Monday Profile: Tara McKenzie

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Tara McKenzie is a partner at the law firm of Weir & McKenzie, which specializes in Social Security disability law and has offices in in downtown Ann Arbor and in Brighton.  She has won benefits at hearings for more than 300 clients.

McKenzie was born and raised in Detroit, and attended the University of Michigan and earned her undergraduate degree in political science.  She graduated from Thomas M. Cooley Law School, which she attended while also working full-time at a local law firm in Ann Arbor. 

She is president of a local swim club and has served on the Board of Directors and was President of HERO of Washtenaw County, which mentors homeless individuals, helping them to overcome obstacles to housing and a stable lifestyle.

McKenzie’s husband James is a process engineer, and they have a teenage daughter named Lauren.  They reside in Dundee.

By Jo Mathis
Legal News

What is your most treasured material possession? My mother’s engagement photo.  My father carried a copy with him throughout World War II as a Marine in the South Pacific. It’s now framed in my home.

What advice do you have for someone considering law school?
Talk with practicing lawyers about why you want to be a lawyer. There are many great reasons to be a lawyer. But there are lots of misinformed reasons too.

Favorite local hangouts:
Literati, Dawn Treader bookstore, Michigan Theater, and any place where there is live local music happening.

Favorite websites: Facebook to keep up with family and friends.  MLB.com for Tigers updates.

Favorite music: I love the local music scene in Ann Arbor. Jo Serrapere, Rollie Tussing, Chris Buhalis and Kevin Meisel are gems in this town.

What is your happiest childhood memory? I grew up in Detroit. Boblo Island, Farrell’s ice cream parlor and trips to the Faygo warehouse were always highlights. And endless summer days playing tag and hide-and-seek with many friends over the course of a whole neighborhood until the street lights came on.  Kids had more freedom and unstructured time then.

What would surprise people about your job? Most people do not want to be applying for disability benefits.

Why did you become a lawyer? I care a lot about justice. I like to see rules applied fairly. Plus, there had not been a lawyer in my family before.

What’s the most awe-inspiring place you’ve ever been? Standing over my daughter’s crib, watching her sleep when she was an infant was pretty awe-inspiring.  Other than that, I spent time in between college and law school traveling in Europe. That was a very inspiring time. 

What did you do last weekend?
Attended a robotics competition. Remember, I am married to an engineer, and my daughter is part science geek.

What would you say to your 16-year-old self? Step out of your comfort zone more often, even if you’re not good at something.  You’re better than you think. And keep in better touch with people along the way.

What is your proudest moment as a lawyer? Becoming partner at Weir & McKenzie.

How did you earn your first dollar? I made homemade candles, and then went door to door in my neighborhood to peddle them.  I was about 9 or 10.

What word do you overuse? “Seriously??”

What is something most people don’t know about you? I started out as a math major at U- M until I went running to the social sciences.

What is the best advice you ever received? Don’t pre-judge someone; you really don’t know their full situation. That was from Mom.

If you can help it, where will you never return? Sitting for the bar exam.

Favorite place to spend money: Any bookstore.

What is your motto: “If you can do it with a pencil, you can do it with a bowling ball.”  You may need to think about that one…

To nominate a local attorney for a Profile, write to Jo Mathis at jcmathis1@comcast.net.
 

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