Attorneys bring their expertise to SBM task force

By Cynthia Price
Legal News

Over the 51 years of his legal career, all of it spent at Clark Hill PLC, William Dunn has acquired a great deal of in-depth knowledge.

His expertise covers not only his own practice area of real estate, development law, and commercial financing, but also professional ethics and responsibility, attorney discipline and the legal profession’s self-regulation.

A past chair of the Center for Professional Responsibility and of the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, Dunn has also previously served the State Bar of Michigan (SBM) as chair of its Professional Ethics Committee.

So it is no surprise that SBM appointed him to one of three committees of its cutting-edge 21st Century Practice Task Force called Modernizing the Regulatory Machinery.

Dunn comments, “I think it’s very exciting to bring all the ideas together about what the profession could change into — not just what its challenges are, but what can it do to meet them.”

The task force itself is co-chaired by former SBM presidents Bruce A. Courtade of Rhoades McKee and Julie I. Fershtman of Foster, Swift, Collins, and Smith. The full task force’s impressive roster includes Michigan Supreme Court Justice Mary Beth Kelly, the deans of all five Michigan law schools, speaker of the House of Representatives Kevin Cotter, and James Redford, former Kent County judge and now legal counsel to Governor Snyder. They are joined by judges, including Timothy Hicks of Muskegon County; representatives from bodies such as the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission; individuals involved with the American Bar Association (ABA) including its former president Robert Hirshorn; attorneys including other past presidents of SBM.

The genesis of the task force is not simple, but in part can be traced back to the Judicial Crossroads Task Force. The report of that task force, also convened by SBM, stated, “We can no longer afford our current system. The tools exist to change it, rapidly and intelligently. The Task Force’s recommendations tell us what should replace it and how to make it happen.”

While the recommendations in that report were primarily about the courts, they touched on such issues as indigent defense, rapidly-changing technology, globalization, and in pro per representation that will also be concerns of the 21st Century Practice Task Force.

Another contributing factor to the creation of the task force is that the ABA is undertaking a similar exploration, its Future Commission. In November of last year, SBM and the Michigan Supreme Court convened a summit called “The Future of Legal Services.” ABA President William Hubbard addressed the distinguished attendees regarding the challenges he and the ABA see, and then  the state participants prioritized those challenges.

The priorities designated constitute the work of the 21st Century Practice Task Force. The group’s charge is to make recommendations by March 2016.

Bruce Courtade says, “It’s an aggressive schedule but it’s an exciting opportunity. I think that we’ve got a lot of very intelligent and also very competitive people, and they’ll tend to challenge and inspire each other.”

When originally addressing the task force members, Courtade said he referred to a quote from Edward deBono given by Jeffrey Cufaude at The Future of Legal Services gathering: “We enter school as question marks and end as periods. When we begin to learn we are given a box of 64 crayons … when we graduate we have one blue pen.”

Courtade asked the members of the task force and its committees, “How many beautiful pictures can you draw with a single blue pen?” and challenged them to “break open our box of 64 crayons and come up with ideas, even if means coloring outside the lines.”

There are three committees:

—Building a 21st Century Practice, co-chaired by retired Judge Barry L. Howard and past SBM President Edward Pappas of Dickinson Wright.

—Access/Affordability of Legal Services, co-chaired by Judge Elizabeth Hines of Ann Arbor and Linda K. Rexer, executive director of the Michigan State Bar Foundation.

—Modernizing the Regulatory Machinery, on which Dunn will serve. Co-chairing are Justice Mary Beth Kelly and Renee Newman Knake of Michigan State University College of Law, who, Courtade notes, is also the reporter for the ABA’s Future Commission.

“There are a lot of issues that transcend any one of the committees, and silos are something that we’re trying very hard to avoid,” Courtade notes. “So the co-chairs of the three committees and the task force, along with State Bar staff and some State Bar officers, teleconference every couple of weeks. We want to encourage open lines of communication so these things don’t get pigeonholed.”