WITH A SPRING IN THEIR STEP: Young Lawyers See Bright Futures in Detroit

Scrounge up your umbrellas! Its springtime in Detroit. A gray drab winter has passed and warmer temperatures and refreshing rains lie ahead. Spring is a good time to appreciate that despite Detroits difficult days, there are sharp, energetic minds and burgeoning talents committed to the citys rejuvenation. Young attorneys of the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association are prepared and eager to play a role in forging the citys future.

Robert Kent Kitch Drutchas Wagner Valitutti & Sherbrook

Rob Kent remembers as a kid the excitement he felt coming down into the city. He remembers the sense of awe he felt at how big everything was. Even now, as a 30-year-old attorney who travels into the city every day, he can recapture that feeling.

I still get that sort of flutter when I come downtown that this is bigger than I am and I want to be a part of it, says Kent.

After graduating from Michigan State University, where he was on the ski race team, Kent spent a year in Aspen, skiing and finding himself, he says wryly. But he always knew he was going to return. He even took the LSAT before heading west. He sees greater opportunity to make a difference here in Detroit than elsewhere, more chances to get your hands dirty and help people. As president of the Wayne State University Law Alumni Association, Kent is trying to promote Detroit nationally, working to encourage businesses and entrepreneurs to come to the area.

I want to help people get jobs, he says.

Aaron V. Burrell Dickinson Wright PLLC

Aaron Burrell has faith in his citys future.

I think this is going to be a renaissance era for Detroit, says the young Dickinson Wright associate. Im hopeful about the city and its resurgence.

He sees a growing vibrancy downtown that he believes can only spark further promising development. The 27-year-old lawyer sees something else, too: Youthful energy and optimism.

I think Detroit is building a culture here to attract young professionals, he says.

A graduate of Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Auburn Hills, Burrell met and became friends with Clarence Dass when they were summer associates at Dickinson Wright three years ago.

Im in the profession to help individuals in any way I can, says Burrell. I think thats my calling.

Burrell joined the board of directors of the D. Augustus Straker Bar Association in February.

Detroit is cultivating a culture where if you try to be a leader in your field, you will stand out, he says.

Clarence Dass Gurewitz & Raben PLC

In law school at Ohio State University, Clarence Dass came home to Detroit every summer to work at the Attorney Generals Office and at Dickinson Wright. The young lawyer shocked recruiters when he told them he intended to return to Detroit to build his career.

The most exciting things in the practice of law are happening right here, says Dass, a native of Bloomfield Hills and an alum of Wayne State University. At 26, Dass
sees opportunities abounding in Detroit that might not be as available or impactful in other cities. He points to his gig on the radio as an example. Dass approached WDVD 96.3 last year about airing a 10-minute weekly segment called Swift Justice. Now hes a radio personality, educating listeners on different aspects of law.

An avid fan of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Gurewitz & Raben attorney is also a board member for the Center for the Study of Citizenship, co-chairs the School Partnership Program, and last year was named One to Watch by the DMBA.

Detroit is starting to grow, Dass says. This is where things are happening in the state. This city is vibrant right now.

Ronda L. Tate Lewis & Munday PC

Ronda Tates enthusiasm and optimism for Detroits future is as bright as her smile.

Im excited about the idea of revitalizing Detroit, says the 31-year- old attorney who is committed to changing the citys image. Weve come so far. You can see the energy.

The Wayne Law grad describes Detroit as a little incubator, a greenhouse for new, innovative businesses. Entrepreneurs, she contends, are key to expanding the citys professional base. Active in the Wolverine Bar Association as treasurer and the DMBA, Tate spends many an evening downtown and is a sports fan as well as a theater and music enthusiast.

Plans to be a doctor changed Tates senior year at the University of Michigan after she took part in the Justice Unit at American University in Washington, D.C.

It made me consider whether I could be a catalyst for social justice, says Tate.

After internships with Congresswoman Carolyn Kilpatrick and Judge Victoria Roberts, Tate took a position with Lewis & Munday. The storied firm has been involved in nearly every major effort and initiative in Detroit.

Its exciting to be attached to that, says Tate. There is a huge sense that were going to help change Detroit.

Kimberly A. Yourchock Jackson Lewis LLP

Theres the heart of a teacher in attorney Kimberly Yourchock. So it makes sense that the young Jackson Lewis lawyer is co-chair of the DMBA Barristers School Partnership Program, which teams area attorneys with Detroit high school students through an annual essay contest and writing workshop. Yourchock says the outreach experience is humbling and inspiring.

I was taken aback when some of the kids told me I was the first attorney theyd ever met, she says.

While earning a juris doctor at Wayne State Law School, Yourchock moved downtown to be closer to campus. It was a good fit and after graduating from law school, she felt a part of the Detroit legal community and was ready to make an impact. She is optimistic about a new relationship the School Partnership Program has forged with Teach for America, a nonprofit organization that works to get recent college graduates and young professionals to teach in low-income communities. The 27-year-old lawyer sees good things happening as a result of the affiliation.

Maybe some of these kids will be afforded the same opportunity I was to discover law and fall in love with it, she says. You never know what you can inspire in someone.

Matthew Rechtien Bodman PLC

Matt Rechtien left. And he could have stayed gone.

He could have stayed in Texas, where he worked as a structural engineer for five years after graduating from the University of Michigan in 1997. After all, he had loved Austin.

Or he could have stayed in Seattle, where he moved to earn a law degree from the University of Washington School of Law. After all, it was near his wife Darcys family. Instead, the 36-year-old East Lansing native returned to his home state to raise a family and build a career.

Im a sentimental guy and when I was living away from Michigan, I still felt invested, he says. I felt called to come back.

Now an attorney concentrating in commercial litigation and construction law in Bodmans downtown Detroit office, Rechtien sees positive things happening in the city. He points to the successful sports franchises, the reinvigorated waterfront, the vibrant theater district. His favorite place to grab a beer after work: Motor City Brewing Works.

Detroit needs more of whats been happening, he says. The city has some gems that are really underrated.

 

Jacquise Purifoy Community Grants Coordinator for U.S. Rep. Hansen Clarke

Over a bowl of gumbo at Fishbones, Jacquise Purifoy appears gung-ho to make a difference in Detroit.

I just want to do great things, she says. There is so much raw opportunity here.

The 29-year-old attorney, who had a child at the age of 13, is familiar with seizing, finding, and forging opportunities despite daunting obstacles. Law school is a good example. Having graduated from the University of Michigan in 2004 at the age of 21, her family thought she was out of her mind when she quit her job at the NAACP two years later to enroll at Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

I went to law school with just a hope and a dream, she says. If you dont take risks, what are you going to gain?

So Purifoy and her daughter Jasmine Ivory moved to Okemos where the single mother worked three jobs while studying for the bar. After passing the bar, Purifoy took an opportunity to work for U.S. Rep. Hansen Clarkes office, helping to administer federal small business and economic development programs in the area. Shes ready to dig in and make something happen.

If everything good leaves Detroit, whos going to be here to make change? Purifoy asks. Its about planting seeds. I want to be here when we celebrate and are fully revitalized.

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