PERSONAL INQUIRY: Anthony Jenkins

A Q & A with Anthony Jenkins, chief diversity officer at Dickinson Wright in Detroit.
He was the 2010-11 president of the State Bar of Michigan.

Q: Is being a lawyer everything youd hoped it would be?
A: Being a lawyer has been more than I could have hoped for as a youngster thinking about my future. I left behind a career as a professional athlete to become a lawyer. I did so with trepidation because when I made the decision to do so, I knew that I was leaving behind something for which I had passion; I did not know if I would find such passion for the law (or anything else). It turns out that my experience as a lawyer has been rich, something that I treasure and feel blessed to have had the opportunity to do.

Q: What will you most remember about your term as president of the State Bar of Michigan?
A: There are two things I will remember most about the experience. One is the fellowship I shared with members of the bar and the bench during my visits with associations and other groups. Those visits provided a great learning experience about the state of affairs in Michigans legal community and created opportunities for new personal and professional relationships. The learning and the relationships have been rewarding. The other is how quickly the bar year passed while trying to move the needle in making Michigans legal profession more diverse and inclusive and in increasing lawyer participation in pro bono legal services. There seemed to be so much to try to do, and so little time to do it.

Q: As you look back on your career so far, what experiences have been most satisfying?
A: The most satisfying experiences are being told or having a sense that you helped someone or that someone became better off as a result of making an effort to help them. Sometimes that has meant receiving a card or note from a client who wants to say thanks; sometimes it has meant being honored with an award or an acknowledgment from an organization without knowing in advance that I was under consideration; and sometimes it has meant receiving a congratulatory e-mail on a presidents column that appeared in the Bar Journal. I take satisfaction in the things that seem to matter to folks who have been moved or impacted by what I have tried to do to be helpful to others.

Q: How often do you get to remind people that you have degrees from Harvard, Princeton, and New York University Law School?
A: I dont routinely talk about the degrees I hold from various schools. I will do so if the subject comes up naturally in the course of a conversation. Interestingly, it is not unusual for some people to ask about my pedigree upon learning that I am a lawyer, especially if they are aware that I made a transition from professional sports to the legal profession. Sometimes people are simply curious and interested to know about that part of my background, but on many occasions people ask questions simply to size me up. That is to say, I sense that I dont fit their paradigm of a black, inner-city kid who transitioned from his old neighborhood to Ivy League caliber schools and from a sports background to attorney (including president of the SBM). I have lots of fun with the sizing me up conversations, because they give me a chance to watch the layers upon layers of someones paradigm being peeled away with each question and response. For me, those interactions almost take the form of an interview rather than a conversation.

Q: What words do you live by?
A: Say less, do more, and try to do it well.

Q: Whats your idea of the perfect day off?
A: A beautiful morning starting with an hours walk beginning at 7:30 a.m., then shopping for fresh produce and lean meats to grill, and a nice bottle of red Zinfandel to share with a few close friends by afternoon, and ending the day with a good movie or conversation featuring a savory Cabernet. For me, it doesnt get any better than that.

Q: Speaking of athletics, which teams and players do you root for?
A: In terms of professional athletics, I cheer for all of the Detroit sports teams. I am especially fond of the Detroit Pistons since basketball has been such a big part of my life. When they are not playing against their Detroit rivals, I cheer for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball club and the New York Yankees baseball club. In terms of college sports, I routinely root for the U-M Wolverines and MSU Spartans in football and basketball, but also follow the box scores of my college alma mater since Tommy Amaker became the head basketball coach there.

Q: Do you miss anything about the Detroit of your youth?
A: I miss a lot of things about the Detroit of my youth. Most of all, I miss the buzz of a central city anchored by the Hudsons Department Store and Crowleys, Hughes Hatcher & Suffrin and a gallery of other stores, shops and boutiques that made the downtown area hum. The Christmas holiday season has not been the same since Hudsons closed. I miss the old Tiger Stadium at Michigan and Trumbull where you could watch both the football and baseball club in their respective seasons. My Cub Scout troop was there often. I miss the Olympia Stadium where my dad and I watched the wrestling greats of the past, like The Sheik, Bobo Brazil, Verne Gagne and Dick the Bruiser. I miss the fun and entertainment of Boblo Island, and the long ferry rides back to the dock while playing made-up games with my brothers and sisters and cousins. I miss all those things and more.

By Jo Mathis

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