Jackson staff attorney embraces his calling

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By Tom Gantert
Legal News
 
 
Kevin Rogers, a new staff attorney for the city of Jackson, remembers what a friend of the family told him when he was considering becoming an attorney.
 
He said, “If you can imagine yourself doing anything else, go do that.”
 
Rogers, 41, did imagine a few other things. And he tried them out before deciding to enroll in law school 10 years after graduating from Western Michigan University with a degree in English.
 
Inspired by high marks on his Law School Admission Test,  Rogers enrolled at the Lansing campus of Cooley Law School in 2006. He graduated in 2010 after finishing an externship with the Department of Environmental Quality.
 
Rogers did document review work, then worked for a local attorney just prior to accepting the offer from the city. He was working for Legal Services of South Central Michigan when he applied for the job with the city of Jackson.
 
“It fit my career objective of securing a job within an organization and developing a specialty within the practice of law,” he said.
 
Rogers started his new job Sept. 16 after resigning from working with what he calls a “dedicated and inspired group of attorneys at Legal Services.”  

He handles work for the administrative hearings bureau, and works with residents to alleviate blighted conditions in housing and properties. This includes such things as housing code violations and building permitting. “Blight” covers things such as noxious weeds, abandoned or unregistered vehicles, solid waste or illegal dumping.
 
 “We’re not there to be hammers. To a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” Rogers said. “We work with the property owners—sometimes for up to a year. Compliance with the applicable provisions of the city code is the goal.”
 
He also provides legal opinion on various matters with the city. That can range from responding to requests for information from citizens to answering questions from the fire department about the city’s fireworks ordinance.
 
It’s the range of legal issues that Rogers says he finds the most challenging part of his job. But he says it’s also what he likes the most about it.
 
“Facilitating client expectations and simultaneously developing a creditable legal strategy routinely presents challenges," he said. "For your client, you have to present the best possible legal argument. But it must be credible. So you walk a line ... between doing everything that you can for the client and guarding credibility."
“Credibility is vital— it’s the tip of the spear."
 
Interim City Attorney Bethany Smith said she hired Rogers because of his positive attitude and the experience he had.
 
After Jackson City Attorney Julius Giglio retired in late June, Smith was the office’s only fulltime attorney on staff. Smith assumed the interim city attorney role while Carlson handled the city criminal cases on a part-time basis. Then Gilbert Carlson, who handles criminal matters for the city, handled the administrative hearings bureau, Rogers said.
 
“It was just Gilbert and myself for a few months,” Smith said.
 
Robert Rottach and Rogers were hired in September.
 
Now Rogers is learning he’s part of a much bigger legal community than just his own office.
 
“I never thought much about how members of the Jackson County Bar association make up a community,” he said. “Being active in that community puts you amid attorneys with a huge range of experience and cumulative perspective—it’s a least a 60-year spectrum. I never really considered that a part of law practice. It’s pleasantly humbling and I consider it privilege to be a part of it.”
 
Rogers lives in Jackson with his wife and their four-month-old daughter.
 

 

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