Women Lawyers bring children, judges together at museum


Photo 1

63rd District Court Judge Sarah Smolenski donned a black wig (looking suspiciously like the hair of a certain metal band hanger-on at one of the recent Lip Syncs) to help her “play” Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor for the WLAM game. She is shown here with the young winner.

Photo 2

WLAM board member Claire Whitman plays with sons Charlie and Henry on the construction planks that double as balance beams.

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Allegan 48th Circuit Court Judge Margaret Bakker describes her famous female character, surrounded by kids of all ages. Directly in front of her is Family Division 17th Circuit Court Judge Patricia Gardner.

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17th Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Feeney took seriously her role describing the famous woman mystery character assigned to her.

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Even some of the older daughters at the Museum laughed at Judge Smokenski’s character.

by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Fun and games: that may sound like an unlikely description of a gathering of lawyers, but maybe not so much if the lawyers’ children are involved.
And several judges.

The Women Lawyers Association  (WLAM) Western Region held its “Bring Your Child to Work Day” luncheon at the Grand Rapids Children  Museum last Thursday, and a good time was had by all.

About 20 female attorneys and female judges turned out, many with kids in tow, for a kid-friendly buffet lunch followed by free time at the museum. Children ranged in age from about 9 months to mid-teens.

The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is the definition of “fun” for the younger children. It started out as a “Museum Without Walls” in 1993, and moved to its current downtown location in 1994.

But after eating and before they hit the museum, the children joined in a game led by the judges present: Margaret Bakker, Allegan 48th Circuit Court; Kathleen Feeney, 17th Circuit Court; Patricia Gardner, also 17th Circuit Court; Janet Haynes, retired; Jeanine Laville, 61st District Court; and Sarah Smolenski form the 63rd District Court.

Each judge “impersonated” a famous woman associated with the legal profession by reading a description in the first person. Children guessed who the woman was from the details given.

With perhaps a little help from their moms, the children got all of them right. They then chose from a small cache of prizes.

Judge Smolenski put on a black robe and long black wig to give additional clues. Her alter ego was Sonia Sotomayor of the U.S. Supreme Court, which one of the children guessed in fairly short order.

WLAM Western Region has been trying new things to get members excited about coming to meetings, along with focusing on promotion of WLAM and women attorneys. These have included a luncheon presentation by Immediate Past President of the State Bar Julie Fershtman on how women lawyers can promote their work (see Grand Rapids Legal News 3/27/13) and a get-together at the Uptown Kitchen for a cooking class in April.

The chapter’s success with these and ongoing efforts was recognized when the WLAM Western Region received a Regional Leadership award from the State WLAM.

The Regional Leadership award “celebrates the accomplishments of a Region for demonstrated professionalism and dedication to furthering the Association’s objectives.”

Specifically, the Western Region’s recognition came due to an event that is not new but has long been identified with WLAM: the annual Judges versus Women Lawyers charity softball game. The state group felt that the contributions to the YWCA resulting from the softball game, as well as other financial support the Western Region has organized for causes such as Women at Risk International, have served to promote the name of WLAM as well as women lawyers in general.

Linda Jo Carron, general counsel at Knape and Vogt Manufacturing and current president of WLAM Western Region, gave credit to all the members for making the award possible.

Jeannine Bolhouse of Bolhouse, Baar & Lefere  serves as current WLAM Treasurer, and Emma MacGuidwin, a research attorney, is the Secretary.

The group’s Vice President, Kimberly Large, of Mika, Meyers, Beckett and Jones, has played a lead role in planning the year’s events and was the mistress of ceremonies for the luncheon at the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum.

Also in attendance was Nikole Canute, who is at Mika Meyers as well. Canute will receive this year’s Outstanding Member Award from WLAM Western Region at a reception on May 13 at Bistro Bella Vita, which doubles as the group’s annual meeting.

To keep up on other future events, visit http://www.womenlawyers.org/event/2013/ where there is a combined calendar for all the active regional groups. WLAM Western Region also has a blog at www.womenlawyers.org/mid-michigan/blog, which repeats the calendar.

This year’s Women Lawyers versus Judges softball game, which is also an opportunity to enjoy Fifth Third Ball Park, will be June 15.