Path to Partner: Jordan Acker - Father's footsteps

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By Brian Cox
Legal News

Jordan Acker spent his high school summers doing grunt work at his father’s law firm in Southfield. He admired his father’s work as a personal injury lawyer.

“Dad was able to go to work and fight for something he believed in,” says Acker. “I learned fighting for what you believe in every day is important.”

Earlier this month, Acker, 33, was named a partner at Goodman Acker, the law firm his father founded in 1993.

But Acker did not dream of being a lawyer back in high school. He was far more intrigued by another of his father’s passions: Politics. His father Gerald Acker had interned as an undergraduate in the office of Congressman Jim Blanchard and later served on finance committees for several politicians, including John Kerry, Jennifer Granholm, Debbie Stabenow, and President Barack Obama.

Following in those footsteps, young Acker dreamed of being a Hill staffer in Washington, D.C.

So after graduating from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in history in 2006, Acker took a job with the Michigan Democratic Party as deputy communications director before chasing his dream and moving to D.C. to work on staff for Rep. John Conyers for the House Committee on the Judiciary. He worked on issues surrounding the powers of the president in wartime, civil rights, and the NBA labor dispute.

He was in his early 20s, living in Silver Spring, Maryland, and spending his days and nights in D.C. working to make a difference.

“It was tremendously exciting,” says Acker. “Even the bad days were fun.”

Before long, the staff director and chief counsel for the House Judiciary Committee, Perry Applebaum, and the communications director, Jonathan Godfrey, had convinced Acker to go to law school so in the fall of 2007, he enrolled at American University Washington College of Law, where he earned his J.D. three years later. Acker spent the next three years working for the Obama administration, including a 5-month stint as an associate in
the White House Office of Presidential Personnel and then as an attorney-advisor to Secretary Janet Napolitano at the Department of Homeland
Security.

But D.C. was starting to wear thin on Acker. He and his new wife Lauren were living in a 600-sq.ft apartment and the cost of living was astronomical. They couldn’t envision raising a family there. The young couple was ready to return to Michigan.

“You can go and accomplish great things [in Washington, D.C.],” says Acker, “but it’s a bubble. It never felt like home. I’m a Detroiter.”

It was attorney Mark Bernstein, who has experience working with his father Sam Bernstein, who encouraged Acker to take a position at Goodman Acker. He described practicing law with your father as the “greatest gift you can have.”

While they work on separate dockets, Acker and his father work closely together on the business management side of the firm.
Acker admits he never envisioned himself as a litigator.

“My classmates are not surprised I’m a litigator,” says Acker. “But I am surprised.” He says he tended to see himself as more of a policy wonk, but the moment he stood up in front of a jury a light went on.

Now with two children, Jenna, 3, and 6-month-old Meredith, Acker appreciates and embraces advice given to him by Circuit Court Judge David Allen, who stressed to the young attorney the importance of balancing career and family. Acker also draws on the model of his father, who made the time to coach baseball and attend every one of Acker’s tennis matches in high school.

“Dad made of a point of being there,” says Acker. “The key to success is keeping that balance in perspective.

In 2016, Acker experienced a life-altering illness when his liver started shutting down after he took Flexeril for a back injury he suffered playing basketball. For two months, he struggled to learn what was happening and how to stop his liver from failing. It is a doctor at University of Michigan hospital who Acker attributes with saving his life.

“It was really scary,” recalls Acker. “I’m lucky. And I want to pay it forward.”

It is in response to the indebtedness he feels that he wants to secure the university for future generations, he says, and why he has returned to the world of politics to run for the University of Michigan Board of Regents in November. According to Acker, he is the first millennial to run for a statewide board of education.

Similar to his surprise at finding himself a litigator, Acker never saw himself as a candidate for office.

“It is totally different being a candidate than being a staffer,” he says. “It’s a little bit of an adjustment.”

But like his early days in Washington, he’s excited by the opportunity to make a difference.

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