Young attorney essential to group advising state information office

by Cynthia Price
Legal News

There are only seven people in the room, but ideas are flying. There are so many dynamic interactions between different sets of those few participants that everything appears to be happening simultaneously.
And that is probably what state of Michigan officials envisioned when they set up the 21st Century State Government Advisory Council.
The council description from the state’s  Chief Information Officer, David Behen charges members with providing feedback on how the rapid pace of technology change “impacts Michigander’s perceptions and expectations of government,” including recommendations for how to improve government/citizen interface.
The council will report to CIO Behen, whose office is within the Department of Technology, Management and Budget.
As opposed to a “task force” structure, where a single final report is the deliverable, the 21st Century group will have the opportunity to advise the CIO on a quarterly basis.
“We’re like a think tank, is how I’m looking at it,” observes Emily J. Broderick, an associate at Varnum who serves on the council.
Broderick says she heard of the opportunity to serve through the Grand Rapids Young Professionals as well as through Inforum. She successfully applied, through an online process which included generating a few ideas for communication technology im-
provement, and joined a 20-person council of tech-savvy, community-
connected young (membership is “targeted but not limited to ages 21-40”) professionals from around Michigan.
When the statewide membership held its inaugural in-person meeting at the Lansing state offices in January, they decided that small-group discussions on a geographic basis were the most practical approach.
In March, each geographic group will have the opportunity to make brief presentations on two to five recommendations to Behen, who will use those he deems feasible.
Broderick offered Varnum’s offices as a place for the West Michiganders to meet, and seven individuals bursting with ideas, not to mention expertise, gathered there Jan. 24.
They came from Kalamazoo area, Grand Rapids, and as far away as Traverse City, representing technology companies, consulting firms, and communications/public relations concerns.
Amanda Rogalski, who works in marketing and is the president of the Grand Rapids Young Professionals, is charged with convening and record-keeping for the West Michigan group.
Broderick is the only attorney, although many in the legal community may remember Daniel Estrada, a former e-discovery specialist and consultant who now works for a web-based employment search firm.
Broderick, who might be described as an “unstoppable force,” is no stranger to the type of leadership that council membership demands.
She is part of Varnum’s Corporate Services practice group, with a focus on mergers and acquisitions, distressed asset and restructuring,  and commercial transactions, as well as corporate governance and creditors’ rights. She finds remarkable the contrast between how such law was practiced in the past and what technology now allows.
Interestingly, Broderick has a twin sister who is also a lawyer, and who worked at Varnum for a year. Broderick says the two attended Central Michigan University for their undergraduate work together (Emily received her Economics and Political Science bachelor’s degree in 2005) and went on to graduate from the University of Michigan Law School in 2007. “I like to move stuff up,” Broderick says, commenting on her accelerated graduation time.
While her sister decided to practice in Chicago, Broderick chose to stay in West Michigan, and started at Varnum in 2008. “Culture-wise, the environment here is just better for me,” she comments.
Even in high school, Broderick was a spark plug, participating in political campaigns, and planning local and statewide events and initiatives. While the twins were at Central Michigan, they started a “Speak Up Speak Out” debate series. Broderick was the spokesperson for the College Republicans, and wrote many issues-based articles while there.
She continues to be active in the Kent County Young Republicans and is the Western Michigan Regional Officer for the Michigan Federalist Alumni Network, but says, “In law school I started to reassess a lot of my belief systems, which really brought me more to the middle. Without leaving behind my conservative roots, I’ve recently become re-engaged in some more nonpartisan types of activities.”
Those have taken the shape of an increased desire to help others. “I want to be pro-solution. Some of my friends and I thought about our ‘pro-life’ position and said, let’s try to help young mothers, and let people know that regardless of what their situation is, there’s support for them.”
So, along with those friends, three of whom are female and one male, she has started Pink Elephants to offer that support. The others include Amanda Van Essen, a Cooley Law school graduate currently running as Michigan State Representative in the 88th District; Katie Wilcox, an attorney at Dykema in Lansing; Jordan Hoyer, a solo practitioner in Grand Haven; and Sarah Ledford, the Michigan Republican Party Youth Chair.
They are still working on the structure and goals of the Pink Elephants, but their first activity will be a women’s business clothing drive. It will be similar to the one held by Schnelker, Rassi and McConnell detailed in the Dec. 21, 2011, Grand Rapids Legal News, but focused on women, and in particular, young women. Broderick also envisions the drive on a smaller scale, and possibly on-going. She says, “I thought, why don’t we identify somebody who could really use one or two suits, and make them feel special, as in, ‘This is for you because we believe in you.’”
She sees her service to the 21st Century Advisory Council similarly. (The state does not compensate the council members, even for travel.)  “Maybe it’s my personality,” she says, “but I like to look at things and ask, how can our processes be improved. I can throw everything up in the air and mix it up and then bring it back home.”
That was evident at Tuesday’s meeting, where in addition to generating a number of ideas herself, she helped channel the group’s energy into an efficient process, volunteering for several specific tasks herself.
For the first round in March, the West Michigan participants decided to focus on developing only two of their ideas. Naturally, the resulting sub-groups will use the best of current technologies to communicate with each other and make their upcoming presentations as effective as possible.