Professor shares expertise in wills, estates and trust fields


by Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Emily Horvath loves a good challenge – in particular, the challenge in finding the disconnect between what she is saying and what a student understands.

“To me, the key to good teaching is deciphering where the student is going wrong in his or her analysis and finding a different way to explain the concept so the student understands – it’s a game of sorts, and I love watching the light bulb go off when they get it,” Horvath says.

A member of the Cooley Law School faculty in Lansing since 2005, Horvath teaches Business Organizations and Wills, Estates & Trusts, a topic she has enjoyed since her own days as a law student at Michigan State University, where she also earned a bachelor’s degree in political theory and constitutional democracy.

“In law school I discovered that I loved property and in particular estates and trusts,” she says. “I was drawn to this particular specialty after taking my Wills, Estates and Trusts class. It seemed to me to be an area of the law where I could really help people through a very difficult time without litigation.”

Horvath began her career with the firm of Willingham & Coté in East Lansing, first as a paralegal, and then as an associate attorney. She then worked as an associate attorney with White, Schneider, Young & Chiodin in Okemos, where she developed an estate planning practice for the 13-member law firm, including planning for young families, domestic partners, and estate tax avoidance. She has experience with trust administration, federal estate and gift tax returns, and Medicaid planning; and represented conservators and guardians before the probate court.

“What I enjoyed most about private practice was my interaction with clients – now I look at my students as my clients,” she says.

The Kalamazoo native, author of several articles and a frequent speaker on basic estate administration, Michigan Probate, Medicaid, Medicare and elder law issues, certainly understands her students’ passion for studying law.

“I discovered that I wanted to be a lawyer when I was 16 years old,” Horvath says. “It was less about being drawn and more about an epiphany. I felt called to it.”

While there has been a lot of talk about the glut of lawyers in America and lack of job opportunities, Horvath thinks her students are on the right career path.

“I think those who are complaining are missing one key point – the practice of law is a profession, not a mere vocation,” she says. “Being a lawyer is not what you do, it is who you are, and law schools are not simply preparing students for a career, but also helping them become the people they want to be.

“When you leave law school you think differently than when you started. You have become a lawyer. Why would anyone tell a prospective student that you shouldn’t or can’t become the person you have always dreamed of becoming? Is the job market tough? Absolutely. But with a law degree, a person can do anything he or she wants to do.”
Horvath and her partner, Kim, share their home with their 8-month-old chocolate Lab pup. In her spare time, Horvath competes in triathlons, and is currently the co-chair for Michigan Pride.
“I’m working on the 2012 Michigan Pride March, Rally & Festival in June, which takes up most of my time.”