Hillman Advocacy gives inaugural recognition to Willam W. Jack


by Cynthia Price

William W. Jack of Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge is no stranger to winning awards.

But to be recognized with the first annual Hillman Award is to be deeply honored by true peers, since the program is made up primarily of other working attorneys who give generously of their time.

The Hillman Award was given to Jack for his “many years of service, contribution, dedication, and commitment to developing trial lawyers through the Hillman Advocacy Program.”

That hands-on program, named after Judge Douglas Hillman who was instrumental in creating it to increase the competency of attorneys appearing before the bench, is co-sponsored by the Federal Bar Association and the judges of the United States Court for the Western District of Michigan. The unique opportunity for new and more advanced lawyers to hone their skills through a three-day critiqued “trial” process and very specific related topical sessions has garnered national attention.

The workshop relies on lawyers giving voluntarily of their time, from team leaders to “actors” who play roles in the simulated trial, which means Jack is the cream of the cream of the crop.

According to Program Coordinator Brenda Scudder of Warner Norcross and Judd, the idea of recognizing someone for his or her devotion to the program has been “on the table” for many years. But this year is the thirtieth anniversary of the Hillman Advocacy Program and was deemed a good time to get the process underway.

Varnum partner Ron DeWaard headed up the selection committee; he is just starting two years chairing the Hillman Advocacy Program, which just finished up its 2011 session on Jan. 21.

DeWaard said the choice of  Bill Jack was an easy one. “He was unanimously nominated. He’s viewed as ‘the straw that stirs the drink’ — he was around when this got off the ground and has been involved every year.”

According to DeWaard, the steering committee of Hillman plans to give the award annually. Names will be entered on an ongoing plaque in the Federal Court.
“It’s a great opportunity to teach the younger attorneys, and to give back,” DeWaard said.

As for William Jack, he has played a leadership role in Smith Haughey Rice and Roegge since 1975, formerly serving as president of its board of directors. He is currently the Diversity Committee chair.

He is a defense attorney practicing in the areas of  health law, medical malpractice, general litigation, and professional liability. He is also proud of his Alternative Dispute Resolution work, and is a certified facilitative mediator for the Western District Federal court.

His list of awards is lengthy. In 2009, he was recognized with one of the most prestigious awards in the state: the Respected Advocate award, which is given to a defense attorney by the Michigan Association for Justice, a plaintiff-side organization. He also received the Service and Mentoring Award from the Young Lawyers Section of the Grand Rapids Bar Association in 1998.