West Michigan attorneys do well in 2018 Women in the Law recognition

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by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Five outstanding West Michigan  female attorneys have been honored with selection  to join the prestigious group of 30 Women in the Law for 2018.

For the ninth year, Michigan Lawyers Weekly has honored women who are committed to excellence in their practice, are leaders in the profession, contribute to the community through either organizational service, volunteerism or pro bono work, and serve as mentors for other women lawyers.

When the cohort gets together to be officially honored at a luncheon on Sept. 20 in Troy, there will also be one “Woman of the Year” award given to someone chosen by a vote of all 30 women. This process echoes the selection of “Lawyer of the Year,” also given by Michigan Lawyers Weekly.

All five women below said they have already voted; they are curious to see the outcome, but seem to feel that being included in the broader group is honor enough.

Michelle Anthes of McShane & Bowie is an accomplished estate planning and corporate lawyer, who was elected as the first female managing partner of the firm effective in April.

Anthes, a native of Plymouth, attended Michigan State University for her bachelor’s degree in accounting, and the  University of Detroit Mercy School of Law for her Juris Doctor. Formerly with  Borre Peterson Fowler and Reens, she has spent the last 12 years of her career at McShane & Bowie, a Grand Rapids firm started in 1952.

Anthes says that, most years, approximately two-thirds of her practice consists of estate planning and another third of business planning. She concentrates on physicians and medical practitioners, and farmers. “I do a lot of things for farmers in my legal practice, such as general contract review, but I think the biggest benefit I add to them is the ability to work with them on succession planning,” Anthes says.

She lives in Grand Haven, where her husband, also an attorney, practices; the couple has two children, a son and a daughter, and Anthes laughs when she says, “Neither one of them wants to be a lawyer; they’re going to do their own thing.”

She is on the board of the Ottawa County chapter of the Children’s Advocacy Center, and for two years she has chaired McShane & Bowie’s charitable committee, which researches and selects organizations for the firm to support financially and by volunteering.

About the Women in the Law designation, Anthes says, “I was surprised and incredibly honored and humbled much like I was when I was elected managing partner. There really is no greater compliment than to have your colleagues elevate you to the levels that I’ve been of late. It makes me feel like I must be doing something right.”

Originally from the small farming town of Boroda in southwest Michigan, Kimberly Baber has spent her entire career as a corporate attorney at Varnum, since being a summer associate there after her 2L year. She explains that being from Boroda – about which she comments, “It wasn’t when I was growing up so much, but now it’s wine country; it’s crazy now, there are about a dozen
different wineries” – she was debating a career in Chicago. But after her first year with a firm in the big city, she was happy to accept Varnum’s offer, which she says has a “great culture.”

Though her practice runs the range of  business law, from corporate governance to mergers and acquisitions, she has a special focus on securities and banking law. She also has served such community organizations as Heartside Ministry, the YWCA West Central Michigan, and Junior Achievement.

About the last she says, “Varnum has been a big supporter of JA as long as I’ve been here. When I was an associate, I started off as a volunteer in the classroom educating the kids, but when they were looking for a new board director a few years of ago, I joined them, because I think the mission of JA?is very worthwhile.”  She co-chairs an annual event that brings high school students from all over to a college campus, where they participate in a business simulation game. “The people at Junior Achievement are very energetic, very good at what they do,” she adds.

Though Baber confesses that she was not previously familiar with the Women in the Law list, she says, “It’s an honor to be recognized.”

That reflects the reaction of Mika Meyers attorney Nikole Canute, who says, “It’s obviously an honor. I recognize that there are a multitude of amazing lawyers in Michigan who just happen to be women and I feel privileged to be included.”

Canute, whose practice includes labor and employment law, employment litigation, and energy litigation, has been heavily involved with supporting and promoting such attorneys, particularly through her involvement with the Women Lawyers of Michigan. The WLAM Western Region chose her as Outstanding Member in 2013.

“I’ve been on the planning committee for the Women Lawyers versus Judges softball game for 12 to 13 years,” says Canute, who started right about that time ago at Mika Meyers. “We’ve grown so much, and this year we even had a Supreme Court Justice —  Elizabeth Clement played this year.”

Originally from the small farming town of McBain north of Big Rapids, Canute says, “I knew when I was six that I was going to be a lawyer. My parents tell the story that, around that time when I happened to be in court with them, the judge asked me what I was going to be, and I?told him I was going to be sitting behind the bench,” she says with a laugh. She thereafter attended Alma College and then Notre Dame Law School.

Canute is devoted to her community work with Family Promise, which “provide[s] hospitality to homeless families and keep[s] them together in a time of crisis.” She comments, “This organization has grown by leaps and bounds, and is a great organization. The Director, Cheryl Shook, is phenomenal.”

She is also chair of the diversity committee and vice-chair of the labor and employment group at Mika Meyers.

Mindi Johnson is the chair of the employee benefits group at Foster Swift, and is a sought-after expert on benefits, but her practice is not limited to that. Some of her professional affiliations reflect that: in addition to the American Benefits Council, Johnson is a member of the National Center of Employee Ownership (NCEO) and the ESOP Association, and the Michigan Women's Tax Association.

“Foster Swift has been wonderful. Every woman lawyer struggles with overcoming the stereotypes involved in this male-dominated profession, but I joined this firm as a lateral back in 2010 and have been impressed with their willingness to honor and respect women, and help them advance in their careers,” she says.

Johnson was with the small firm Siebers and Mooney after obtaining her J.D. from St. Louis University School of Law and her B.A. in Communications from Calvin College.

She is also on the board of Girls on the Run of Kent and Muskegon Counties and of Grandville Calvin Christian Schools.

“I was thrilled,” she says about the Women in the Law recognition. “I was very honored and it’s humbling.”

And Jennifer Remondino, a trust and estates attorney at Warner Norcross + Judd’s Holland office, says, “I was really excited and honored to be part of this group. I’m excited for the luncheon on September 20; it will be interesting meeting a lot of the female attorneys who were selected.”

Remondino has been multiply honored, including selection as part of the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 40 Under Forty in both 2013 and 2018. She  has also been named a Best Lawyer every year since 2013, a Super Lawyer Rising Star since 2012, and was elected as a fellow of the American College of Trusts and Estates Counsel in 2017.

She notes that her practice is “a little different” than her colleague’s, in part because she is also licensed in Florida. “I have an active Florida practice, serving snowbirds is one of my niche areas.”

Also serving as the chair of the firm’s Trust and Estates Practice Group and as the executive partner of Warner Norcross’s Holland office, Remondino and her husband make their home in Grand Haven and they have three children aged seven, four and two.

She serves on the board and the executive committee of the West Coast Chamber and as chair of the Lakeshore Advantage economic development organization.

“I think this is a great way to recognize female lawyers,” she says about Women in the Law.

Other 2018 designees who have an affiliation with local firms include Cheryl L. Chandler of the Ann Arbor office of Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge and Kay E. Kossen of Kreis Enderle Hudgins & Borsos in Battle Creek.

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