East Coast transplant here to stay


 Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of stories about local young attorneys that runs occasionally in The Washtenaw County Legal News.

For most of the time he was a student at Cooley Law School in Ann Arbor, Alex Hermanowski planned to return to his native New Jersey, where his network in metropolitan Manhattan was fairly extensive.
After all, he was raised in New Jersey and had worked as a financial planner in metropolitan New York for three years before the country’s financial crisis made him decide to go to law school.
But one evening in May of 2012, he met a woman at a downtown Ann Arbor restaurant.
And that changed everything.
Now he’s glad he likes Ann Arbor because the city has become more than the place he went to law school. It became home.
“It looks like I’m staying!” said Hermanowski, who looks even younger than his 30 years.
Hermanowski enjoys clerking at the University of Michigan Student Legal Services, where he’s worked since February, because he’s gotten exposure to so many areas of the law.
Meanwhile, he’s looking for a job as an associate in a law firm where he can get into a courtroom as much as possible.
“I want to learn, and I’m open to all different areas of law as long as I can become a trial attorney,” said Hermanowski, 30. “I sat in an office a few years, and realized that sitting in an office alone doesn’t do it for me. But being in front of a jury in a courtroom, not only is it exciting for me, but I’m able to show my passion for the law and for my client.”
Legal Services attorney Ashwin Patel says Hermanowski has the enthusiasm of a newly graduated attorney combined with the objectivity, practicality and maturity of a more experienced person.  
“I think Alex's decision to remain in Michigan for his relationship is indicative of his character,” she said.  “He is licensed in New York and New Jersey and could easily have moved back to pursue employment there, where he already has contacts.   Instead, he chose a more difficult route by taking the Michigan bar and seeking employment here.  It takes courage to give up a somewhat certain outcome and take chances.”
Patel said Hermanowski is a skilled researcher and writer, and is enthusiastic about meeting new clients, and sensitive when interviewing them.
Hermanowski’s family is from Poland, and he is the first person in the clan to be born in the United States. Polish, in fact, is his first language, and because he didn’t speak much English when he got to school, he was enrolled in ESL classes.
After graduating from college in 2006, he worked in financial, business, and insurance planning from 2007 to August 2010.
“By the time 2010 hit, there was very little trust,” he said. “People would ask for your advice, and then second-guess you.”
Too, he found that finance didn’t allow a healthy work-life balance.
“The one thing I did like about it was giving people advice and helping them come up with goals and helping them solve their goals. That’s why I found my way to law.”
He started law school in 2010, and chose Cooley for a few reasons.  First, they offered him a generous scholarship, which made the cost of attendance reasonable. Second, Cooley was flexible and offered a wide selection of courses throughout several campuses. 
“Third, I am adventurous, so moving away from home for a few years sounded exciting,” he said, noting that Cooley prepared him well. “Between all the courses, foreign study, clinics, and externships, I learned a lot.  It was also great getting to know my classmates, professors, and the staff.”
He graduated from Cooley last May. 
Between his scholarship, personal savings, and help from his parents, he was able to pay for law school without taking on student loan debt. 
“I wish everyone could be as lucky,” he said.  “I am very grateful everyday to be in the position I am in.” 
His girlfriend is an adjunct clinical professor at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, and she works in private practice as well.
Because she is from Ecuador and many of her family and friends speak Spanish, Hermanowski intends to progress from conversational to fluent in the language.
While it’s going to take a while to build the kind of network he had in New Jersey, he doesn’t mind. In fact, he prefers to think of it as simply making new friends.
“I am not looking to meet people to build a book of names. That doesn't do anything for me, or anyone else for that matter,” he said.  “I rather meet people who I can build friendships with so that we all can grow personally and professionally.  I would hope that I could help them with something, either now or in the future, and hopefully when I need some help they could at least offer me an ear to talk to.
“More important than building a network, I am trying to find my place in the local community so I can contribute and make a difference.”
He’s reached out to law school friends who are still in the area, joined the Washtenaw County Bar Association, reached out to his network back East to see if they know anyone in the Ann Arbor area, and makes it a point to meet people everywhere he goes.
“I am ready to hit the ground running,” he says, “and ready to make my impact in our community.”