Annual Symposium to highlight 'The Business of the Law Firm'

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By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

A blue-ribbon list of speakers will highlight the 4th Annual State Bar of Michigan Business Law Symposium on January 20, 2022 at the recently restored Detroit Club, according to Troy attorney Mark Rossman, who has served as the moderator and organizer of the event since its inception.

In fact, Rossman is slated to be giving the “opening statement” and “closing argument,” according to the Symposium’s agenda, which reads as much like a trial outline as it does a SBM program.

“The Symposium this year will focus on the law firm as a business, and I wanted to run it like a trial – efficient, organized, scripted yet flexible, and, most importantly, interesting, with a lot of different and diverse voices,” said Rossman, a University of Michigan alum and head of a Troy law firm that bears his name. “With the business lawyer devoting so much time to complicated and demanding client matters, this year’s Symposium is going to shine the light on our own businesses, examining how we as lawyers build, grow, and protect our law firms, which discussion and collaboration is all the more important given the novel pressures of the post-pandemic marketplace. It’s kinda like when the painter gets around to painting his or her own house. Except this is going to be kind of like a party too.

“We’re going to stay true to the corporate oppression roots of the symposium by kicking off with a presentation by the renowned Professor Douglas Moll, who, for the third year in a row, is flying in from the University of Houston Law Center to speak on fiduciary concepts and, in particular, a recent decision issued by the Eastern District of Michigan,” Rossman said.

“Then the program turns to a lecture by Mike Morse, author of the book, ‘Fireproof: A Five-Step Model to Take Your Law Firm from Unpredictable to Wildly Profitable,’ who will discuss his experiences and insights in building one of the most successful law firms in this area and beyond from the ground up, and writing a great book about it, and we are very excited to have him.” Rossman indicated. “I mean, have you seen his building out on Northwestern Highway? He’s going to tell us how to get one of those,” Rossman added, tongue in cheek. 

The event will run from 4-9:30 p.m. with a strolling dinner and open bar throughout the program, and music provided midway through the program. The club’s cigar bar also will be open throughout the night. The 2020 Symposium was held in the virtual realm due to the pandemic and featured 25 speakers discussing “Corporate Oppression Actions and Business Law Oppression in the Age of the Pandemic.”

“The third annual symposium was great, with about two-dozen speakers over two nights, this year we have 36 speakers in one night, in the beautiful Detroit Club with all the amenities,” Rossman said. “So, we’re packing a lot of information into what stands to be a very nice evening, with a lot to offer in terms of dialogue, collaboration, networking, and just getting out and seeing people after all of the pandemic limitations that we have endured over the last year and a half or so. And with the strong sponsorship of the Business Law Section, we are going to make it something great, and with the post-production work by Fortz Legal, it will be catalogued in the state bar digital library so that it can be enjoyed forevermore.

“We want to run an event that people notice and really want to attend, so that we can generate interest in the section and its subcommittees, which really do a lot of great work.” Rossman said. “We really want to trigger interest in the law students and young lawyers, because, let’s be real, they’re the future of this business. We co-sponsor the event every year with the Wayne State University Law School Journal of Business Law, with free virtual admission to law students, as the program will be hybrid, run in person and remotely, with the vast majority of speakers being in person, assuming there’s no dangerous spike of the coronavirus, in which case we’ll adapt, like we did last year and like we do every day in our practice.”

Rossman’s firm commissioned the creation of a website with information on registration, agenda, presenters, and sponsorship opportunities. Visit www.bizsymposium.com for the latest on this year’s event.

“For an event of this magnitude, sponsorship is certainly important to covering costs, and so we were pleased that the SBM has committed $6,000 to the program, and we’re almost halfway to the sponsorship goal, but we have a way to go still, so we’re actively offering sponsorship packages, which are on the website,” Rossman indicated.

“The sponsorship opportunities include tickets to the event, which are admittedly more expensive than usual section events. The Detroit Club isn’t cheap, nor is the unlimited food and drink. You get what you pay for. It’s a great place,” Rossman said.

The Symposium Committee, said Rossman, has “secured the services of Max Goss and his ‘Litigation War Room’ podcast to host a roundtable at the Symposium, and, leading up to the program, he will be doing ‘speaker spotlights’ and posting them on his blog and on LinkedIn, so that we can show off some of the brilliance we have on the panel.”

In addition, Goss will be moderating a roundtable “with some great minds on branding and marketing law firms,” Rossman noted. The panel will include such marketing strategists as Roy Sexton of Clark Hill; Jasmine Rippy and Ameena Sheikh of Ladies in Law; Maryann Sabo of Sabo PR; and Tyler Cady of CP Solutions.

“This is a powerhouse roundtable and I’m expecting some very exciting and useful concepts to be presented in a very creative and interesting way, and, importantly, how to respond to crisis when it arises.” Rossman said. “Crisis is unpredictable by its very terms, and we need to know not only what to do, but who to call when it strikes. This is going to be a very useful discussion.”

Another roundtable will feature the topic, “Entrepreneurial Strategies for the Pandemic,” and will be moderated by Powell Miller, “who has spoken at all the prior SBM Business Symposia” and serves as “one of our greatest legal entrepreneurs and inspirations in growing a law firm,” according to Rossman.

“We have assembled a strong roundtable to discuss employment issues that arise within a law firm, with Josh Lushnat moderating a table of very notable employment lawyers,” said Rossman. “Where this discussion will go, we don’t know, but with the employment issues raised by the pandemic, there will be no shortage of issues to discuss – you name it, political sensitivity in the workplace, work-from-home, masks, lateral movement, hiring, firing, employment agreements, downsizing, upsizing, et cetera.”

Other  issues to be explored at the Symposium will be cyber-security and estate planning for the lawyer, mentorship, law firm management, and retaining young lawyers in the pandemic, with a roundtable made up of “you guessed it, young lawyers,” Rossman indicated, and being moderated by Tishia Browning.

“Although we are breaking from the usual format this year and turning the discussion toward how we mind our own shops, the discussion of the fiduciary concepts underlying not only the oppression statutes, but also how they might factor into our own business relationships and partnerships, remains germane, and we’ll definitely be talking about it.” Rossman said.

Tickets to the Symposium cost $200 and will be available beginning in November when online registration opens. For those interested in attending, speaking, or sponsoring, contact Rossman at mark@rossmanpc.com.



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