'Front row seat' Attorney helps shape construction projects

By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

As a civil engineering student in her native India, Reshma Sambare enjoyed learning about things she could touch and feel soil, rocks, concrete, steel, water, and environment. Her interest ultimately led to her career as a senior attorney with Miller Canfield in Lansing, specializing in commercial construction, commercial real estate development, and commercial contracts involving national and international clients.

"This field fascinates me every single project is unique," she explains. "So many different parties come together, mostly for the first time, to play together in one sandbox pun totally intended and make the project happen, hopefully in time and under budget. And all of these parties also need to balance so many external variables such as governmental entities, changing laws, market fluctuations, Mother Nature, and other usual human problems. I get to watch this amazing show from the front-row seat!"

After working on residential and commercial construction projects in India, Sambare came to the United States in 2000 to pursue higher studies, and two years later received her master's degree in construction management from Michigan State University.

While working with Turner Construction Co., she recognized that knowledge of accounting, taxation and finance would be advantageous both in the corporate setting and for personal advancement. Taking evening classes while working full time, she earned a master's degree in finance from Walsh College in 2005.

"I've benefited tremendously from having made that choice," she says.

As she climbed the ladder to a a mid-career level in construction management, Sambare realized every step of the design and construction phases required consulting legal whether for permitting, zoning/land use, real estate matters, contract drafting, interpretation, and negotiation, claims, insurance/bonds, or litigation related issues or questions.

"I also realized the intricate and complex world of commercial construction cannot fully be understood by lawyers who have not been a part of it," she says. "I decided to quit my job to study law so I can effectively practice commercial construction law by combining my technical, business, and legal expertise."

Always a zealous advocate of women's rights, Sambare also wanted to enter law so she could do more about women's empowerment and domestic violence issues.

She earned her J.D., magna cum laude, from MSU College of Law in 2012, where she was the recipient of four Jurisprudence Awards, served as President of the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, and Alternative Dispute Resolution Society, and was a member of the Multi-cultural Executive Council, Diversity Consortium, Women in Law Leadership Council, and Faculty-Student Hearing Board. She was also a semifinalist in the Canada-United States Law Institute, Niagara International Law Moot Court Competition 2012, and won an award as among the Top 5 Best Advocates.

Returning to MSU for her law degree was like coming home.

"East Lansing and MSU have been my home away from home," she says. "The outstanding and caring faculty and staff at MSU Law further enhanced my law school experience and guided me as I navigated my way through the unchartered waters of being a non-traditional law student."

Making her home in East Lansing with her Scots-English husband Stuart, Sambare enjoys reading, cooking, spending time with friends and family, watching quality movies, and traveling. Her parents, three sisters, one brother, and their families live in Maharashtra in India, Sambare's home state.

Sambare dedicates her non-working and non-family time to pro bono and nonprofit work focused on women's empowerment and domestic violence matters. "I serve on the Boards of Women's Center of Greater Lansing and Highfields both of which serve causes that are near and dear to my heart," she says.

Another passionate cause is Our Biswas, (Aamara Biswas) a nonprofit founded by an East Lansing resident that offers very small, interest-free loans to extremely poor women from remote villages of the State of Odisha, one of the poorest states in India, so they can break the vicious cycle of poverty and get a chance at life on their own terms. Since its inception about 10 years ago, Our Biswas has empowered more than 8,000 women and girls.

"As soon as I moved back to East Lansing and found out about Our Biswas it did not take me long to actively get involved with its work," Sambare says. "It's mind-blowing how small loans of $10 to $20 can help change so many lives."

Sambare also serves on the Pro Bono Panel of VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) and U Visa, two avenues of legal reliefs made possible by the U.S. government to help immigrant men and women gain independent immigration and thereby social and economic status if they have been victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, or other qualified crimes while living in the U.S.

Fluent in Hindi and Marathi, Sambare currently has two active pro bono cases from the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center that involve women from India who may qualify for VAWA or U Visa reliefs.

"This Pro Bono Panel is a great forum to stay up to date on the laws related to these areas and to help the most vulnerable population of our society," she says.

Published: Thu, Jan 22, 2015

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