Reflections of the outgoing DBA president

It’s wedding, graduation, prom, and bar association annual meeting season. All of these occasions are times of celebration and opportunities for reflections. The Detroit Bar Association will hold its annual meeting on June 13 at the Detroit Golf Club. Preparing for the passing of the gavel, outgoing 2023-24 President Zenell Brown shared a few reflections with The Detroit Legal News.


What was your most significant contribution during your tenure?

The most significant contributions were the development of a strategic plan and the successful hiring of an Executive Director. Our new Executive Director, Tracey Cooley, has a wealth of experience, energy, and forward-thinking ideas.

What was your greatest challenge?

Less than a week after I was sworn in, our executive director position was vacated. It took almost eight months to fill that position. Everyone who helped fill in that void, especially Darlene Trudell, deserves an award.

What was your most enjoyable role during your time as president?

I thoroughly enjoyed my role as a Detroit Lawyer in the community. It gave me the opportunity to meet incredible individuals like Jerjuan Howard who founded the Umoja Debate League to help expose Detroit middle and high school students to debate and lawyers from all races and backgrounds.

How did you experience personal and professional growth during your tenure?

I experienced significant personal and professional growth through learning from the executive director, the foundation, and the board.  The past president and foundation chairs are three wise men. Paul Millenbach, Ray Carey, and Jim Rosenfeld are well-respected attorneys and long-standing DBA members. They counseled, advised, and mentored me.

What was the best event you organized or attended during your presidency?

There are two: the Archer Awards Dinner honoring Justice Bridget McCormack. She is my role model of courage and change. I got a call from former Mayor Archer as we were preparing for the event and that was mind-blowing. The second event was meeting Karen Keinbaum at the recent New Lawyers Ceremony. It was full circle as she was the second woman president of the Detroit Bar. I was there as the current DBA President, and Tiffany Ellis is our president-elect. We snapped a photo together. To me it’s priceless.

Any regrets?

I wish I had more time to attend all of the Affinity Bar events. We need to collaborate and support each other as organizations. I so enjoyed going to the Wolverine Bar with my DBA colleagues. I just enjoyed being a part of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan’s Annual Meeting. I wish I could have done more and I hope we continue to build those bridges.

As you transition to the role of past president, what are your plans?

As past president, my plans are to continue supporting the organization and provide guidance whenever necessary. I will focus on the ongoing implementation of the strategic plan and continue wearing my “Detroit Lawyer” t-shirt serving as an ambassador of the Detroit Bar Association. I will invite new lawyers to join the DBA, be active in the legal community building pipelines, and championing diversity and inclusion.  I  have a “Detroit Lawyer” t-shirt for every day of the week.

Any final thoughts?

It has been a fabulous year and every lawyer who lives or practices in Detroit should be a Detroit Bar Association member.  Thank you!

Subscribe to the Legal News!
Full access to public notices, articles, columns, archives, statistics, calendar and more
Day Pass Only $4.95!
One-County $80/year
Three-County & Full Pass also available