Monday Profile: Don Ferris

  By Jo MathisDon Ferris is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Notre Dame, graduating with highest honors in 1973. He received his law school degree from the University of Michigan in 1976. After working as a Washtenaw County public defender for four years, Ferris has been a trial lawyer in private practice since 1980, and in 1995, he formed the firm of Ferris & Salter, P.C. with his wife Heidi Salter-Ferris.  

  Ferris practices exclusively plaintiff’s serious personal injury, wrongful death, medical and legal malpractice, and felony defense, both state and federal. He has appeared before courts throughout the state and has tried more than 200 cases over 38 years in both state and federal courts. He has argued appeals before the Michigan Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court.  Ferris has served as president of the Criminal Defense Lawyers of Washtenaw County, and the Washtenaw Trial Lawyers Association. For a number of years, he and his wife have written the annual chapter on Medical Malpractice Law for ICLE’s book on Michigan Torts.
 
Residence:   Ypsilanti Township – Ford Lake.
 
What is your most treasured material possession?  I don’t consider them material or possessions, but I treasure our dogs. 
 
Favorite local hangouts:  Side Track, Boneheads (in Willis), Radrick Farms Golf Course.
 
Favorite websites: Huffington Post, Salon, Slate, Politico, Fivethirtyeight, and NDNation.
 
Favorite CD:  The CD song list my wife made me for my 60th birthday, and the musical CDs that Tom Daniels has made for our group golfing trips.
 
What is your happiest childhood memory?  I am lucky. My entire childhood was filled with great memories, not the least of which was that my grandfather manufactured ice cream and pop, and owned an ice cream parlor and a Candy Kitchen –  I stopped there every day after school for free ice cream, free pool, and free pinball. I still try to eat ice cream every day.
 
What would surprise people about your job?  People seem surprised that my wife and I really enjoy practicing law together.
 
What is the best thing about working with each other?  We try cases together, and in order to get best prepared for the next day of trial, we sleep in shifts so that one of us can be working the entire time.  I don't know other lawyers who  would make that kind of sacrifice for their law partners.
 
What do you wish someone would invent?   A cure for incurable diseases. 
 
What has been your favorite year so far?  1993. I started dating my wife, Heidi. We were in that lovesick stage for a long time.
 
What’s your most typical mood?  I am very even keeled — I don’t have bad moods.
 
Why did you become a lawyer?  My original inspiration was Perry Mason and “The Defenders” with EG Marshall and Robert Reed. My first job as a lawyer was as a public defender for four years.
 
What did you do last weekend? Entertained friends at our house on Friday night, went to other friends’ house on Saturday night, and played golf on Sunday. A perfect weekend.
 
If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would that be?  Rory McIlroy with his talent, playing at the U.S. Open.
 What’s the most awe-inspiring place you’ve ever been? Africa. It really is the cradle of civilization and you feel it when you’re there.
 
If you could have one super power, what would it be? To fly like a bird.  
 
What would you say to your 16-year-old self? “That balding head of yours won’t have wrinkles when you’re older, and may even help you look younger.”
 
What’s your proudest moment as a lawyer? Arguing in front of the United States Supreme Court in 1988 with my family present — and getting that feather pen!
 
What do you to relax?  I’m a movie buff, and love to read facts and non-fiction.
 
If you were starting all over again and couldn’t go into law, what career path would you choose?  I’d either go into internal medicine, or be an economist.
 
What word do you overuse?  “Whatever.”
 
What’s one thing you would like to learn to do?  Speak a foreign language fluently.
 
What is something most people don't know about you?
To look at me is to know that there is Neanderthal DNA in humans.
 
If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be? My wife, her mother and my father. Her mother died before I got a chance to meet her, and my father died before Heidi had a chance to meet him.
 
If you can help it, where will you never return? I detest interviewing clients in prisons. They are very depressing places. 
 
What do you drive? A Ford Fusion hybrid.
 
What would you drive if money were no object? A Ford Fusion hybrid, unless a good and reasonably priced totally electric car comes on the market.
 
Favorite place to spend money: Traveling.
 
What is your motto?  “What can ya do?” (I believe in fate. Sometimes things are out of your control.)
 
What would you like carved onto your tombstone?  “What can ya do?”
 

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