Strong defense: Varsity soccer experience helped shape lawyer's future


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

When Fraser Trebilcock attorney Paul Vance earned his undergrad degree from Michigan State University, he was a four-year varsity letter winner on the men’s soccer team where he played defense, was honored as Academic All-Big Ten, and served on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. The experience stood him in good stead for his future legal career.

“Playing soccer at Michigan State for legendary Coach Joe Baum has shaped the person and professional I am today,” says Vance, a former player agent for Major League Soccer and the United Soccer League who currently serves as president of the MSU Varsity “S” Club. “My fondest memories aren’t of the games we played, but the time away from the field and camaraderie I shared with my teammates.”

Remaining on Spartan turf after graduation, Vance – whose interest in law was sparked by his brother and cousin who are attorneys – went on to earn his J.D. from MSU Law, where he was the recipient of the Jurisprudence Achievement Award for Labor Arbitration.

“The professors and administrative staff were always very helpful and genuinely showed concern about the wellbeing of the students,” he says. “The facilities were also great. And, of course, the law school sits on the banks of the Red Cedar River – most beautiful college campus in the country.”

Serving as a law clerk to Judges Robert M. Ransom and Robert E. Weiss, Vance enjoyed observing open court and performing research for the judges.

“It really helped me begin to narrow down practice areas I thought I may be interested in,” he says.

After graduating from MSU Law, the graduate of Flint-Central High School returned to his hometown and spent the better part of a year as a law clerk for Judge Richard Yuille in the Genesee County Circuit Court.

“It was a great experience and helped teach me about being a lawyer and actually practicing law,” he says. “As a law clerk, you learn a lot of ‘do’s and don’ts’ that may take other new attorneys years to figure out.”

In a brief spell as a public defender in Genesee County, Vance served as second chair in a three-defendant murder trial, with over 20 counts per defendant. Each defendant had a separate jury and the trial lasted almost two months.

“I participated in pre-trials motions, the jury selection process, cross-examined our client’s alibi witness and also served as lead counsel for a day,” he recalls.

Practicing law in “Vehicle City” for over a decade, Vance’s specialties included medical malpractice defense, transactional and business law, general civil litigation and sports and entertainment law. He served on the Board of Directors of the Genesee County Bar Association, and as chair of the Young Lawyers Section.

“I enjoyed my time in Flint and learned from many attorneys I would consider some of the best around,” he says. “There are some outstanding attorneys in Flint and Genesee County and I owe a great deal of my professional development to a lot of attorneys who practice in that area.

Honored as a Super Lawyers “Rising Star” each year since 2012, Vance recalls one challenging case where a man in Arizona purchased an antique vehicle on eBay from a Michigan dealer. Because of a disability, the buyer was unable to come to Michigan to inspect the vehicle but was given plentiful assurances about its condition. Needless to say, when delivered, the vehicle was not as represented. “I was able to prevail on a motion for summary disposition which then led to a monetary settlement,” Vance says.

Since joining Fraser Trebilcock in Lansing earlier this year, Vance has primarily practiced in commercial litigation, a change from his former work that was primarily medical malpractice defense.

“I’ve really enjoyed the change,” he says. “Although the content areas may be different, I still enjoy drafting motions and briefs, taking depositions, and arguing motions in court.”

Vance, who previously served on the State Bar of Michigan Young Lawyers Section Executive Council, serves on the Board for the Michigan Defense Trial Counsel (MDTC).

“I get to interact and meet some of the best and brightest attorneys in the entire state of Michigan,” he says. “It’s a great opportunity to network, especially with attorneys who may work outside your primary practice area or in a different geographic region.”

Now a resident of East Lansing, in his leisure time Vance enjoys writing, watching MSU athletics, and spending time with his wife Whitney, and children Kellen, 3, and Casey, 1.

Prior to starting a family, Vance was very involved in the Ancient Order of Hibernians the oldest Irish Catholic fraternal organization in America; and served as president of the Genesee County Division. 

“The AOH plays an important role in demonstrating to their communities what true Irish culture and heritage are all about,” he says. “We not only promote and preserve Irish culture, but also support and assist local communities and those less fortunate.”