Distinguished Service: Firm's founder receives royal salute from OCBA

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By Linda Laderman
Legal News

In every aspect of his life, attorney Mort Collins has been a champion for the people who counted on him.

As the founding member of the 45-year-old law firm, Collins, Einhorn and Farrell of Southfield, Collins saw the importance early on in mentoring new lawyers, implemented family friendly policies years before the Family Leave Act was passed, and, after his middle child, Andy, now an older adult, was diagnosed in infancy with a severe disability, became an ardent advocate for children with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Last month, the Oakland County Bar Association (OCBA) recognized Collins’s 50 years of achievements, when he was presented with OCBA’s Distinguished Career Achievement Award.

“The award came as a total surprise and shock to me,” said the 85-year-old Collins. “It is the pinnacle of success to be recognized by my peers at my ripe old age. It felt very good to be considered.”

The OCBA Distinguished Career Achievement Award was established in 2001 to recognize an attorney whose career exemplifies extraordinary achievement in the ideals of the profession throughout the active legal career of the recipient.

Collins was an early member of JARC, a non-sectarian, nonprofit that aims to provide high-quality programs for individuals with developmental disabilities. He has also served on the board for the Jewish Community Center, as well as on the board of the St. Louis Center for Boys, a Catholic-based residential community in Chelsea established for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In addition, Collins was a board member of The Arc of Oakland County, which advocates for the rights and full participation of all children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“I became involved with JARC, in its infant stages, because we realized that there needed to be some kind of organization available when my wife and I could no longer take care of our son. We had to prepare him for a life without us,” Collins said. “JARC’s evolution is remarkable. JARC has 19 residential houses. When I got started there was just one rented house in Detroit.”

Looking back at the years he was actively practicing, Collins said he applauds the firm’s growth and still finds inspiration from those who are working there today.

“It’s really thrilling to see what has happened to the firm,” Collins said. “I remember the first time we did a million dollars in business – that was remarkable. We all went out and celebrated.”

Collins also remembers how the firm’s first maternity policy was implemented.

“About 30 years ago, one of our attorneys told me she was pregnant and asked me if I wanted her to come back after her baby was born. I told her that, ‘Of course I do,’ and that’s when our first maternity policy was instituted,” Collins said. “Times had changed and you have to accommodate the changing times with the needs of your personnel. If you have a blind eye you will lose an important cog in your wheel.”

Though officially retired, Collins still comes into the office every day where he shares his experiences with the newer associates and often talks with his younger son Dan, a partner at the firm his father started.

“Everybody has to have a place to go to, a place to retire to. It gives me satisfaction that I have my own little space where I can take care of things, talk to other lawyers and see my son,” the elder Collins said. “I think it’s terrific to see Dan achieve the success that he has. My father-in-law was an attorney, and now my son, so it’s really been three generations of lawyers.”

Dan Collins credits the example his father set with his own decision to go to law school.

“I went to law school because I realized not everyone enjoyed their chosen profession as much as my dad did. It made me think, ‘maybe I should try this,’” the younger Collins said. “The biggest lesson I learned from my father was to keep fighting and defending your client’s interests.”

Dan Collins said his late mother, Marilynn, who died in 2002, worked hand-in-hand with his father as they fought for the rights of children with disabilities.

“They were certainly a partnership, particularly with all of her efforts to advocate on behalf of individuals with developmental disabilities, such as my brother. My mom worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure those with developmental disabilities were always part of the community. My dad then took all of her efforts and pursued them in a more public forum through his leadership roles with JARC and various other organizations.”

Of the OCBA award, the younger Collins said, “My dad is the ultimate zealous advocate for everyone he knows, whether it’s his family, clients or friends. I’m extremely proud of him and throughout the firm there is a great sense of pride in his achievement.”
 

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