Path to Partner: Carmen Bickerdt

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By Brian Cox
Legal News

One of Carmen Bickerdt’s earliest exposures to the legal profession was as a high school student taking part in an explorer program sponsored by Dickinson Wright.

She also spent time during high school working in her uncle’s law office.

She knew as a teenager that she intended to become a lawyer, though she was uncertain what kind of law she wanted to practice.

Defending clients in the automotive industry never crossed her mind. But now seatbelts and unintended acceleration are two of her specialties.

As someone whose outside interests include fashion, interior design and event planning and whose undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan was in African American Studies, Bickerdt is the first to admit she did not forsee a legal practice with an automotive focus.

“It was a big learning curve,”?she says.

In February, Bickerdt was named partner in the law firm of Bowman and Brooke where she represents both national and international clients in product liability, toxic tort and warranty litigation. She frequently handles catastrophic injury claims and warranty matters on behalf of domestic, Asian and European motor vehicle manufacturers.

For several years, she served as a member of the regional counsel team that defended Toyota in widely publicized unintended acceleration litigation and more recently she spent 2-1/2 months in Florida on the high-profile liability case Dukes v. Michelin North America Inc. and Takata Corp, et. al. The jury returned a unanimous defense verdict in the $80 million trial involving allegations of tire and seatbelt defects.

Bickerdt would fly home on weekends during the case to spend time with her husband, Tyrone Bickerdt, who is a criminal defense lawyer, and their children, Lauren and Langston.

“It was the longest I’ve ever been away from home,” she says. “I’m fortunate to have a husband who knows the demands of the profession.”

After earning her JD from Wayne State Law, Bickerdt says attorney Lawrence Mann was instrumental in recruiting her to Bowman and Brooke.

In addition to her automotive work, Bickerdt also defends industrial equipment and vehicle manufacturers in asbestos exposure cases and a global appliance manufacturer in fire subrogation cases.

She is looking to expand her practice into the field of medical devices and to do more commercial litigation work.

Active with the D. Stryker Bar Association, the Wolverine Bar Association and the National Bar Association, Bickerdt is a native Detroiter. She grew up in the downtown area. Her mother was a public school teacher and her father was a welder.

“I’ve been here all my life,” she says. “I’m really excited to see the changes in the city. I’m seeing a transformation.”
 

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