Let's Do Lunch Side Bar Luncheon chance to network

By Mike Scott

Legal News

Lawyers and judges will get an opportunity to mix, mingle and discuss a range of issues next week with the return of the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association's Side Bar Luncheon on Thursday, Oct. 28 at the Hard Rock Café in Detroit from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.

The Side Bar Luncheon has been a DMBA tradition for parts of the last decade. The event allows lawyers to interact with members from the bench in a somewhat informal affair that includes a discussion of key issues and activities. Next week's Side Bar Luncheon is expected to feature multiple judges from the 3rd Circuit Court. The roster of judges participating has yet to be finalized.

There are two main goals for attendees at the Side Bar Luncheon, said Ben Jeffers, the secretary and treasurer for the DMBA Board of Directors and a commercial litigation attorney and member at the Detroit office of Dykema Gossett PLLC. The first is the interaction with and information received judges who speak at the luncheon. There are few other opportunities where lawyers and members of the bench can interact in such an informal and open way.

"It is great to have some frank remarks from the judges that are involved with the luncheon," said Jeffers, who added that he expects there will be a panel of 3rd Circuit Court judges discussing a host of issues. "It gives members of (the DMBA) a chance to ask questions about the inner workings of the court and to give and receive feedback."

Traditionally most of the questions and communications between lawyers and judges at past Side Bar Luncheons have involved points of process and procedure, Jeffers said.

"We want to understand what the issues are that judges have that are important to them," Jeffers said. "What you learn is that some of the issues they want to discuss pertain to their own courtroom while others are issues that are valid for practically any court."

Lawyers are encouraged to ask judges for pointers at these luncheons, Jeffers said. Some of the topics that are frequently discussed relate to the timing of how and when a case is filed and trends in the numbers of specific cases being seen in court. For example in the last couple of years, judges have indicated that they saw a higher number of foreclosure matters, receivership in commercial foreclosure cases and supply chain issues from manufacturers, a trend that was particularly prevalent two years ago.

"Obviously the judges won't comment on substance of particular cases but it does help lawyers to understand what a court is seeing as part of its docket," Jeffers said.

The other goal that is a part of the Side Bar Luncheon is to network with other DMBA members and lawyers. This is something that can be especially useful for young lawyers, and those trying to build their own practice.

"That's one of the real benefits of a DMBA membership," said Jeffers, noting that bar results for the state of Michigan were released in late October. "We now have a whole new crop of law school graduates who will soon be licensed and one of the first things you have to learn is that you need to get an appreciation for networking."

Any lawyer is welcome and the DMBA hopes to get as many as 40 people to attend the Side Bar Luncheon. The goal of the DMBA and its involved board members is to have a number of luncheons during the year that is palatable to members so that there is continued interest and participation.

Ultimately the DMBA is seeking to have balance with these luncheons. As far back as 2001, there were anywhere from two to four such Side Bar events per year, although the frequency has fluctuated over time. There was a series of Side Bar Luncheons held in 2009 that included criminal, civil and probate bench judges. Such content helped to attract a broader group of lawyers, but one of the decisions the DMBA will have to make is how specifically the topics in each luncheon should be targeted.

"We will want to discuss moving forward whether top open the Side Bar Luncheon to a general topic or target lawyers with specific specialties in the DMBA," Jeffers said.

Even for those lawyers who can't attend the Side Bar Luncheon there are plenty of other networking opportunities, such as the Summer Breeze party, Jeffers said. That will frequently attract law clerks or newer lawyers.

"Personally I think having two such luncheons a year is a pretty good number and I would hope we could continue with at least that," Jeffers said.

Online registration and payment is available by going to www.detrotilawyer.org. Member fees are just $15 and non-member and guest fees are $20 per person. Lunch is included with the fee. The Side Bar Luncheon is sponsored by The Advanced Strategies Group.

Published: Thu, Oct 21, 2010