Profile in Brief

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Paul Dimond
Storyteller

Egged on by his then 8-year-old grandson Jack, attorney Paul Dimond turned his hand to writing a children’s story that he and Jack could enjoy together.

“He didn’t know the critics for the past 45 years said my public policy books, articles, columns and op-eds were mostly fiction — although never boring,” says Dimond, who serves Of Counsel with Miller Canfield in Ann Arbor.

During a long plane trip with Jack to visit family in Montana, Dimond — who enjoyed sharing classics such as the Hardy Boys, the Narnia Chronicles, Mike Lupica’s sports books and the Star-Catcher series with his grandson — created a story of the Pippin family, with grandparents Pip and Marmie, and grandchildren, Paul, Jack, Kate and Ali, each with a magic talent.

“We placed the family on an isolated, nearly deserted peninsula by a Great Lake freezing over with a new Ice Age resulting from the long-dormant Yellowstone volcano erupting,” Dimond says. “We drew a rough totem pole to tell the story of this clan as we added new characters. By the time we landed, I had an outline for what would become ‘North Coast Almanac.’”

Over the next few weeks Dimond drafted the first of the book’s twelve chapters, one for each month, of his futuristic tale: Polar bears, seeking a home on the edge of ice, water and land, threaten the Pippin ancestral home. Each chapter begins with a full-page illustration of an animal character that plays a key role that month. Dimond also added a back story: 50 years and two generations later, the oldest boy Paul — now a grandfather — reads the tale from his old journal to a granddaughter sent Up North to escape a flu epidemic sweeping the South.

The two stories intertwine, and resonate back and forth across the generations, as grandparents and grandchildren struggle with grief, fear and self-doubt and merge their talents to confront ice, invasion and infection.

“My grandson served as my first sounding board as I read each chapter draft to him,” Dimond says. “By the time we finished, Jack graduated from learning to read to reading to learn, and I had a novel for other grandparents to share with their grandchildren.”

 Dimond — whose love of the Great Lakes stems from many summers spent in Glen Arbor in the heart of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore — found a publisher in Huron River Press in Ann Arbor. Print copies are available from Huronriverpress.com and Amazon.com, and digital downloads are available from Kindle and Nook stores online.

The book was ready for publication two years ago, but the publisher delayed while Dimond worked with two University of Michigan engineering-computer geeks who were developing games for the digital version. While that idea fell through when the duo took jobs at Google and Facebook, Dimond says, “A recent Ph.D. now wants to use the tale to build a new platform for what a truly interactive ‘book’ can be in the 21st century.”

While working on “North Coast Almanac,” Dimond read several books about reclusive 19th century poet Emily Dickinson and began to imagine an historical novel about a different reclusive poet, Belle. A native of Glen Arbor with a second home in Ann Arbor, she attends the U-M as an older student and becomes close friends with poets Robert Frost, Ted Roethke and Wystan Auden. “Belle’s Seasons, 1913-1953,” tells the story of their lifelong friendships, including during her last years when she hosts the three Pulitzer poets at her “Up North Writer’s Conference” at her family homestead on Sleeping Bear Bay.

The penultimate draft of this historical novel now completed, Dimond is researching and writing a political intrigue-murder mystery thriller. It begins with an attack on the Democratic nominee for president and sitting vice president at his Ceremonial Office in the White House complex a week before the November election. The first two suspects, who worked closely for the victim, race to solve the whodunit as constitutional crises emerge and the future of the United States as a democratic republic hangs in the balance.
Dimond also plans to revisit an earlier attempt at a novel, “Widower’s Song.” “Maybe, eight years will offer enough perspective that I can finally write the love story I always dreamed I could when I first decided to try my hand at fiction,” he says.

Dimond does not suffer from writer’s block.

“I write as if in a mania,” he says. “Thankfully, after a day or two, I begin to rewrite, revise, start over, rewrite and revise again. If anything, I might do better slowing down and writing less, but it’s my style to get going, but never be afraid to view early stabs as only openings to different paths or dead-ends to be discarded.”

Dimond was born in Detroit and moved to Ann Arbor at age 6, when his father, a schoolteacher and administrator, became a U-M professor.

“When you grow up with a parent who wrote civics textbooks in his study at your home and took his son to visit our nation’s capital and more than 30 state capitals before I was 16, it’s easy to learn to love writing and the law,” Dimond says.

Dimond is not new to the field of writing, having researched and written three legal books while a law professor. “Beyond Busing” offered a narrative of major race cases decided by the Supreme Court in the 1970s that Dimond helped try. The book concluded with his call for a different approach, i.e., to empower families to choose the school and education that parents determine is best for their own children.

“In 1986 my dad saw me win the book-of-the year award named after Ralph Bunche, the first African-American to win the Nobel Peace Prize,” he says. “Sad to say, he died too soon thereafter, before he completed his book about every American awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.”

A graduate of Amherst College and U-M Law School, Dimond joined the Harvard Center for Law and Education in 1970 and helped Marian Wright Edelman form the Children’s Defense Fund. Later, in private practice in Ann Arbor and as Director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil rights under Law in D.C., he explored racial ghettoization in metropolitan America in a series of landmark cases reviewed by the Supreme Court from 1974-79. Thereafter, as a professor of law at American and Wayne State law schools, he researched the 14th Amendment and developed “the Anti-Caste Principle” and a theory of “Provisional Review” to guide judicial review.

In the 1980s, he was a partner in the national real estate firm McKinley Associates. While serving there as General Counsel, he retained Miller Canfield to represent McKinley and joined the law firm in 1989.

“We continued to help McKinley weather the great commercial real estate collapse of the 1991-92 recession and come out stronger on the other side,” he says. “The law firm also gave me the space and the support of very experienced and savvy colleagues to provide advice to major education and non-profit clients. I learned that by working with a much broader range of legal skills, styles and insights, I could represent these clients much better than I ever could alone.”

From 1993 through 1997, he served as a Special Assistant to President Clinton for Economic Policy at the National Economic Council. “I must be the only person who has a maize-and-blue Michigan football signed by a President of the United States, presented as a gift for nearly five years of service,” he says.

Since returning to Miller Canfield, Dimond has been involved in many community efforts including serving as a Trustee for The Henry Ford and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan; board member of the CFSEM Greenways Initiative, the New Economy Initiative for SE Michigan and Ann Arbor SPARK; co-chair of the Council of Economic Advisers for Governor Granholm’s first two years; special adviser to Detroit Mayor Archer on the rebirth of Campus Martius; co-founder of the Ann Arbor Wolf Pack and its River Up! initiative; and for several years author of an op-ed column in the Detroit Free Press, “Common Sense.” Since 2001 Dimond has also served as the non-executive Chairman of the Board for McKinley.

“I doubt this service has generated any monetary return for Miller Canfield, but it symbolizes the firm’s commitment to making our local communities, state, region and nation stronger,” he says. “I’m grateful for the opportunity the firm has given me to serve.”