Distinguished: Award winner lauded for work on behalf of legal community

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By Linda Laderman
Legal News

When Oakland County Assistant Corporation Counsel Nicole Tabin was growing up in Shelby Township, she thought she might be a short story writer or a poet. But after earning a bachelor’s degree in English at Oakland University, she decided to pursue a law degree at Wayne State University.

It was a choice that led Tabin to a legal career in municipal law that she finds “challenging and rewarding.”

In June, the Oakland County Bar Association named Tabin as the organization’s 2016 Distinguished Service Award recipient, citing her enthusiasm for her work and willingness to reach out to the community.

A member of the OCBA since 2014, Tabin said the award was unexpected.

“I was very honored and surprised –  I did not know that I’d even been nominated,” Tabin said.

Described “as the most prestigious award given by the Oakland County Bar Association each year,” the honor recognizes “superior dedication to the OCBA, the legal community and the general public.”

“I love learning and I like to be and feel involved,” Tabin said of her commitment to the OCBA. “It’s usually a question of ‘Hey, what can we do next?’”

Last spring Tabin answered that question when she planned a session that focused on the future of connected and automated cars.

In her capacity as chair of the OCBA’s municipal law committee, Tabin organized the seminar, “Autonomous Vehicles: The Opportunities and Challenges of Self-Driving Cars.”

The meeting drew lawyers and engineers from across the area to listen to a roster of speakers that included Emily Frascaroli, counsel for Ford Motor Co. and Kirk Steudle from the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Response to the discussion exceeded Tabin’s expectations.

“Despite bad weather, the room was filled at Automation Alley,” Tabin said. “I find it really interesting.”

The seminar was cited by the OCBA as an example of Tabin’s willingness to go the extra mile.

“I worked hard on organizing the autonomous vehicle seminar, so it was gratifying to be acknowledged by the OCBA for it,” Tabin said.

Tabin said she found it important to bring Automation Alley and the legal profession together to explore “the current legal, economic, and policy considerations surrounding autonomous vehicles.”

Calling self-driving cars “a hot topic,” Tabin said, “autonomous vehicles are rapidly evolving from a speculative concept to a reality. The question is no longer if fully autonomous vehicles will be available to consumers, but when.”

“Attorneys, especially those who work closely with government, automotive or technology industries, need to understand the challenges and opportunities that self-driving cars will pose so that they can meaningfully advise their clients on it,” Tabin said.

Before coming to work for Oakland County in 2013, Tabin was assistant corporation counsel in Dearborn where she provided legal advice to city departments and worked on trial preparation for senior attorneys. Tabin said she has learned that an advisory role is the one she enjoys the most.

 “I don’t make decisions for the county. That is the responsibility of the elected officials and department heads. My job is to provide these leaders with good legal advice to help them be fully informed so they can make the best decision possible,” Tabin said. “It’s this aspect of my job, the counselor and adviser role, that I enjoy most. It constantly exposes me to new ideas, new areas of the law, and new people. It’s very fulfilling to be part of the process that leads to a final decision without having the pressure of actually making it.”

Residents who live beyond the boundaries of Oakland County are also impacted by the work Tabin does.

“Sometimes I work on matters that affect not only Oakland County residents, but our region as a whole,” Tabin said. “My boss, Keith Lerminiaux, tasked me with assisting him during the county’s negotiation and due diligence efforts regarding the formation of the Great Lakes Water Authority. I’m lucky that he trusts me enough to let me assist with such important matters.”

For now, Tabin plans to build on the trust she’s developed with her colleagues through a commitment to public service.

“I would love to be able to continue to serve the the public,” Tabin said. “And maybe when my two daughters, (Caitlin, 12 and Clara,10,) are a little older I might teach law or English.”

 

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