Thursday Profile: Nancy Keppelman

Nancy Keppelman is Of Counsel based in Butzel Long’s Ann Arbor office practicing in the areas of employee benefits and executive compensation law.

A native of Philadelphia, Keppelman moved to Cleveland as a child and then to Grosse Pointe in her high school years.

She earned her undergrad and law degree from the University of Michigan.

Before attending MLaw she worked as a paralegal for several years.

A fellow in the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel (ACEBC), Keppelman previously worked as an attorney in Detroit, and Ann Arbor.

She and her husband Michael are patrons of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestra Hall, have attended the Stratford Festival in Ontario for over 30 years, and enjoy birding in Ann Arbor and at Sleeping Bear Dunes. 

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

What is your most treasured material possession? My wedding ring, but eyeglasses are a close second!

What advice do you have for someone considering law school? Consider it carefully, and be prepared to work hard, question what your client tells you as well as your opponent, and seek solutions to clients’ problems.  If you’re good at reading and  interpretation, you’ll make a good tax, securities, or regulatory lawyer.  If you are good on your feet and you like to learn new areas a lot, you may make a good litigator.

Favorite local hangouts: Gratzi’s, the Ark, my house, or Paw Run dog park (my dog’s favorite hangout!)

Favorite websites:, and

Favorite music: I regularly attend Detroit Symphony concerts, UMS classical, jazz and Afro-pop concerts, and the Ark in Ann Arbor for fabulous folk music.

What is your happiest childhood memory? Trying to build a dam with stones in a cold fast creek in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with a friend. We were not successful.

What would surprise people about your job? I help people keep money from the IRS, by designing tax-qualified retirement plans to which they can make deductible contributions.  The fact it also helps people save for retirement is definitely a plus.

What do you wish someone would invent? Another me so I could get my work done.

Why did you become a lawyer? Law firms had libraries! Seriously, I was always good with writing and language, and law seemed like a way to use that ability.  And back when I became a lawyer, it was both easier to become one (the job pressures were not what they are now) but also much harder in a way, because I was in the first real wave of women who became lawyers in the 1970s.

What’s your favorite law-related TV show, movie, and/or book?
I just read Ian McEwan’s The Children Act, a fascinating fictional portrait of a Englishwoman who is a family judge, who must decide the welfare of conjoined twins, ultra-orthodox Jewish teenage girls whose mother is breaking away from the restrictions of her faith and divorcing their still observant father, and a teenage boy who must have a transfusion to survive leukemia, but who is forbidden to have a blood transfusion by his and his parents’ Jehovah’s Witness faith.  It is a very thought-provoking exploration of what it means to consider the welfare of a child, both to the child and the judge.

What’s your proudest moment as a lawyer? Any time a client thanks me for doing a good job, and any time I can craft a good solution to a difficult problem.

What would you say to your 16-year-old self?
Don’t be so obnoxious—you really don’t know everything yet!

What other career path might you have chosen?
I think I could have pursued linguistics, or become an English teacher.  But law allows me to apply my very practical nature to problem solving in a way that no academic career would have.

Favorite place to spend money:  Any independent book store, including Nicola’s and Aunt Agatha’s in Ann Arbor, or the Cottage Bookstore in Glen Arbor.

Who are your law role models – real and/or fictional? Ruth Bader Ginsberg has been my role model since law school, as a brilliant, savvy, committed, and dedicated lawyer for the rights of women, a role she’s continued as a Supreme Court justice.  Virginia Nordby, a wonderful professor at Michigan Law School who introduced me to the cases Ginsberg (and others like her) took on.  And we all grew up admiring Atticus Finch.

What’s your most awe-inspiring experience? I was privileged to touch a wild gray whale calf off of Baja, Mexico.  The fact the mother whale was swimming below our small rubber boat and could have destroyed us with a flip of her massive tail, really brought home the trust there can be between humans and wild animals.

If you could have one super power, what would it be? Musical genius—I would love to be able to play guitar and sing like Bonnie Raitt, or play cello like Yo Yo Ma, or compose and play piano like Abdulla Ibrahim.

What do you do to relax? Read books, listen to music, walk the dog, cook, and go birdwatching.  And there’s nothing like kneading homemade bread to work out stresses, and then you get to eat the bread.

What’s one thing you would like to learn to do? To understand and speak Mandarin.

What is something most people don’t know about you? I have a secret wish to be a fabulous blues singer.

If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be? Shakespeare, Bach, and Beethoven. And if those three were busy, I’d love to have dinner with my parents, both gone now, and my sister, Linda.

What’s the best advice you ever received?
Finish your homework.  Or, don’t spend money you don’t have yet.  Both were advice from my parents.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement? Being married to my wonderful husband, Michael, for 37 years.  Thanks for putting up with me all this time!

Where would you like to be when you’re 90?  Alive, healthy, and sharing beautiful Lake Michigan sunsets with my husband.

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