State Bar annual meeting made a whirlwind week for attorneys

By Cynthia Price
Legal News
A flurry of activity at the Amway Grand and DeVos Centers resulted from the influx of over 1,000 participants in the State Bar of Michigan (SBM) Annual Meeting last week.
It was hard to keep up with it all.
Banquets, luncheons and section meetings competed for attention with the ICLE (Institute for Continuing Legal Education) Solo and Small Firm Institute. There were receptions and speakers and inaugurations, and when the official festivities ended, there was ArtPrize at hand.
In fact, ArtPrize was the buzz among many of the visitors from around the state. One commented, “Grand Rapids has changed over the last three years,” referring to the last time the SBM conference took place in the city.
Anthony Jenkins, partner and chief diversity officer at Dickinson Wright PLLC, working out of the firm’s Detroit office, was sworn in as SBM President at a noon luncheon on Sept. 30. His practice focuses on corporate and public finance and real estate law.
Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly swore Jenkins in, and after that the rest of the officers.
Local attorney Bruce Courtade of Rhoades McKee is moving up the hierarchy to the eventual presidency, and he became Vice-President. Other officers include Julie Fershtman, President-Elect, of Julie I. Fershtman, Attorney at Law (equine law), Farmington Hills; Brian D. Einhorn of Collins Einhorn Farrell Ulanoff, P.C., Southfield, as Secretary; and as treasurer, Thomas C. Rombach, of Law Offices of Thomas C. Rombach, New Baltimore.
One of the high points for members of the Grand Rapids Bar was the recognition honoring John W. Cummiskey posthumously. One of the founders of the firm Miller Johnson Snell and Cummiskey, he was a strong advocate for what he felt was the mandate that attorneys do pro bono work.
The Michigan State Bar Foundation Founder’s Award to Cummiskey came at the beginning of an awards banquet which went on well into the evening Wednesday.
Chief Justice Kelly presented Cummiskey’s daughter, Dr. Karen Cummiskey, with the award after  giving a laudatory history of Cummiskey’s relationship with the Foundation and the pro bono initiative in Michigan.
Over 60 people attended to see Dr. Cummiskey accept the award. These included members of both John Cummiskey’s families: his relatives, and Miller Johnson employees.
Among several other honored, six people from around the state were designated as Champions of Justice. The Liberty Bell Award was given to Audrey Gray, who had started a highly successful reading and literacy program in the Kalamazoo area.
On Thursday, additional awards were given by the Representative Assembly, which met from 9 a.m. to about 4 p.m.
That evening, many attendees headed for the BOB’s fourth floor space for the Diversity and Inclusion Reception. Guests mixed and mingled before Gregory Conyers, SBM’s Diversity Director, gave a short presentation on the Michigan Pledge to Achieve Diversity and Inclusion. President Jenkins spoke briefly, reiterating his acceptance speech plea that endorsement of the pledge be widespread and
SBM Executive Director Janet Welch, Chief Justice Kelly, and Grand Rapids Bar Association President Sue Wilson-Keener welcomed people to the reception, and repeated the call to sign.
Many West Michigan firms and organizations had already signed on, and were read by Conyers as part of the list of early adopters; several others signed that evening.