Milestone: Noted attorney marks his 50th year in the law

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One of the most well-known attorneys in Oakland County, Bob Kostin (far left) is among the organizers of the annual Big Ten Holiday Party held each December. The yuletide gathering brings members of the bench and bar together for some holiday cheer. The “Big Ten” marked its 46th anniversary in 2019 at Santia Hall in Keego Harbor.  The festive event traces its roots to 1973 when attorneys Parvin Lee, John Rogers, and the late Jim Flynn helped launch the celebration. Pictured are nine of the 10 event organizers: (l-r) Kostin, Jim Williams, Tom Ryan, Jose Fanego, Don McGinnis Jr., Kelly Allen, Ethan Holtz, Robert Badgley, and Kurt Schnelz. Missing from the photo is Keri Middleditch.

Photo by John Meiu

By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

Forgive Bob Kostin if he admits to being “Zoomed out” on certain days at his Clarkston law office as he adjusts to a new legal way of life in the midst of the pandemic.

“I’m as busy as I’ve ever been, but in a way that doesn’t involve the traditional appearances in court,” said Kostin, a solo practitioner who is marking his 50th year in the legal profession. “It’s a different animal now with matters being handled by Zoom appearances. I found it a lot easier to get my 10,000 steps in each day by actually going to court.”

Such a sense of humor has long been a Kostin trademark as he successfully built a practice focused on criminal law, civil litigation, and family law matters.

“I’ve always enjoyed the variety of my legal work,” said Kostin, who grew up in Dearborn. “I’m more involved now in family law and all the legal issues that involve families. But over the years I’ve handled homicide cases, personal injury and medical malpractice cases, as well as divorces and custody disputes. It’s been a far-ranging practice.”

The prospect of a career in the law seemed to be nothing more than a fanciful notion for Kostin after he earned his bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University and landed a sales job with Medtronic, the medical device company known for implant products. In fact, Kostin initially was more interested in applying to dental school at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, where he was based at the time.

And then he was encouraged by several friends to apply to the former John Marshall School of Law in Cleveland. But there was an immediate hitch to the plan.

“I had just missed the opportunity to take the LSAT, which meant that I would have to wait until the next year to enroll in law school,” Kostin explained. “But I decided that I might as well talk to the dean directly to see if something else could be worked out.”

The decision proved to be wise as Kostin was able to showcase his smarts and persuasive skills that have been on display throughout a 50-year legal career.

“The dean said something to the effect, ‘So you want me to accept you without taking the LSAT?’

“Indeed I did, and I did my best to convince him that I had already proven myself as a successful candidate by virtue of my work with Medtronic,” Kostin said. “He eventually agreed and I then enrolled in their night program so that I could continue my work with Medtronic.”

After a year of studies at John Marshall, Kostin transferred to Detroit College of Law, where he was classmates with former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer.

“After I obtained my law degree, the decision I faced was whether to continue working at Medtronic or to open my own law practice,” Kostin related. “I liked the idea of being my own boss, so I opted for the law, buying a small house on Dixie Highway to be the home for my law practice.”

In the early years of his practice Kostin said that he “would take any case I could get” in an effort to make a legal name for himself.

“As anyone knows who has been a solo practitioner, the first few years are particularly tough as you build your reputation and your network of contacts,” Kostin related.

He signed up to be a public defender as a way “to get my name out there” and to hone his courtroom skills. Kostin also became involved in public service work, running for office in White Lake Township, serving on its board for several terms.

“Generally speaking, I’m not very political, although I would categorize myself as a social liberal and a fiscal conservative,” Kostin said. “I’ve always tried my best to work with people on both sides of the political aisle.”

Kostin currently is a member of the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Commission, and has been instrumental in helping develop the Holly Oaks ORV Park, which is scheduled to open in mid-September near the Mt. Holly ski resort.

“I’ve been involved with the Brothers of the Hammer Club for years and have had a lifelong love for off-road vehicles and virtually anything that goes fast,” Kostin said with a smile.

He may have developed that interest through his father, Edward, who worked at the mammoth Ford Rouge Plant for more than 40 years.

“He was highly intelligent and was a state champ swimmer in high school (at Dearborn Fordson),” Kostin related. “In retirement, he became the best walleye fisherman on Lake St. Clair. He just loved fishing, and was fond of supplying friends and family with the fish that he caught.”

Kostin’s mother, Catherine, was a homemaker for the couple’s three children and also ran the Guardian Lutheran lunch program, where “her pay came in the form of leftovers,” he  said with a chuckle.
“She was a great mom and was the glue that kept our family together,” Kostin said of his mother, who passed away at age 96.

For the past two decades, Kostin has been fortified by the love of his wife, Kelley, a district court judge in Clarkston.

“I got lucky when she came into my life,” Kostin said of the University of Michigan alumna who earned her law degree from the University of Detroit Mercy. “She is a gem and has done such an incredible job since joining the bench. She has a real passion for her work, especially the veterans’ and sobriety courts. She is smart and dedicated, two traits that have served her well during her time as judge. I am truly blessed.”



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