Monday Profile-Larry Sperling

By Jo Mathis

Legal News

Larry Sperling grew up in Brooklyn and attended both the University of Michigan and the University of Michigan Law School, where he was an associate editor of the Michigan Law Review.

Sperling has been in active practice since 1956, starting with two years with the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. After that, he returned to the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area as a private practitioner, and in 1985, joined one of the county's oldest law firms, now Pear Sperling Eggan & Daniels, P.C.

He has worked in criminal defense, civil liberties, corporate law, and municipal law, but primarily personal injury, workers compensation and Social Security Disability. He is a former president of Washtenaw County Legal Aid.

Sperling and his wife Doris have four children and 10 grandchildren, two of whom are in law school.

Residence: Ann Arbor.

Currently reading ... "Inferno" by Dan Brown.

My mother always told me..."One word from me and you all do exactly as you please."

What is your most treasured material possession? My home.

What advice do you have for someone considering law school? Go for it. Be prepared to work hard the first year and not really know whether you're doing well or poorly.

If you weren't a lawyer, what would you be? I gave up my hope of being a basketball pro when I stopped growing at 5' 6".

Favorite local hangouts: My front and back yards, Huron Valley Tennis Club, my office (believe it or not), and Arbor Farms.

Your proudest moment(s) as a lawyer? Winning a federal case in 1972, allowing high school girls to play on what were formerly exclusively boys tennis teams.

What would surprise people about your job? That folks who apply for Social Security Disability really do not want to do so and would much rather be working at any job.

You've been practicing law for 57 years. If you had to name one change that made the biggest difference, what would that be? The rights of folks injured in accidents or at work have been severely and unfairly limited by our Michigan legislature and Supreme Court.

What's your greatest achievement? My children (and now grandchildren by proxy).

What would you say to your 16-year-old self? Stop worrying so much, everything will work out. (However, I still say that to my present self.)

What one thing do you wish people knew about your work? That the secret of my success is having been fortunate enough to have two wonderful women managing me and my office--Betty Ring for 25 years and when she retired, Sharon Wolters who is now in her 28th year.

Favorite joke: Brother #1 goes on vacation and leaves his beloved cat with brother #2. Several days later brother #1 calls home and asks how his cat is. Brother #2 says "Oh, your cat died." Brother #1 is shocked not only that the cat died but admonished his brother for breaking the news to him so abruptly and insensitively. Brother #2 says "Sorry, how should I have done it?" Brother #1 says "You could have done it more gradually like the first time I called tell me the cat is on the roof and we're having trouble getting him down... then the next time I called you could have said you were having real trouble and didn't know if you would be able to get the cat down. And then the third time I called you could have told me that you couldn't get him down and he had passed away. That way I could have been prepared for the bad news." Brother #2 says "I understand, and I'm sorry about breaking it to you so abruptly." "You're forgiven" says Brother #1. "By the way, how's Mom?"

Brother #2 replies: "Oh... Mom's on the roof..."

What is something most people don't know about you? My granddaughter and I got to the finals of the first (and only) National Championship Grandfather-Granddaughter Tennis Tournament.

If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be? My wife and any two of my children.

Who is your favorite character of fiction? Atticus Finch.

Favorite movie: "Breaking Away."

Favorite Lawyer movie: "My Cousin Vinnie."

Favorite place to spend money: Vitamin stores

What is your motto? In tennis, it's: "If I'm vertical when the match is over, I'm a winner."

Where would you like to be when you're 90? Right where I am now.

Published: Mon, Jul 1, 2013

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