Three very different attorneys named to 50 Most Influential Women list

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PHOTOS COURTESY OF WARNER NORCROSS, and COURTESY OF CAROLE BOS

by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Three fascinating attorneys who have made very different contributions to the community have been named to the “50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan” list in 2016.

All are at the top of their game in a career sense, but beyond that, each has given back in a unique way.

Pamela C. Enslen, a partner at Warner, Norcross and Judd working out of Kalamazoo, has  an active litigation and dispute resolution practice, focusing on labor and employment, and on education. She chairs Warner Norcross’s Higher Education practice group.

She has a long list of honors and awards, many of them earned while she was at Miller Canfield before leaving in 2014 to help start Warner’s Kalamazoo office. These include being selected as Michigan Lawyer of the Year in 1999; designation as a 2011 Thought Leader in the Law, a Top 50 Women Michigan Super Lawyers from 2010 to 2014, and a fellow in the Litigation Counsel of America; and receiving the State Bar of Michigan’s Nancy S. Klein Award for contributions to dispute resolution.

After getting her B.M. and M.M. degrees in music from the University of Michigan, Enslen clerked for the City of Detroit Law Department while obtaining her J.D. from Wayne State University School of Law. She was also a clerk at the Michigan Court of Appeals and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

Regarding the designation as a Most Influential Woman, Enslen says, “It’s certainly an honor. I don’t really know why I was chosen, but I can tell you what I think attracted their attention — my work with the American Bar Association. I’m right now in about the middle of a term on the Executive Committee of the Board of Governors the House of Delegates.”

In 2004, she was on the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, Pathways to Leadership, but probably her most memorable involvement was serving as the ABA’s representative at the 2013 terrorist proceedings at Guantanamo Bay, related to the 9/11 attack. She acted as an observer; ABA was one of eight organizations invited, to encourage transparency.

“I’m actually hoping to go back. Those proceedings have gone in fits and starts, but it’s a military jury, the judge is a military officer, and every single defendant has at least one military officer on their legal team, so there’s a really fascinating dynamic,” she says.

Starting about 20 years ago when Enslen asked former ABA President Dennis Archer to help her get involved, she has served in a variety of ways, including as one of the first chairs of its Dispute Resolution Section.

“When I first started with the ABA, the Dispute Resolution section literally was just a committee. We would go around the country doing this dog and pony show about why dispute resolution was important and the wave of the future. But there was a lot of hostility.

“One of the things I?said then, and which was true, is that clients are going to demand this. These are smart people, they can see the benefits.” Enslen said she hopes to increase the percentage of her practice devoted to mediation and arbitration, which is now about a third.

Her role on the seven-person Executive Committee, which lasts only a year, is intensive. “To be honest I wouldn’t want to do this for longer than a year, it’s a huge commitment, but I do think that what the ABA does in furtherance of the rule of law in our profession is really important.” Noting that in-person meetings last a day or sometimes two days, she adds, “I always come away from those meetings reminded of why I wanted to become a lawyer.” She will continue as a member of the House of Delegates when her executive committee term ends.

Enslen’s Warner Norcross colleague Dawn Garcia Ward was also honored, as “a woman who has wholly embraced and allowed herself to be shaped by her culture.”

Ward comes from a small town in New Mexico, Belen, where her Hispanic family goes back hundreds of years. “It’s south of Albuquerque about 40 minutes, far enough away that it’s quite different,” she says. “New Mexico is just magical.

“People laugh when I get excited that it’s raining, but in New Mexico that’s the way it is. It doesn’t rain as often, so everybody just gets a little more excited. From a vantage point you can see the rain coming in from the mountains; it’s gorgeous.”

Interestingly, Ward was not raised speaking Spanish, and although she studied it in college, she is not fluent. “Parents felt like they needed their children’s first language to be English, in order to assimilate into the community. My grandparents speak it but my parents really didn’t, so they couldn’t pass it on to me. It’s sad really. We lost something there. But they thought this was right, it was how the kids would survive in the new world.”

This is a tale told by many who would love to have the language keys to know more about their heritage, and Ward applauds the current trend in education that allows her daughter Gracie, 11, to learn Spanish in school.

She and her husband, Gracie, and son Nathan, who is 8, live in Holland.

Ward co-created the Hispanic Professional Women’s Group there. She says the group is extremely supportive and focuses on meeting challenges and helping members thrive.

A graduate of Notre Dame for both undergraduate and law degrees, Ward works out of Warner’s Holland office.

She specializes in record information management and information governance, advising companies on how to reduce legal risk and create records management programs that stand up in court.

“We call it getting rid of the ROT,” Ward says, laughing, “Redundant, Obsolete, and Trivial data.” In addition, Ward is working with a partner to bring a concept to market and get it patented.
She feels it is important that she has been able to carve out a non-traditional niche in a firm like Warner. “I think it’s so important for people to know you can be in a large law firm and pursue your career in the way you want, and you can also be influential,” she says.

Carole Bos has also pursued her career without bowing to external pressure, founding two law firms and engaging in special projects along the way.

After she graduated from Grand Valley State University with highest honors in history and Russian studies, and then from Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Bos started her career in 1981. “I’ll try to be diplomatic, and say that at the time the world wasn’t quite as friendly for female trial lawyers,” she notes.

So she went into practice with Jack Buchanan, and the firm thrived. Later, she says, Buchanan approached her and told her she needed to “get out of his shadow,” and although she was a bit timid at first, she started Bos and Glazier with another Buchanan and Bos attorney in 1995.

She also served as a Special Attorney to the U.S. Attorney General in 1997-1999.

Bos says she is a “trouble-shooter,” who often comes in late in a trial — or when a case has “gone off the rails” — and develops a winning strategy. In the famous Love Canal contamination civil suit, which had been going on for 16 years, she obtained a settlement within months. “I use a team approach, I just roll up my sleeves and say let’s do this,” she comments.

She is also a strong national advocate for individuals’ right to sue in product liability and personal injury areas, serving as co-chair of the ABA Section of Litigation Insurance Coverage Committee.

Another quirky and important contribution Bos has made is starting the website “Awesome Stories.” She said she was on the plane coming back from Washington D.C. in 1999 when she looked out at the Supreme Court building and thought she wanted to tell the stories behind how the national justices had shaped the law.

After she explored her first story, about why Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, Bos realized she wanted the website to be even broader than that and tell the back-story behind events that people often take for granted. For example, what causes a tsunami? How does the body take in oxygen?

She says the site, www.awesomestoreis.com, sometimes takes on a life of its own —  “Every subject has a story, and every chapter of that story is a story too” — but is always informed by her evidence-based background, trial advocacy training, and returning to the original documents.

“I ask myself, ‘How would I tell this story to a jury?’ I make it simple so everyone in the world can understand it.” She has been gratified and “amazed” by the extensive use of the site.

The influential women, named by the Grand Rapids Business Journal, were honored at a luncheon on Tuesday.