Legal News editor retires from long career in local journalism and law

By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

Frank Weir has had two major passions in his working life - journalism and law. And he successfully combined both as editor of The Legal News in Washtenaw and Jackson counties, a position he will bid farewell to when he retires at the end of this month.

"I really enjoyed working with people in both legal communities on a very personal level. I really became friends with many and found lots of folks who are very warm and have wonderful senses of humor. I've enjoyed trying to tell their stories and I think they've appreciated it," he says.

"Obviously, the lawyers and judges I've gotten to know view me differently than they would if I was an opposing counsel in a lawsuit or criminal case so that's been much more in line with my personality. I never liked the oppositional aspects of the law, the arguing and having to be a bit abrupt and aggressive. That never suited my personality and I don't think I was ever very good at it."

A native of Rockford, Ill., Weir moved several times in childhood - to Houston, Seattle, and finally to Northville.

"My dad was a pediatrician who became interested in mentally retarded children and he ran hospitals for such children. He was the director of Plymouth State Home when we came to Michigan. The hospital doesn't exist anymore, and in fact is a fancy condo development on Sheldon Road."

After graduating from Northville High School in 1968, Weir lived once again in the Lone Star State, earning a degree in journalism from Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

"I always enjoyed writing even as a young kid, and did well in my English classes so it was something I was drawn to as an undergraduate," he says.

Armed with a BFA, Weir found jobs in journalism were hard to come by. After working at a variety of jobs, he landed a position at The Maple City Reporter, a small -- and long-since defunct -- newspaper in Adrian.

"After there, I worked for several years for The Tecumseh Herald as a sports editor who knew next to nothing about sports," he jokes.

He decided to go back to school and earn a law degree.

"I think I was at a point in my life where I wanted to prove something to myself - my father was a physician and both brothers had advanced degrees so there was a feeling of competition there," he says. "Law seemed the most logical since it wouldn't require another undergrad degree. I was married then, with my first child on the way, so I needed to be quick about it."

After graduating from the University of Toledo College of Law in 1986, Weir practiced at the Toledo Legal Aid Society, primarily working with seniors - providing wills, powers of attorney, help with consumer issues, and basic estate planning.

He then worked briefly in the general civil division providing representation in housing and family law issues, before working for the UAW Legal Services Plan in Toledo, leaving in the late '90s after the commute to Toledo grew wearisome.

"Although I was then licensed to practice law also in Michigan, I wanted to get back to writing since I didn't find law practice very creative," he says.

He returned to his journalism roots at The Saline Reporter where he covered local sports - and was a familiar shutterbug capturing action shots on the sidelines.

He left the paper in the early 2000s to give the law one last shot, working with attorney Fred Schmerberg in his Saline law practice.

But the siren song of journalism drew him in again. He started to freelance with The Legal News around 2005 after re-connecting with former Saline Reporter colleagues Julie McClellan and Chris Falhlgren who had moved to The Legal News.

Weir, who received the 2010-11 Person of Achievement Award from the Jackson Business and Professional Women, will continue to stay involved with the local Washtenaw Bar by volunteering for the Res Ipsa newsletter.

"I also hope to stay in touch with a number of the attorneys and judges and would love to attend some of the more noteworthy trials now that I'll have time to do so," he says. "I'd like to do some other volunteering or perhaps do something more with the law."

He and his wife Barb, a special education teacher who retired from Pinckney Community Schools last spring, plan to travel and to spend time with their children: Peter, 27, and Anne, 23.

"Our daughter is moving to Iowa in the spring to begin her first professional job so we will be helping her extensively," he says.

Weir will be succeeded by Jo Mathis, a Washtenaw County resident with a bachelor's degree in journalism who spent 15 years as a reporter/columnist for The Ann Arbor News.

Published: Thu, Jan 5, 2012

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