At the helm


New ICBA president maps out goals while counseling GOP leaders

By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

Jason Hanselman took over the gavel from Liisa Speaker in July as president of the Ingham County Bar Association.

A partner at Dykema Gossett in Lansing, Hanselman has given a lot of thought over the past few months as to what the ICBA mission should be and how best to accomplish that goal.

"Most people participate in ICBA for networking and referrals, but I think our mission also ought to involve doing more continuing education, particularly providing educational opportunities for younger lawyers," he says.

"Michigan doesn't have mandatory continuing education, but I would like to see the ICBA continue to improve its offerings for training lawyers throughout their careers. ICBA currently offers the Bench-Bar Conference and the Young Lawyers Section has done a great job working with Judge Draganchuk and others judges to train young lawyers. During my time in office, I would like to better formalize and institutionalize that continuing education role so it becomes part of the package ICBA offers to members."

Hanselman notes that membership in ICBA is a great way to meet other mid-Michigan attorneys, some of who may also some day become referral sources.

"Friendships made through ICBA can also provide a support network for lawyers to draw from when unfamiliar or difficult issues arise," he says. "Currently, ICBA also does a good job offering training opportunities. By this time next year, I hope I can say we do a 'great' job training attorneys."

Hanselman's favorite ICBA social event is the annual Shrimp Dinner, primarily for the casual and relaxed environment.

"Where else can you have a solo cup of beer in one hand, peel-and-eat shrimp in the other hand, and reminisce about the old days with the area's top attorneys and judges?"

Hanselman was primed for a legal career from the get-go, with a father who was a police officer, then a state investigator and a mother who worked for the Ingham County Court for decades.

"I don't remember a time that I wanted to anything but be a lawyer," he says. "I worked at Willingham & Coté in East Lansing for three years during college and my time there confirmed that law school was the correct path."

After earning his undergrad degree in public administration at Michigan State University, Hanselman earned his J.D. from the University of Miami School of Law.

Prior to joining Dykema, he worked at the Michigan Supreme Court, State Court Administrative Office, the IRS, and the Michigan House of Representatives.

At Dykema, he practices in the Regulated Industries Department, focusing on issues related to state and local government, including election law, gaming regulation, education law, and other highly regulated areas.

"The best part of my job is that it changes all the time," he notes. "Litigators litigate, business attorneys write contracts, but my days are rarely the same. Although I have some niche areas, my practice is always evolving depending on what the Legislature and state agencies are doing.

"A common saying in my office is that 'laws don't come from Westlaw, they come from across the street the Capitol.' Lawyers who understand the legislative and administrative processes have an extra tool in their tool belt when advising clients."

Hanselman helped facilitate the acquisition of two of Detroit's casinos, including negotiating deal and financing terms and obtaining gaming board approval for the $1.1 billion and $280 million transactions. And when a state government shutdown threatened to suspend operations at Detroit's casinos, he represented a coalition of the casinos to successfully enjoin the state from suspending casino licenses.

Recognized in Michigan Super Lawyers, named a Michigan Leading Lawyer, and

A recipient of an AV Preeminent Rating by Martindale-Hubbell and a CALI Excellence for the Future Award, Hanselman has been involved in election litigation as well as regulatory matters concerning legislators, candidates, ballot question campaigns, and campaign finance matters.

Since 2000, he has served as election day legal counsel for the Michigan Republican Party, as well as several presidential and gubernatorial candidates. In 2005, he successfully defended Detroit's incumbent mayor in one of the largest recounts in Michigan's history and has defended Michigan's Attorney General and more than a dozen state legislators against efforts to recall elected officials from office.

In 2006, he served as legal counsel for a Michigan gubernatorial candidate, the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, and a U.S. Senate candidate. In 2012, he served as legal counsel for the Romney campaign, as well as Michigan Co-Chair of Lawyers for Romney. In 2014, he represented Governor Rick Snyder's re-election campaign. Since 2014, he has served as legal counsel to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

"These days, I have the flexibility to choose to work for candidates and issues that I like," Hanselman says. "Working for a campaign I philosophically support makes the work fun and exciting because my efforts contribute to the campaign's ultimate success. And, of course, there's a certain cachet to being a presidential candidate's lawyer or the governor's campaign lawyer."

He has also been appointed to serve as a Special Assistant Attorney General to represent the Michigan Secretary of State in obtaining approval under the federal Voting Rights Act for Michigan's redistricting plan; and a few years ago, Gov. Rick Snyder appointed him to the Unarmed Combat Commission (formerly the Boxing Commission), which regulates boxing and mixed martial arts in Michigan.

"One of my goals as a Boxing Commissioner is see Michigan return to prominence in the sport of boxing," Hanselman says.

The Lansing native has lived or worked in Ingham County his entire life, aside from during law school, when he would return to work in Lansing during the summers.

"I can see my high school Lansing Sexton from my office," he says.

Hanselman now makes his home in DeWitt, north of Lansing, with his wife Shelli, who works in human resources at the State Senate, and children Avery, 11, and Luke, 9.

Last year Hanselman was elected to the DeWitt Board of Education.

"I decided to run for public office because I thought it was important to give back to the community and concluded that there's no better way to get involved than serving in a role that helps ensure Dewitt kids are getting the greatest possible education," he says.

Hanselman enjoys coaching his daughter's softball team and son's baseball team and has coached youth soccer and basketball.

"They let me coach even though I was barely above average as a player growing up," he says.

The family spends many weekends at their cottage in Cadillac, where Hanselman wakeboards most summer weekends and snowboards most weekends in the winter.

"I broke three ribs snowboarding last winter trying to hit a jump that I should've left to someone 20 years younger," he says with a smile.

Published: Thu, Aug 13, 2015