WLAM's blog

WELCOME - a message from 2014-2015 WLAM President Michele Rivas


When I first became an attorney, the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan (WLAM) was one of the first organizations I joined. It is hard to express how important WLAM has been to me professionally and personally - from the mentoring I received as a new attorney, to the networking and leadership opportunities that aided my development into a seasoned practitioner, to the enduring lifelong friendships cultivated through WLAM over the past ten years - WLAM has provided me with more than I expected or imagined. It is an honor to serve as the 2014-2015 WLAM President.
I would like to thank the 2013-2014 leadership for their dedication, effort and energy last year. Programs provided to WLAM members last year include: professional development such as, "Mentors v Sponsors - How Sponsors Accelerate Your Career," Speed Networking, Speed Mentoring, Positioning Yourself for the Bench, and Paths to the Legislature; educational seminars regarding Cyber Security, Employment Protections for Working Mothers, and Human Trafficking; networking events such as Painting with a Twist, Wine Downs, and Mix & Mingles; charitable events such as the Lawyers v. Judges Softball Game and the Bench v. Bar Culinary Challenge that benefited the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan Foundation (WLAM Foundation) and local charities; and community outreach opportunities such as Komen Race for the Cure and volunteering at Gleaner's Food Bank.

WLAM's 5-Year Development Plan
I am excited about this year! It is the first year of WLAM's 5-Year Development Plan (5-Year Plan) that will lead us to our 100th year anniversary. The 5-Year Plan was initiated and created by Immediate Past President Marla Linderman and developed by a committee comprised of WLAM Past Presidents Hon. Angela Sherigan, Lysa Postula-Stein, Kristin Arnett, Ann Erickson-Gault, and Kathleen Allen. I would like to thank our WLAM Past Presidents for sharing their collective knowledge and experience developing the 5-Year Plan. Changes to be implemented this year include:
• An updated unified WLAM brand that incorporates the State of Michigan in our logo and that will be used in all WLAM state and regional marketing and communications;
• A completely redesigned user-friendly WLAM website featuring an integrated member directory (searchable by name, location and specialty);
• An exclusive members-only section that will provide information regarding job postings, referrals and access to other WLAM member-only resources;
• Leadership training;
• WLAM webinars;
• Increased member benefits;
• Increased efforts to support the WLAM Foundation; and
• WLAMpalooza.
More information regarding these new developments will be provided as we roll them out.

Why Join WLAM?
Last night, while I was attending a WLAM regional event, an individual attending the event who is not a WLAM member asked me why she should join WLAM. The question, asked innocuously, surprised me because my first thought was why not?
WLAM provides members:
• an instant unique network of like-minded women lawyers (from the judiciary, law firms, solo practices, corporations, non-profits and the government) who are at the top of their profession and who support one another in a variety of ways (as friends, mentors, role models, and who help create opportunities for one another);
• an opportunity to gain leadership experience by participating in our committees and boards;
• access to a wide variety of dynamic programs featuring experts (many of whom are our very own WLAM members), that address substantive legal issues, provide practice and career development and matters of general concern to all women;
• preferential registration fees for many WLAM programs and events;
• recognition and visibility by promoting WLAM member accomplishments and achievements;
• an opportunity for speaking engagements through WLAM programming; and
• an opportunity to give back to their communities through charitable events and by supporting the WLAM Foundation.
Since being founded in 1919, WLAM has helped champion and advance women lawyers in the profession and women's rights in general. Many of our members, past and present, are trailblazers who have helped clear a path for the rest of us to succeed. Although we enjoy many rights and opportunities as women lawyers today, some work still remains (e.g., pay equity). WLAM provides members a forum in which our collective voice can be heard, so that together we may bring about positive change to help advance women in the legal profession in furtherance of a just society.
WLAM is an amazing organization! I hope you will take an active role in WLAM this year and fully benefit from all that WLAM has to offer!

Warm regards,
Michele A. Rivas
2014-2015 President, Women Lawyers Association of Michigan

WLAM 2014-2015 Officers

Women Lawyers Association of Michigan (WLAM) held elections at their recent 96th Annual Meeting. WLAM is proud to present the following outstanding attorneys serving as Officers in 2014-2015: Michele Rivas, President; Kristen Pursley, President Elect; Suzanne Sukkar, Vice President; Julie Gafkay, Treasurer; Donna MacKenzie, Secretary; and Marla Linderman, Immediate Past-President.

WLAM President Michele RivasPresident Michele Rivas is an attorney with Kapnick Insurance Group in Ann Arbor, Michigan and specializes in employee benefits, labor and employment law.  Ms. Rivas graduated magna cum laude from Michigan State University College of Law.  She has been a WLAM member since she first became a licensed attorney, and she has served in several leadership roles on both the state and regional level. Ms. Rivas was elected to the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation and selected to the Michigan Super Lawyers Rising Stars

WLAM President Elect Pursley

President-Elect Kristen Pursley is a shareholder at The Dobrusin Law Firm in Pontiac, Michigan
and specializes in patent, trademark and copyright law. Ms. Pursley was previously employed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in the office of Intellectual Property and Venture Development and as a corporate paralegal at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati in Palo Alto, California. Ms. Pursley is currently the Vice President for the Women’s Bar Association (the Oakland County Region of WLAM.) She is active in the Technology Committee for Automation Alley and is also a
member of Michigan Intellectual Property Inn of Court.  She is an instructor at Tech Shop in Allen Park, a Business Advisory Board Member at the Macomb-OU INCubator and acts as Pro Bono Counsel for the Pontiac Downtown Business Association and the Great Lakes Agricultural Fair. Ms. Pursley was a Michigan Lawyers Weekly 2013 Women in the Law honoree and is a SuperLawyers® Rising Star for 2013.

WLAM Vice President Sukkar

Vice-President Suzanne Sukkar is an attorney with Miller Canfield in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Ms.
Sukkar specializes in immigration law, including employment-based visas and EB-5 immigrant investor visas. She has served on the Board of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce and was named 2011 National Woman of the Year from the National Association of Professional Women.


WLAM Treasurer

Treasurer Julie Gafkay is a partner at Gafkay & Dafoe, PLC which is a statewide practice located in Frankenmuth, Michigan and specializes in employment law including gender discrimination, race discrimination, disability discrimination, retaliation, civil rights and wrongful discharge.  Ms. Gafkay graduated with honors from Whittier Law School in 1995. She is a past-President of the Saginaw County Bar, serves on the Board of Governors for the Frankenmuth Community Foundation, serves on the Board of the Frankenmuth Chamber of Commerce, serves on the Board of the Frankenmuth Farmers Market, and is past-President of WLAM’s Great Lakes Bay Region.  She was one of the Top 20 Women in Law in 2012 and has been designated a Michigan Super Lawyer 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.

WLAM Secretary MacKenzie

Secretary Donna M. MacKenzie is an attorney with Olsman, Mueller, Wallace & MacKenzie and she specializes in representing individuals injured as a result of nursing home neglect and abuse and medical malpractice. She is the author of a number of legal articles, and a featured speaker at seminars presented by the Institute for Continuing Legal Education, State Bar of Michigan, American Association for Justice, and Michigan Association for Justice. Ms. MacKenzie’s honors include recognition as a 2010 Up & Coming Lawyer by Michigan Lawyers Weekly, a four-time Super Lawyer “Rising Star”, a 2013 Super Lawyer, and a Pacesetter by the Michigan Association for Justice. Ms. MacKenzie was selected to the dbusiness magazine Metro Detroit Top Lawyers 2014 list.  Ms. MacKenzie is on
the Executive Board for the Michigan Association for Justice. She also serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice.

WLAM Past President Linderman

Marla A. Linderman is the Immediate Past President of Women Lawyers Association of Michigan and specializes in the areas of employment discrimination and wrongful termination, civil rights, personal injury, and commercial litigation. In 2006, Ms. Linderman received the Regeana Myrick Award, the Outstanding Young Attorney Award, by the State Bar of Michigan. She was also named the Outstanding Young Lawyer by the Washtenaw County Bar Association. A fellow of the Michigan State Bar Foundation, she was named by "Michigan Lawyers Weekly" as an Up and Coming Lawyer in 2007 and as one of the Top 20 Women in the Law in 2012. Ms. Linderman has also been designated a Michigan Super Lawyer annually since 2009 and was named in the Top 50 Women Lawyers by Super Lawyers in 2013 She authored three chapters of "Michigan Causes of Action Formbook" (ICLE).

WLAM Position Statement Regarding Optional Membership in the State Bar of Michigan

Date: March 25, 2014

The Women Lawyers Association of Michigan (WLAM) opposes the proposed Senate Bill 743 that would make participation in the State Bar of Michigan - and the fees associated with membership - voluntary.
The State Bar of Michigan (SBM), through its use of membership dues, over 600 volunteers and 28 standing committees, offers legal support and education to the disenfranchised and destitute. The SBM strives to increase diversity statewide, offers mentoring programs to junior attorneys, and promotes programs to ensure access to legal aid for all in Michigan.
A mention of just a few of the State Bar's projects and accomplishments evidence the profound effect the compulsory Bar program has on women and securing the legal rights of women throughout the State, both in and out of the legal community:
• The Access to Justice Campaign and the Pro Bono and Equal Access Initiatives offer civil legal aid to the poor through projects, programs and training to benefit underserved populations, focusing on issues such as race and ethnicity, gender, and disability. 
• The State Bar increased signatories to the Michigan State Bar Pledge to Achieve Diversity and Inclusion in 2013 to 622 individuals, 258 law firms, 39 voluntary bar associations, 34 state bar sections and committees, 16 governmental and law-related entities, seven corporations, nine legal aid providers, and five law schools.
• The State Bar participated in a commission and workgroup to support the introduction and eventual passing of an overwhelmingly supported bill to create a permanent Michigan Indigent Defense Commission in 2013. 
• The Standing Committee on Domestic Violence offered free training on the Introduction to Domestic Violence Family Law, and formed a workgroup to examine and address issues with conciliation, mediation and other alternative dispute resolution methods occurring in the Friend of the Court in cases involving domestic violence.
• The Public Policy Program reviewed a combined 81 bills and court rules in 2013 and led the advocacy on approximately 69 formal legislative and court rule positions; these included but were not limited to: the Social Welfare Act, Court procedures on Evictions, the Eligible Domestic Relations Order Act, Joint Custody and Grandparenting Time under the Child Custody Act of 1970, the Support and Parenting Time Enforcement Act, the Adult Foster Care Facility Licensing Act, and Adoption, Supervisory Periods, Responsible Father Registry, and Human Trafficking under the Probate Code of 1939.
It is our belief that the needs and legal rights of women throughout Michigan will be compromised without a compulsory Bar and the resulting infrastructure and resources the State Bar provides to promote the legal needs of all. Therefore, WLAM respectfully requests that you oppose SB 743.

Women Lawyers Association of Michigan
Marla Linderman, President

WLAM Commemorates the Life of Hon. Patricia J. Boyle

PATRICIA J. BOYLE, of White Lake, retired Justice of the
Michigan Supreme Court and former U.S. District Judge, Judge of the Recorders
Court of the City of Detroit and Chief of Research, Training and Appeals for
the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office; passed away in Ft. Myers, Florida on
January 13, 2014 at the age of 76. She was preceded in death by her husband,
Terrance and grandson, Nathan Pernick. She is survived by her sons, Jeffery
(Mary) Pernick, Jason (Kimberly) Pernick, Kurt Pernick, and David Pernick; her daughter,
Katty (Stefan) Kerst; grandchildren, Brian, Sarah, Riley and Kerry; sister,
Linda Gillespie and many dear extended family members, friends and a special
canine companion, Mandy.

Visitation will be held at Lynch & Sons Funeral Home,
404 E. Liberty, Milford on Saturday, January 18, 2014 from 2 to 8 p.m. The
Funeral Service will be held at Milford Presbyterian Church, 238 N Main St,
Milford, Michigan on Sunday, January 19, 2014 at 1:00 p.m., with gathering
beginning at 12 Noon.

WLAM Urges Governor Snyder to Veto SB652

The Women Lawyers Association of Michigan strongly opposes
the proposed law revamping the Court of Claims and urges the Governor to veto
it. (Read the letter
to the Governor

View SB652