Attorney introduces UDM students to family law field

By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News 

Students of family law may have difficulty grasping the need to put on a counseling hat more often than not, notes Julia Perkins, an adjunct professor at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. 

“You have to be patient and understand what the client is going through,” she says. “You also have to refocus clients from their emotional state to protect them from the legal pitfalls and be able to explain to them why we have certain family law rules. Obviously the hardest thing is dealing with the children – fighting for custody and parenting time.”           

A shareholder at Jaffe Raitt Heuer & Weiss, Perkins is a member of its Litigation Group, who specializes in family law litigation, including divorce, property division, custody and support, paternity and all post judgment matters.           

“I enjoy helping real people,” she says. “I recently prevented a change of domicile that was motivated solely by selfishness. My client was crying in the hallway with his family, and everyone was hugging me. You can’t help but think that you made a difference that day in someone’s life.  It’s not the easiest thing to do, nor is it the most glamorous. But when your clients appreciate the effort, it makes it all worthwhile.”           

Perkins – who recently won full legal and physical custody for a client in a domestic violence case –is also a trained mediator in the area of family law. 

“Mediation settles cases – it’s a great way to make people ‘get real,’” she says. “If you get the right mediator, it’s a chance for litigants to have their day and, frequently, achieve resolution.”           

Named a Top Lawyer in 2012 by dbusiness, Perkins also represents clients in matters pertaining to commercial and insurance litigation, including employment, leasing, property and general contract issues. A member of the Family Bar Association in both Oakland and Wayne counties, she is a former member of the State Bar of Michigan Representative Assembly and Ethics Subcommittee.           

An adjunct professor since 2004, her teaching came about as something of a fluke. 

“A current UDM Law professor I knew asked me for my resume when I told him I would like to teach. About 8 months later I got a call because a spot opened. It was luck that I got the interview – and I’ve been teaching ever since.”           

As an educator, Perkins follows in the footsteps of her mother, aunt and uncle, who are all teachers. 

“Teaching is in the family like the law,” she says. “I’ve always thought it would be good teaching. It’s really interesting speaking to the students and getting their perspective.”           

In her own student days, Perkins earned an undergrad degree in business from Indiana University as a practical choice. 

“I figured it could always be used, and I feel entrepreneurial, so thought it would give me a good understanding of things.”           

Her first job after graduation was in management at Sam’s Club, but after a couple of years she quit to take the LSAT and aim for law school – and went on to earn her J.D., magna cum laude, from the Detroit College of Law – now Michigan State University College of Law.           

Four of Perkins’ cousins are lawyers – but her primary inspiration was her father, also a lawyer. 

“He never pushed the law on me and in fact, when I asked him if he wanted me to be a lawyer his response was, ‘I want you to do what makes you happy,” she says. “He came from a very poor upbringing. His parents emigrated from Italy, and my grandfather was a shoemaker. Not only did my dad make it to college, he made it to law school and was a very successful lawyer. When he started kindergarten the only language he could speak was Italian because that was the only language in the home. He was remarkable.”          

A Flint native, Perkins now calls Canton home, where she serves on the Zoning Board of Appeals; she also is a board member of the Kids-TALK Advocacy Center in Detroit.  Mom to three children, Matt, Chris and John – and Hector the dog – she enjoys playing in a pop rock cover band, The Zero Balance Band. And she recently “starred” in an episode of “Due Process,” with Referee Mark Sherbow, regarding children in divorce. 

“I’m not sure when my episode airs but the show is on Fridays at 5:30 p.m. – even I won’t be home to watch it,” she says. 



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