Ingham County lawyer gets Golden Gavel Award


by Kurt Anthony Krug
Legal News

Growing up, attorney Pamela Dausman did not want to follow in the footsteps of her father William Collett, an Ingham County Circuit judge.

If anything, she wanted to pursue music. In fact, she even won a scholarship to study music at Lansing Community College (LCC).

“It was just boring to me; it wasn’t challenging,” Dausman said of her early aversion to a career in the law. “I [thought] this is not for me.”

Dausman, 36 and a resident of Haslett, had an academic change of heart, however, and has been an attorney for almost 10 years at the Lansing-based law firm of Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith.

She is a member of the firm’s general litigation practice group, where she defends liability claims and employment discrimination claims against governmental entities. She also defends employers and governmental entities in civil rights, as well as wrongful termination claims.

Recently, she has been selected by the Michigan Defense Trial Counsel (MDTC) to receive the organization’s Golden Gavel Award. This annual award is presented to a Michigan attorney who has been in practice for fewer than 10 years and has demonstrated significant professionalism and courtesy in the practice of law; significant achievement in charitable endeavors, community
involvement, and pro bono representation; leadership and advancement of young attorneys; and achievement within one’s area of practice. She was nominated by her colleague, Scott Mandel, who has been a lawyer with the law firm since 1981.

“My honest reaction was shock,” said Dausman, whose husband, Robert, is an agent with the Attorney General’s Office. “I found out about a month ago. I was really surprised. The chairperson of (MDTC) called me, and then I got a notice as well. I didn’t know what the nomination letter said that Scott sent in, but I would assume it’s just because he and I worked together on a multitude of matters. It’s hard to talk about yourself. I just don’t know what he said about me that tipped the scales.”

According to Dausman, she fell into law. After deciding not to pursue a career in music, she took a number of classes at LCC.

“I was taking a history class at LCC, where we studied Marbury vs. Madison, which established the principle of judicial review. This helped define the boundary between the constitutionally separate executive and judicial branches of the American system of government,” she recalled.

Dausman eventually transferred to Michigan State University, where she earned her undergraduate degree in history, graduating with high honors in 1999. She went to what is now called the MSU College of Law, graduating magna cum laude with her juris doctorate in 2002.

“When I was in law school, I was on the law review and we all had to write articles. I didn’t know what to write about, so one of the editors suggested a Michigan Supreme Court case called Chambers vs. Trettco, which dealt with sexual harassment claims. Then I had to do a bunch of research on the federal case law regarding this issue and how the Chambers decision had changed the landscape, if you will. It was just really interesting to me,” explained Dausman.

This set her on the path to her area of specialty at Foster Swift, where she served as a summer associate in 2001 before joining the firm in 2002 upon graduating from law school.

“Most of what I did when I first got here was no-fault litigation defense,” said Dausman, who has three children. “One of our clients is an insurance company for various school districts, which started handling employment discrimination-related cases. It just worked out. A lot of my time is spent on that and I’ve started to get discrimination defenses cases from other clients as well. It’s interesting because it’s something I actually like.”

This is not the first honor Dausman has won. In 2010, the Ingham County Bar Association recognized her as one of the Top Lawyers Under 35.

“I just think it’s a tremendous honor to be recognized among my peers,” she said.