Bauman gains additional awards reflecting impressive contributions

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LEGAL NEWS PHOTO BY CYNTHIA PRICE

by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Though Mary Bauman has been a multiple award winner in the past, she laughs modestly as she comments on her two most recent honors, “It’s been a really good year for me.”
Her recognition as a 2012 Client Service All-Star by BTI Consulting is an impressive reflection of excellence in her career, all of which she has spent at Miller Johnson.

The designation was given to only four attorneys in Michigan, and she is the only female in the state to receive it; there were only 272 attorneys honored nationally. One of the other recipients is Michael G. Wooldridge of Varnum, who focuses his practice on corporate governance, securities, and mergers and acquisitions.

Moreover, BTI recognized only three employee benefits attorneys nationally. The other two are in New York and Washington DC.

About being named a Client Service All-Star, Bauman says, “It just came out of the blue. I still don’t know who nominated me, though I have been able to narrow it down.” BTI, a 20-year-old firm which provides strategic research on legal (and other professional) client service for law firms and general counsel, has told Miller Johnson only that “a Fortune 1000 manufacturing company” made the nomination.

That nomination and the award reflect excellence in the following areas: “exceptional understanding of the client’s business; tools to deliver a keen understanding of the client’s business; outstanding results; outsized value; and legal skills.”

The second honor, which will become official in early March, is as one of the 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan, as determined by the Grand Rapids Business Journal.
Business Journal judges Michelle Richards, Executive Director of Ann Arbor’s Center for Empowerment and Economic Development, and Anne Doyle, the author of Power Up: How America’s Women Achievers Become Leaders, had the final decision on narrowing the list down to 50. Professional achievements and community contributions qualify the winners, who are chosen out of a field of nominations from Kent, Ottawa, and Muskegon counties only every other year.

One thing that makes the 50 Most Influential Women award prestigious is that it covers all professions, not just attorneys. Varnum’s Joy Fossel will also receive the honor this year, as will Carroll Velie, the Human Resource Director at Varnum.

In addition to sharing the expertise she has gained in her particular concentration area, employee benefits, Bauman has given back to both the profession and the greater Grand Rapids community. She is a member of the Grand Rapids Bar Association, State Bar of Michigan and American Bar Association (ABA), and is involved with the ABA’s Taxation Section.
Her current community involvements involves chairing the Hope College Board of Trustees, from which she received her bachelor’s degree cum laude in 1980; serving on the steering committee of Inforum – a professional women’s alliance which co-sponsors the 50 Most Influential Women awards — as well as on Inforum’s WeConnect affinity group to help attract women of color: and participating in the Institute for Healing Racism.

In the past she has served on the board of directors or board of trustees for Forest Hills Educational Foundation, Arbor Circle, HHS Health Options, the Board of Benefit Services for Reformed Church in America, and Western Theological Seminary.

Inclusion in the Grand Rapids Busines Journal’s list was less of a surprise to Bauman, since she knew she had been nominated, but she says she is nonetheless “very thrilled”
by it.

Bauman has concentrated her practice in employee benefits law the entire time she has been at Miller Johnson, which is since receiving her law degree summa cum laude, from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in 1986. She also focuses on executive compensation, but her main area of expertise is health and welfare benefits.

Indeed, she is chair of Miller Johnson’s Health Care Reform Team and shares her expertise in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) widely. “I’m sure I have given over 60 speeches on health care reform over the past year or so.”

Bauman emphasizes that the compliance aspects of the PPACA are daunting, and present a moving target as well. “I just want to help employers figure out, how do I cope?” she says.
She talks knowledgeably about the upcoming Supreme Court case on the constitutionality of the PPACA, listing issues under consideration: the first is a question about whether the penalties for not purchasing health care portion of the act violates the commerce clause, including the question about whether that “inactivity” is actually an “activity;” another concerns the taxing and spending clause, which allows the imposition of taxes but precludes the imposition of penalties. An important consideration is the issue of severability: if the individual mandate is found to be unconstitutional, does that negate the whole act?

To obtain more information about everything PPACA, Bauman points people to the Kaiser Family Foundation web site, which she says is comprehensive. A discussion of the Supreme Court case can be found at http://www.kff.org/healthreform/8270.cfm.Over and above her practice, Bauman serves as Miller Johnson's Diversity Partner. She participates in the Grand Rapids Bar Association’s Managing Partners Diversity Collaboration, and facilitates the Pipeline Committee of that group.

The collaborative is very close to releasing its recommendations, since she and other facilitators have presented their documentation to the managing partners, received their feedback, and revised the document accordingly.

Bauman indicates that, if passed as revised, there will be implementation opportunities for both individual law firms and the Grand Rapids legal community as a whole to work together.
Bauman is no stranger to the world of awards. In 2011, Michigan Lawyers Weekly recognized her as one of 20 “Michigan Women in the Law.” The extensive list includes being ranked by “Best Lawyers in America®” for employee benefits law, recognition as a Michigan “Super Lawyer” for Employee Benefits/ERISA,  and a ranking by Chambers USA for Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation.

About the latest round, Bauman comments, “I’m just very appreciative and humbled by the recognition this year. It’s really just a  reflection of what I’ve gained through many years of practice, but also reflects that I work with many great people. I love Miller Johnson.”