Onward and upward: Attorney turned 'temporary' assignment into career move

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– Photos courtesy of Karen Seder

By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

When it comes to a career path, attorney Karen Seder could be considered “old school,” spending her entire professional life with the firm where she started clerking as a law student. 

That was nearly 29 years ago, and while the firm at which she launched her legal career has undergone several iterations since then, the name at the top of the letterhead has remained the same – Liss.

As in Arthur Liss, a prominent plaintiff’s attorney for the bulk of a nearly 50-year career in the legal profession.

Seder was entering her final year of law school at Wayne State University when Liss hired her for what was expected to be a temporary assignment. The case, if it could speak, would say otherwise.

It involved a dispute between Lombardo Homes and a homeowners association for a 180-unit condominium complex the company developed in Macomb County.

“It was a very involved and complex case in which we were representing Lombardo in a suit brought by the homeowners association that alleged a number of problems in the planning and construction of the development,” Liss explained. “Karen was one of two clerks that I hired to help with the case, which generated 25 banker boxes of materials that we needed to have at our disposal when the case went to trial.”

Within a few weeks of her “temporary” assignment, Seder already had impressed Liss with her smarts, organizational ability, and willingness to “go above and beyond” the task at hand.

“Karen was a godsend and proved to be an especially fast learner,” said Liss. “She really rolled up her sleeves and went to great lengths to make sure that we had all the information we needed in preparation for trial. She played an important role in the successful outcome of the case, which saw our client vindicated over the course of an eight-week trial.”

A year later, Liss didn’t have to look far for an up-and-coming attorney willing to join his firm.

“I couldn’t have foreseen that the temporary law clerk that I hired back in 1991 would now be the managing partner of the firm,” Liss said with a sense of amazement. “She has made her mark here in so many ways, especially in the relationships she has developed while working with our clients and their families. They know that her care and concern for them is genuine.”

Count Anna Lisa Lombardo, vice president of finance for Lombardo Homes, among those ready to sing Seder’s praises.

“I met Karen over 25 years ago during her first summer as a law clerk,” said Lombardo, who is a CPA. “She was hired specifically to work on a case involving our business and a homeowners
association. It was evident early on as Karen walked our constructions sites – meeting construction experts to learn and understand construction codes and standards – that her passion for the law, hard work ethic, and undying commitment to her clients was a driving force for Karen and ultimately a win for the Lombardo Family. All these years later, I still remember being impressed by Karen and I am thankful that we struck up a lifelong friendship from this business relationship. 

“I’ve witnessed Karen’s role grow from an eager law clerk to a partner responsible for many facets of their law firm,” Lombardo added. “Her analytical nature, knowledge and passion for the law, and desire to continually grow professionally and personally by always putting her clients first, in my opinion, have served her well in her career. It has also made her a great friend – a true family member – who I enjoy hanging out with and look to for guidance and support. We need more Karens in this world.”

Such praise serves as a testimonial to the role that Seder has played in the success of Liss, Seder, & Andrews PC, a Bloomfield Hills firm that over the past 25 years has specialized in no-fault litigation involving catastrophic brain or spinal cord injuries.

Seder, who grew up in the mid-Michigan town of Birch Run, displayed a strong work ethic throughout high school, handling various childcare duties five hours a day, four days a week in addition to assorted jobs at a local grocery store.

“I worked my way through college (at Central Michigan University) and law school, which instilled in me the importance of budgeting my time for studying and the jobs that I had,” said Seder, who credits her parents for helping stress the need for a proper work-life balance.

Her father, Jerry, joined the Marine Corps following high school, returning from military service to spend the balance of his career with Michigan Bell Co. in a variety of roles. He also served on the Birch Run village council and for years was part of the town’s volunteer fire department.

Seder’s mother, Mary Ann, was primarily responsible for raising the couple’s three daughters, which included sisters Julie and Tina. She also worked as a church secretary prior to retirement.

“Neither of my parents attended college, but they always stressed the importance of furthering our education,” Seder said. “They set such a positive example for all of us to follow. I will always be indebted to them for that.”

Like her two sisters, Seder graduated from CMU, earning a bachelor’s degree in political science with dual minors in business and history. From there, she zeroed in on obtaining a law degree from Wayne State University Law School, the only school to which she applied.

“It was – and is – a great law school, and it made a lot of financial sense for me as well since I was able to live with my sister Tina for two years while I was a student there,” Seder related.

Early in her career Seder served as second chair to Liss at a number of trials before making the transition to a different role with the firm. The timing coincided with the addition of Nick Andrews to the firm in 2004.

“When Nick joined the firm, we added an exceptional trial attorney who had a track record of success as a litigator,” Seder said. “Bringing him on as a partner enabled me to take on more of a managerial role, while also assisting with trial preparation and strategy. Those areas play more to my strengths.”

To which Andrews wholeheartedly agrees.

“Karen has a special skill set in her ability to organize, to analyze, and to develop relationships with our clients,” said Andrews, who spent the first 16 years of his career defending insurance companies and a giant automaker. “She has a special gift in those areas that I do not possess.

“She always seems to be one step ahead, and has made it a point to stay in constant touch with our clients, keeping them abreast of some of the changes in the no-fault law that will or could potentially impact them in the future,” Andrews noted.

Last year’s passage of the no-fault reform bill in Michigan is expected to have “unintended consequences” for many of the firm’s clients who are dependent upon attendant care, according to Andrews.

“This new law does not fully protect victims involved in catastrophic loss cases,” Andrews said. “The legislation completely missed the mark in situations where attendant care is provided by a loved one.”

As a result, Seder is now tasked with explaining to clients that there is a “whole new ball game” when it comes to attendant care provisions in the no-fault statute.

“Nobody is ‘grandfathered’ in unless we can convince the State Legislature to correct the new law,” Seder said. “We expect that to be an uphill battle given the power of the insurance lobby, but we can only hope that reason will eventually prevail.”

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