Legal assistants throw a party, give meaningful awards



by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Laughter bubbled up all around the room, conversation flowed, and people of a variety of natures really seemed to enjoy each other’s company.

That is the way NALS of West Michigan did its awards night dinner this year, held at the University Club last Thursday night.

But that should not be taken as an indication that the NALS chapter is not serious about what it does. In addition to giving awards that have a long history of honorable recipients, the group certifies legal administrative personnel at three levels: Accredited Legal Secretary (ALS), Professional Legal Secretary (PLS), and Professional Paralegal (PP).

Carolyn Field, who has earned a PP designation after her name, had the privilege of awarding her own boss the Legal Professional of the Year award.

Before introducing Doug Dozeman of Warner Norcross and Judd, Field explained that she had asked officers of Michigan NALS in Lansing to make the choice. Field said about Dozeman, “I’ve worked for a number of people, but this particular boss has more of my respect than any other I’ve known. He is truly a pleasure to work for - a secretary couldn’t ask for a kinder, gentler boss. He rocks it!”

Though Dozeman is no stranger to awards and distinctions — he is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a Michigan Super lawyer since 2006 and named one of the top 100 super lawyers since 2007, as well as a top litigator in Michigan by Benchmark Litigation — he seemed genuinely delighted and somewhat overwhelmed as he gave a gracious speech thanking NALS.

Dozeman specializes in IP, real estate, advertising and marketing, and other commercial areas. He is on the Board of Directors of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and Hope Housing Commission, as well as on the campaign cabinet for United Way. He practices both litigation and dispute resolution.

In receiving the Legal Professional of the Year award,  Dozeman joins an illustrious array of judges, attorneys and others in the legal community, many of whom are still active on the Grand Rapids scene: Judges Robert B. Burns (the first recipient, in 1974), Woodrow A. Yared, and Kathleen M. Feeney; the father and son team of John “Jack” (1979) and Rob (1995) Buchanan; Varnum Human Resources Director Carroll Velie; and lawyers from Tonya Fedewa, Bill Jack and Bud Roegge to Rodney Martin and Barbara Craft.

Likewise, past winners of the NALS Award of Excellence are still active in the chapter and on their jobs. Patsy A. Hooker, the second winner of the award in 1973, is still a member, as are ten others, including Janette M. (Jan) Olexa (1982) and Sherri Bowden (1998)  who still play roles in the leadership of the NALS chapter.

This year, Lynn Philp was a clear choice for the Award of Excellence. In addition to serving as NALS chapter president for two years (she is just starting her second), Philp has demonstrated her excellence by working “outrageous hours” and sharing generously of her broad legal knowledge.

Will Antonides, NALS president-elect, observed of her earlier in the evening when presenting her with a gift to commemorate her first year as president, “Her deep knowledge, along with her dark sense of humor, has really helped me as I prepare for next year.”

Kimberly  Dewey, PP, PLS, read from a statement by Philp’s boss, Melissa N. Collar, also of Warner Norcross and Judd, in giving the award. Collar indicated that Philp was such a “competent advisor” that clients tended to forget she was not an attorney, and that Philp is an integral part of her practice. “I often think that if she quit, I would have to quit,” Collar was quoted as saying.
Several people were recognized as attaining the ALS certification, a process which includes a four-hour exam in three parts: written communications; office procedures and legal knowledge; and ethics, human relations, and judgment. In addition to those in the photograph, Gloria Brown, Kathryn Gadbois, Kari Petersen, and Talitha Robertson were granted the privilege to add “ALS” after their names.

The Professional Paralegal PP designation was given to four women who already had their PLS certificates: Sue Acklin, Annette Jeltema, Tonya Mashue, and Marcia VanEssen. The day-long test for the certification includes a section on substantive law, and requires mastery of several manuals and training volumes.