wing it” for trial, why do so for mediation? While considering your plan of action and preparation, Scott encourages zealous advocacy to be kept in moderation. Mediation is about compromise and facilitative behavior. Therefore, be prepared to advocate for your client but also be prepared to make some concessions.

The next tip? Avoiding joint sessions at all cost. During mediation, Scott advises that joint sessions between the parties and attorneys can be helpful. Rather than head straight into caucus, consider keeping everyone in the room for part of the session.  As a mediator, Scott indicates the following  scenario as middle ground, “begin the session by listing on a board all of the issues I’ve gleaned from the parties’ documents and pre-mediation calls, verbally summarize my understanding of their respective positions and either confirm that the list is complete or add what may missing.”

The last two tips are fairly straightforward but are also worth their weight in gold. Lack of effective listening is tip number six. Scott indicates that “too many of us fail to listen effectively, and becoming an effective listener is not only good advice in social discourse, it can be critically important for mediation advocates.” As advocates, we must learn how to ask good, open-ended questions as well as listen closely. Both skills will help advance the chances of developing a nuanced settlement. Additionally, the last habit to avoid is “not putting your cards on the table.” While sometimes it is important to withhold information until a more advantageous time in the case strategy, Scott warns against duplicitous behavior as well not sharing enough information that can help move the case forward. Clients should be prepared by their attorneys for all stages of mediation and actively participate in the negotiation process.

In sum, Scott provides several valuable and insightful tips for preparing the client for mediation as well as navigating the process. By incorporating both Shell’s and Scott’s techniques, we can advance as lawyer advocates in our ADR practice.

Kristina Bilowus

Michigan State University College of Law

East Lansing

Meet ABA YLD Chair-Elect Choi Portis!


As previewed on Facebook, SBM YLS is excited to bring you an in-depth interview with American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (ABA YLD) Chair-Elect, Choi Portis. Read on to learn about how she got involved and her upcoming plans for the Division!

How long have you been involved in the ABA?  What prompted your interest?  I have been involved in the ABA since 2014. I became interested in being involved after attending a Midyear Meeting as a Delegate for the State Bar of Michigan Young Lawyer Section. I ran and was elected as our District Representative and have been involved ever since. 

What can you tell us about the process that led you to become the almost-Chair? The YLD "chair-line" is a three-year process. A person who is interested in becoming YLD Chair must run for YLD Secretary. They serve as Secretary for a year, the following year, they serve as Chair-Elect, and then Chair of the Division.

What are you looking forward to during your Chair year?  What are your plans/goals for the year? I am looking forward to continuing the good work that previous Chairs have put in place, but also serving the Division and leaving my own legacy for the Division. The theme of next year is Resilience in the Face of a New Renaissance. I have three specific plans that I hope to see executed next bar year. First, continuing the work of Past Chair Tommy Preston with the Men of Color Project, I am looking to conduct a longitudinal study on Men of Color in the Profession. Second, this will be the Division's inaugural year for the Women of Color Project, which will highlight Women of Color in various areas of the legal profession, such as corporate counsel, and the judiciary. Lastly, I am very excited to roll out my Public Service Project, entitled Operation Second Chance, which will be a two-part project. The first part will focus on providing resources and tools to YLD affiliates across the nation to implement and host expungement fairs. The second piece will be a collaboration with the policy side of the YLD in which we will provide information and advocate for the restoration of voter rights for returning citizens. 

How do you believe your YLS involvement has helped prepare you for your YLD leadership?  I believe my YLS involvement definitely prepared me for YLD leadership. Planning programming and networking in the SBM YLS started the foundation for my path to YLD leadership.

As an attorney, mother, & active bar member, do you have any advice for folks who want to get the most out of all aspects of their lives?  My first piece of advice is to make time for yourself. As lawyers, so much is required and you simply cannot pour from an empty cup, you have to make time to restore yourself. My second piece of advice is to show yourself some grace. We often try to be superhuman in our efforts to wear all the hats that we wear as lawyers, parents, partners, and community members. You have to show yourself some grace and realize that you are only human, things will happen, but show yourself some grace. My third piece of advice is to make sure you are taking care of yourself physically and mentally. Just like a car cannot operate if it needs maintenance, neither can you. Make sure you are fueling your body and your mind with things that will keep you firing on all cylinders. 

What's been your favorite thing about the YLD so far? My favorite thing about the YLD has been the ability to connect with lawyers from all across the country. Many of whom have become not only colleagues in the profession, but friends.  

What's your favorite thing about Michigan?  Do I have to pick just one? If I had to pick one thing, my favorite thing about Michigan would be Detroit! Detroiters have heart, grit, drive, swag, and extreme resilience.

Mediation Methodology: Tips for a Successful Session


On February 18, 2021, the ADR Section and YLS came together for a joint webinar concerning effective advocacy at mediation. As many know, mediation may be the closest a client gets to “having their day in court.” For various types of cases, the end result is often in some form of a negotiated settlement, as only a small percentage of cases actually go to trial.

For this specific webinar, mediation was the highlighted form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). The panel featured Sheldon (“Shel”) J. Stark, Scott Brinkmeyer, and Nakisha Chaney. All three speakers are truly “giants” in the Michigan field of ADR and brought a wealth of experience.

The interactive discussion tackled different topics such as mediator selection, preparing clients for mediation, overcoming hurdles to settlement, effective written mediation practices, and developing an overall negotiation strategy. As the presentation was interactive in nature, questions were answered throughout the discussion as well at the end. Thus, it created an ongoing dialogue between the audience and the panel. While virtual, one almost had the feeling as if gathered in one physical place, as there was a strong spirit of collegiality.

In addition to the content presented, both Scott and Shel shared written resources with the attendees. For the purposes of today’s edition, Shel’s information is being featured with Scott’s advice to follow next week.

Specifically, Shell identified thirteen areas attorneys should focus on preparing for mediation as well as steps to take during the mediation session as outlined in his article, Making an Effective Presentation at Mediation: A Guide to Crafting and Presenting Your Preliminary Remarks.

First, he indicates preparation is key as “experience teaches that the more you prepare, the better your presentation will be.” He then goes on to indicate how preparation sets the stage for the various steps in a mediation by being sincere and true to oneself, while also knowing the audience at mediation by directing remarks to the decision maker (i.e. the other party).

From a logistical standpoint, Shel advised that opening remarks should be concise, he encouraged notetaking throughout the session, and suggests putting together an agenda for the mediation. From a humanistic standpoint, he advised against speaking strictly from notes. Rather, he encourages eye contact and using a first-person narrative.

Substantively, Shel advised attorney advocates to recognize that there will be conflicting viewpoints between the oppositional parties. Therefore, honesty and credibility are crucial elements at the mediation table. As advocates, recognition of your case’s weaknesses as well as crafting a plausible story for your client is important. Furthermore, the role of the attorney, is important. Unlike the more traditional “zealous” approach to advocacy one often sees in court, an attorney that is advocating in mediation comes to the bargaining table as a “joint-problem solver” – seeking to understand where the other side is coming from. While the advocate still represents their client’s interests, they should also be prepared to make reasonable concessions and act diplomatically.

Shel’s final two points are golden nuggets of straightforward, yet often forgotten, common sense. He encourages the attorney advocate to listen to both their client, the other side, and understanding the various aspects of the case. Moreover, he encourages us to make use of what is learned. As he puts it, “[t]he more you know and understand the better able you will be to decide” … and “whether to manage your risks and reach an agreement with which all sides can live.”

As one may gather, there are many considerations when acting in the role as an advocate in mediation. Stay tuned for next week’s follow up by flipping the script as Scott explains what NOT to do at mediation!

Kristina Bilowus

Michigan State University College of Law

East Lansing

Changes to No-Fault Law (Part One)


As you have probably learned by now, No-Fault law in Michigan as we knew it changed drastically in 2019. The original law was enacted back in 1973 under Governor William Milliken. The No-Fault system evolved over time with many interpretations of the law and guiding authority provided by the courts.

Our No-Fault system in Michigan was relatively unique in that it provided an avenue for injured parties to recover unlimited lifetime medical benefits for allowable expenses, which was very costly for insurers and in turn, for insureds paying auto insurance premiums. This is no longer the case for many with the recent amendments to the No-fault law, which allow policy holders to choose various levels of PIP coverage and opt out of certain coverages under very specific circumstances. The most recent amendments had three very important dates. Some took immediate effect as of June 11, 2019, and others not until July 2020. Still others do not take effect until July 2021. This article provides a general overview of only some of the changes, and is not meant to be a comprehensive review of all of the changes to No-Fault in Michigan. 

Under the No-Fault system generally, an injured party would seek most damages from their own automobile insurance carrier regardless of fault, with few exceptions to include mini tort claims, excess economic and non-economic damage claims against an alleged at fault party which met a certain injury threshold. Those injuries, called “threshold injuries,” had to result in permanent serious disfigurement, death, or serious impairment of body function, to be legally compensable. MCL 500.3135 governs such claims. Now, injured parties can recover excess economic damages to include all future allowable expenses, work loss, and survivor's loss. Since PIP benefits for allowable expenses for medical care will no longer be unlimited in all cases, there is now the potential for some significant excess economic damage claims for medical expenses.

With respect to claims for non-economic damages mentioned above, the statute has codified the criteria outlined in McCormick v. Carrier, 487 Mich 180, 795 N.W.2d 517 (2010), previously relied on by practitioners. MCL 500.3135(5) now provides a lengthier statutory definition of "serious impairment of body function."

The mandatory minimum coverage for residual liability insurance to cover those serious injuries and resulting increased excess economic and non-economic damage claims mentioned above has gone up with the changes to No-Fault, from $20,000 per person/$40,000 per occurrence to $250,000/$500,000, but the law provides an opportunity to opt out and obtain lower limits of $50,000/$100,000 as of July 2020.

Some of the more notable changes that took immediate effect included an express statutory cause of action for providers pursuant to MCL 500.3112. This was an area that had been the subject of ongoing dispute for quite some time. Medical providers had for many years previously pursued No-Fault benefits directly from carriers and after many legal challenges, the Court in Covenant Med. Ctr., Inc. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 500 Mich. 191, 895 N.W.2d 490 (2017) held that they did not have a direct cause of action. Following this decision of the Michigan Supreme Court, providers simply started pursuing their claims independently in court by virtue of an assignment of rights from the underlying claimant/injured party. Changes to the No-Fault law have now codified the providers’ right to bring a suit directly against the insurance carrier to obtain payment of bills.

There were also significant changes to MCL 500.3114 and 3115. These sections tell us which insurance carrier injured parties should look to after an accident for payment of their first party benefits. The rules of priority for injured parties or claimants injured while occupants of motor vehicles or motorcycles, are covered in Section 3114. Those injured while non-occupants are covered in Section 3115. In short, the amendments in June 2019 resulted in substantial changes to the priority rules for injured claimants without a personal or household policy. If an accident occurred on or after June 11, 2019, then claimants under both categories must look to the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan for payment of PIP benefits.

In closing, although we are starting to see the implications of some of these changes, there are still many unknowns. Look for the second part of this article pertaining to additional No-Fault Changes in coming editions of Inter Alia.

Samantha Orvis

Garan Lucow Miller, PC

Grand Blanc



Taxing Representation

“Taxation without representation” a political slogan that gained notoriety in the early period of American History that expressed the grievances of citizens required to pay taxes without any say in the government. For people of color, that right to vote and have a say did not come until 1965 and the 15th amendment. However, to this day, minorities in the United States are still faced with grievances and challenges they cannot handle on their own and require counsel. When it comes to legal issues and challenges their voices are still unheard or improperly translated because of the lack of minority representation in the practice of law. Lawyers of color are truly underrepresented representatives in the legal field and the onus has fell on our shoulders to cover as much ground as possible. This responsibility can become very taxing.

  On January 25, 2021, the State Bar of Michigan Young Lawyer Section held a Michigan Town Hall. The Town Hall wanted to cover the responsibility that young lawyers of color have when representing issues directly relevant to minorities. The program was inspired by the American Bar Association: Men of Color Project. The ABA Men of Color Project originated in June 2016. A vision of then ABA-Young Lawyer Division Chair, Tommy Preston, the initial aim of the project was geared toward men of color in their first five years of practice. I, along with Jerome Crawford, who would later on serve a term as chair of the Men of Color Project, were a part of the inaugural team for the project. The project wanted to ensure the success and retention of male lawyers of color in the practice of law. Since its inception, the Men of Color Project has expanded the conversation while keeping its roots. The Men of Color Project has provided programming on imposter syndrome, the lack of representation, and mental health in the legal profession.

 The Michigan Town Hall consisted of an esteemed panel of Michi
gan attorneys that included ABA President Elect, Reggie Turner, Judge Edward Ewell, Judge David Perkins, and Former Mayor of Detroit, Dennis Archer. The program covered a vast number of topics. Panelists touched on topics such as police brutality, the impact of the pandemic, and young lawyers impacting the legal guild outside of their respective practice. Speaking for myself, the biggest take away from the program was the responsibility to help others and pay forward the help we all received on the way. Each panelist provided jewels of wisdom reflective of their collective success in the legal guild. The program was well attended by not only young lawyers, but Judges and member of the general public and community.

Colemon Potts

Detroit Legal Group PLLC



Darnell Barton: Our Newest Addition to YLS Council

Darnell Barton

During this week's post, we have the opportunity the catch up with Darnell Barton, the newest addition to YLS Council in District II! Read on to learn more about him.

Current place of employment? Former Wayne County Prosecutor, just left to start "Barton Law PLLC" law firm


Law school? UNT Dallas College of Law in Dallas, Texas. 


Objectives/goals related to your new position as Council Member--i.e. what do you want to accomplish? I am really big on giving back to the community. So, anything I am involved with, on some level, relates to giving back to the less fortunate.


Favorite thing about your geographic region in Michigan? I am new to the area, so I would say: any Tropical Smoothie location ;)


Why did you choose to pursue a legal career? After the death of Trayvon Martin, I felt compelled to bring more awareness to the plight of young black men and those disproportionately affected by what seemed to be an unjust system. Instead of pursuing a career in New York City, I moved to Dallas, Texas, where I began a three-year journey towards justice. 


What is one (or two) pieces of advice you wish you knew when you were starting your legal career that you know now? Be Yourself. Do not be afraid to speak up for the values that look to help the community. It starts in law school.


What is the best part of your job? When a mother or someone close to my client gives me a hug and thanks me.


What is surprising about your job that others may not know? How often “customer service” is overlooked in many relationships within the legal industry.


What do you like to do in your spare time (i.e. hobbies and interests)? I enjoy spending time with my family, mentoring, and working out.


If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Not sure: maybe invincibility, however, each power has its pro’s and con’s.


And I have to ask this question (though I feel so many interviews do!): If you could have lunch with any person, living or dead, who would it be? Why? Thurgood Marshall: to ask him how we can update his revolutionary Brown v. Board of Education argument to help the children of these deteriorating schools and neighborhoods of today.



Introducing Fawzeih Daher!


We are back this this week welcoming Fawzeih Daher to District II! We are excited to have her on YLS Council. Keep reading to learn more about her.

Current place of employment? Collins Einhorn Farrell PC

Law school? Wayne State University Law School

Objectives/goals related to your new position as Council Member--i.e. what do you want to accomplish? My goals on the Council include supporting programs that help younger attorneys in their transition to the practice and providing informational sources to law students as they begin to prepare for graduation.

Favorite thing about your geographic region in Michigan? The diversity and close-knit community that I live in.

Why did you choose to pursue a legal career? I’ve always had an interest in the law, the intellectual challenges that come with the job, and the idea of being an advocate. Being able to see the day-to-days of the job during an undergrad internship at the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office confirmed those thoughts. 

What is one (or two) pieces of advice you wish you knew when you were starting your legal career that you know now? Don’t doubt yourself and have faith in your capabilities. What is the best part of your job? The opportunity to learn something new every day and being able to deeply analyze and question the law.

What is surprising about your job that others may not know? I only have one court hearing for each of my cases. Not sure if that’s surprising, but I think it’s pretty unique!

What do you like to do in your spare time (i.e. hobbies and interests)? Spend time with my family and friends, exercise, bake, and re-watch Grey’s Anatomy. 

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Time travel. 

And I have to ask this question (though I feel so many interviews do!): If you could have lunch with any person, living or dead, who would it be? Why? Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It’s hard to think of a more monumental and historic figure for women lawyers, women in general, and any person who’s been affected by inequality on the basis of sex, race, religion, class, etc. She’s always been a personal role model and one of my dreams was to watch her during a live Supreme Court hearing. 

Welcome Kristin Fernandez!


In this week's post, we learn some “fast facts” about new council member Kristin Fernandez, who represents District II. We’re glad to have Kristin on SBM Council!

Where are you currently employed? Collins Einhorn & Farrell, P.C.

Where did you attend law school? Detroit Mercy Law.

What objectives/goals do you have related to your new position as Council Member? Assist in YLS council programming to reach the goals of the council.

Tell us your favorite thing about your geographic region in Michigan: Opportunity for outdoor activities, all year round!

Why did you choose to pursue a legal career? To serve as an advocate and protect the rights of others.

What is one (or two) pieces of advice you wish you knew when you were starting your legal career that you know now? As an attorney, you will always have a never-ending list of tasks to complete. I have learned that it is best not to worry about checking off all the items on the ever-growing list and instead - prioritize and set goals to feel accomplished at the end of each day.

What is the best part of your job? Advocating on behalf of my clients. 

What do you like to do in your spare time (i.e. hobbies and interests)? Walking my dogs, yoga, spending time with my husband and family.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Being able to fly (who wouldn’t).

If you could have lunch with any person, living or dead, who would it be? Why? RGB, she was an absolute champion for equal rights (my hero).

Updates with the Administrative and Regulatory Law Section & YLS


On December 2, 2020, the Young Lawyers Section co-sponsored a Zoom-based webinar with the Administrative and Regulatory Law Section on presenting cases before administrative law judges. The event featured the Director of the Michigan Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules (MOAHR), Suzanne Sonneborn as well as three administrative law judges: Adam Purnell from MOAHR’s General Adjudication area, Corey Arendt from MOAHR’s Benefits Services area, and Raman Buttar from MOAHR’s Unemployment Appeals area. Over 150 attorneys from private practice, government, and academia attended the event.

The topics of discussion were as diverse as the practice of administrative law itself and covered everything from pre-hearing conferences, the relaxed rules of evidence, to the recent challenges presented by conducting remote hearings. Throughout the presentation all the presenters stressed the importance of maintaining civility and collegiality even while zealously representing a client’s interest. Given the large array of topics covered in administrative hearings, the presenters also stressed to the participants the importance of knowing the controlling statutes and the differing procedural rules. They also emphasized to participants, the importance of knowing for their case, who would be the final decision maker. While in some instances ALJs can be the final decision maker, in many cases this authority rests with the head of a government agency or a separate board or commission who simply reviews the ALJs decision as a recommendation.

Overall, the event provided attendees with valuable insight into what administrative law judges look for in managing their cases and making their decisions. All three of the administrative law judges who participated in the event brought an incredible depth of knowledge and experience. Given the success of the event, it is definitely something the organizers hope to repeat in future years.

Dustin Kamerman

State of Michigan, Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs