Living the Dream Attorney embraces life amid family, friends

By Jo Mathis Legal News Lots of people say they love their hometown and believe in giving back to their communities. Attorney Randy Eicher walks the talk. Except for his Cooley Law School years in Lansing, Eicher has been a lifelong Jackson area resident who cherishes the fact that he knows thousands of people by name and calls so many of them his friends. "I love the people here, and feel they're all part of my family," said Eicher, who recalls playing countless sports outdoors with friends, from sunrise to sunset, all summer long, as a child and teenager. After graduating from Vandercook Lake High School in 1975, Randy joined the Navy for a couple of years, had a short stint at Goodyear, and then worked at his parents' bar, The Cabaret (now The Crazy Cowboy). In 1979, he began a 14-year career as a prison guard at the State Prison of Southern Michigan in Jackson the largest walled prison in the world at the time. "It's quite a boring job 99 percent of the time, but the 1 percent of the time it's not boring . . . it's totally out-of-control," said Eicher, recalling the 1981 riots. Randy attended Jackson Community College, then Spring Arbor College, where he met someone who suggested he attend Cooley Law School in Lansing. "I knew I didn't want to be a prison guard my entire life - not that there's anything wrong with that," he said. "But it just wasn't what I wanted to do. So I worked full-time at the prison and went to Cooley Law School three-quarters time for 44 months to get my law degree." Being a corrections officer was a nice job to have during his time at Cooley, from May of 1988 through December of 1991. "It wasn't a job I ever took home at night," he said. "There were times I had a couple of hours of down time during the day, and that helped a lot in law school with all of the required reading." He graduated cum laude from Cooley, where he was also an associate editor of their Law Review. Randy passed the bar exam in February of 1992 and went to work as a labor representative for the Michigan Corrections Organization, the correction officers' union. It was an easy job to accept, he said, because he had been president of the union when he was a guard. "It was an offer I simply couldn't turn down at that time," he said. "I moved from working for the state to fighting against the state; fighting for the corrections officers." Officers around the state would initially file a grievance locally, and then, if it couldn't be settled there, Eicher would be brought in to negotiate a settlement, or move it to Lansing to resolve it there. He served on dozens of committees and assisted in helping employees transfer from one Michigan prison to another. When the massive prison closings began in 2007, and he saw how difficult it was for officers and their families, who were moved involuntarily around the state after each closing, he decided it was time to leave. In 2008, he retired from the union and Department of Corrections and decided to start a law practice on his own. "Unfortunately, I didn't have any experience at all inside the courtroom because I'd only practiced employment law with the union," he said. "I negotiated contracts, defended unfair labor practice charges, and was very successful in arbitrations against the state, but I had never practiced in a courthouse, So, I trained under attorney Dennis Hurst-a crash course I was extremely grateful for-to get a feel for the courtroom, and after about 18 months, I ventured out on my own." Eicher handles all kinds of cases, but his favorite is family law because he loves helping others. He works out of a friend's office and has another office in his home. During the winter, he works about 12 hours a week, but during the summer, he tries to keep it down to just six hours a week. Which is a pretty good gig if you can get it. "I love it! Love it! Love it!" he said. "I make every effort I can to reduce my work schedule to six hours a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day." Beginning in April, he re-arranges his schedule to accommodate leisure time on Vandercook Lake. He'll take on divorces with kids, because they take six months after filing, which means the real work is in the fall. But if it's a divorce without children which can be completed in 60 days, he'll usually take them only if they're non-contested. He also does some family law, wills and drunk driving cases. "I really enjoy spending time with my family, and I adore summertime in Jackson," said Eicher, a religious man who is a worship leader and trustee at Trinity United Methodist Church. "Last winter, I didn't mind working at all. But I'm semi-retired. I'm comfortable. I'm not trying to get rich. I'm just trying to enjoy life, and Michigan summers are so short. "I should shut down for the summer, but I don't think I can pull that off - yet." While growing up, he lived two blocks from Vandercook Lake. But hard work and success has its rewards. Randy and his wife, Juliet, live on the lake - with his cats, swans "Ozzie and Harriet," and a duck they call Stella. About every 10 days, Eicher does a mini triathlon. He swims a half-mile from his dock to the VCL County Park, runs 2.2 miles back to his house, then bikes 6.6 miles around the lake. "It keeps me in great shape and I really enjoy it," said Eicher, who completed his first triathlon in 2008. "During the winter, even though I detest the cold, I've added skiing to my repertoire. I'm an extreme skier, so I spend most of my time skiing the moguls, glades, and leaping over rocks only one broken leg so far!" The Eichers relish spending time on their lake, be it boating, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, swimming, or just hanging out on the deck with their friends. Plus, they like to dance - a lot - at least two evenings a week, with more friends, at The Beach Bar. The couple's been married since June of 2012. "I love, love, love, love, love my wife!" he said. "This is proof that the third time's a charm. My two other wives were wonderful too. I'm still friends with them and almost all of my ex-girlfriends. I consider myself very blessed in that area of my life." Randy said that after witnessing the tough situations of so many divorcing couples he's represented, he feels especially fortunate. "I deal with enough drama in my family law arena, I don't need any more in my personal life." Eicher's only child, Nichelle, a teacher in Boca Raton, Fla., is married to a man Eicher considers an incredible son-in-law. The couple has two daughters, whom Eicher adores. In addition, Juliet has two sons and a granddaughter, and Eicher says he will always consider his ex-wife's daughter and her three children as his daughter and grandchildren. Once Juliet retires from her part-time job as a nurse at Allegiance Health, they'd like to spend most of January and March near his daughter's family in Florida. That would make life perfect-except that for Randy Eicher, it already is. Eicher lives by his favorite mantra: "Dream more than others think is practical . . . and expect more than others think is possible." Published: Mon, Jul 14, 2014