What’s going on with the SBM president these days?

We’re almost at the point when we can write a headline saying “State Bar of Michigan President Julie Fershtman: The First 100 Days,” but we’ll jump the gun a bit here.

Over a cup of Earl Grey tea at a Starbucks near her Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith, P.C. office, the 2011-12 SBM president reflected on all the things she’s either worked on, witnessed, or simply felt good about since her Sept. 15 inauguration.

First is the task force Fershtman formed to enhance the SBM’s Practice Management Resource Center (PMRC). Headed by Rebecca Simkins, it’s working on coming up with recommendations by April — some of which could be instilled immediately, others may be long-term goals.

But it’s been getting the word out about the PMRC overall that Fershtman said has given her the greatest satisfaction. Meeting with bar associations across the state, she said practitioners have been receptive to taking advantage of the service, which offers bar members training and hands-on assistance with legal technology and management components. She noted that many of the bar members she’s met haven’t known much about the PMRC, and she hopes the task force helps to change that.

That leads to hearing from bar members directly. Fershtman did say in her incoming speech that she wants to be the most accessible SBM president in history — complete with a presidential blog — and has kept her word by taking emails and calls from practitioners, spending upwards of an hour on the phone listening to what they have to say.

“I’m encouraged that they are comfortable enough to make the call,” she said.

Fershtman added that she’s also encouraged by the SCAO report calling for the elimination of 45 judgeships across the state — per the SBM’s Judicial Crossroads Task Force’s report — which she said wasn’t met with the kind of resistance as expected, as it’s attrition-based, “which is what we were seeking.” As well, she said Gov. Rick Snyder’s recently formed Indigent Defense Advisory Commission looks promising.

Still to go at the bar, she said, is better educating the public on the unauthorized practice of law, as well as the “Solutions on Self-Help” project, meant to give in pro parties some direction as to the proper court forms they need, and thus not wasting judges’ time.

Not bad for 100 days. Or something close to that.


77th State Bar president says ‘I do’

Following her swearing-in today by Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert P. Young Jr., Julie I. Fershtman took the podium at the State Bar of Michigan annual meeting Dearborn as 77th SBM president.

And, following the expected thank-yous to family, friends and fellow bar members – Fershtman was ready to talk business.

As she told Michigan Lawyers Weekly for the Aug. 29 edition, she was going to form a committee that will broaden and improve the Practice Management Resource Center, where State Bar members can receive, as part of their annual dues, training and hands-on assistance with legal technology and management components.

Taking the next step Fershtman announced today that Rebecca Simkins, who has served as chair of SBM’s Law Practice Management & Legal Administrators Section, would head the group. And, today, the PMRC rolled out an overhauled website, with easier navigation and the “Practice EZ” theme to emphasize it.

She also announced that her SBM presidency blog, www.sbmpres2012.com, would be rolled out later today. In it, she’ll post what she’s doing and what’s she’s seeing happening across the state, with posted pictures from tours she’ll be going on across Michigan, when she meets with local bar associations.

Fershtman also remarked that things SBM members should expect throughout the year include:

• A crackdown following member complaints of various “unauthorized practice of law” sprouting up online, and educating the public on the risks of do-it-yourself legal functions, such as wills and trusts;

• A staff of the Member Services Committee that is now doubled, and primed to explore and expand member services and benefits;

• Exploring mentor programs, and determining not just what works, but also what’s best for membership.