From sass to success: lawyer finds her calling as litigator

by Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Attorney Michelle Wezner says her career as a commercial litigator was the answer to this question: “What do you do with a person who has a sassy mouth, an insatiable curiosity, a tendency to get easily bored, and a need for the occasional creative outlet?”

Wezner knew that answer by her early teens. Inspired by her stepfather, attorney W. Stan Hurst, a legal career was always in the cards.

“The first thing that struck me was that he always drove nice cars and seemed to have a pretty flexible schedule,” she says with a smile. “Eventually, though, he taught me I could channel my innate mouthiness and sass into something productive.”

Now an attorney with Howard & Howard in Royal Oak and a “Michigan Rising Star,” Wezner launched her career by earning an undergrad degree, with high honors, from University of Michigan.

“My veins run maize and blue,” she says.  “All the core skills I needed in life that were not taught to me by my parents were taught at U of M – especially my college job fund-raising for the University, by telemarketing.”

She went on to earn her J.D. from Boston University School of Law, where she was involved in moot court competition.  “Boston University was a great law school with a very cooperative, collegial student body and a great staff,” she says. “My contracts professor, Clark Byse, was legendary.  The story was that the Charles Kingsfield character from ‘The Paper Chase’ was based on him. He was brilliant, he was tough, he was kind and he had a wicked sense of humor. I absolutely hit the jackpot by getting him as my professor.”

In her early days as an attorney, Wezner did corporate transactional law, the result of a youthful fascination with mergers and acquisitions, when her favorite book was Lawrence Lederman’s Tombstones:  A Lawyer’s Tales from the Takeover Decades.

“I enjoyed mapping out the transactions in my head, which was also one of the reasons I loved corporate tax in law school – I loved mapping them out and stepping back and seeing the core flow of money behind all those complicated, convoluted transactions,” she explains. 

But after a few years in this field, she switched gears. “Ultimately, I realized I needed more of a creative outlet, and a practice area with less restrictive use of language and more room for individual expression,” she says.  “Commercial litigation is the perfect balance of that for me.”

Wezner, whose career has included working at a large Detroit law firm and as a law clerk with Chrysler Corporation's Office of the General Counsel, negotiates and litigates a wide variety of business disputes on behalf of Fortune 100 corporations to closely held organizations, including general contract disputes, commercial collection actions, vendor disputes, sales rep commission actions and mortgage fraud actions.   She also has experience with contract negotiation and drafting, commercial lending, bankruptcy and reorganizations, mergers and acquisitions, and extensive in-house corporate client counseling and service. 

Every case in commercial litigation is an opportunity to learn something new, she notes:  a new business, a new industry, a new venue, a new area of law. Most recently, she worked on a patent infringement case before the International Trade Commission, a new venue to her.   “It was challenging, but thrilling at the same time,” she says.
Wezner enjoys travel, and spending time with her family.

“I... have parents and siblings whose company I enjoy enough that I would want to be friends with them even if we weren’t related,” she says. “And I can’t overstate what a formative influence my stepfather has been – I simply would not be the person I am today if not for him. He has been a father, a mentor, a friend, a teacher, a guide, a support network, and a role model for me. 

“My younger brother has also decided to join the legal profession, and I hope I can pay it forward to him as well.”


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