Letter From the Chair
August 1, 2002
Summer breaks are a great time to recharge one's batteries and reflect on the events that have passed and the plans for the future. This is as true for organizations as it is for individuals.
The year began in the immediate aftermath of the tragic events of 9/11. General attendance at the Annual Meeting in Lansing was the lowest ever seen. Over this past year, due to the efforts of a dedicated and diverse group of individuals, the Section has witnessed a rebirth of new ideas and activity.
The Section has hosted for its members an impressive array of speakers in a variety of contexts:
- Bill Vlasic, Business Reporter of the Detroit News and co-author of Taken for a Ride—the Daimler-Chrysler Merger (Organized by Randy Wright, Partner Berry Moorman, Birmingham)
- Nasser Beydoun, Executive Director of the Arab American Chamber of Commerce (Organized by Clara Mager, Partner, Butzel Long, Detroit)
- Honorable Jeffrey Collins, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Michigan (Organized by Professor John Mogk, Wayne State Law School)
- Honorable Francis Jacobs, Advocate General of the European Court of Justice, Brussels, Belgium (Organized and Sponsored by Professors Virginia Gordon and Daniel Halberstram, University of Michigan Law School)
- Judge Jane Restani of the United States Customs Court, Washington, D.C. (Organized by Susan Gasparian and Paul Vandevert, Ford Motor Company)
- William Murray, Vice President—OEM Canada, RL Polk, Southfield (Organized by Lois Bingham, Assistant General Counsel International, RL Polk)
The Section has also presented, as a public service, 3 panels on topics of general interest:
- Doing Business in Michigan for Foreign Corporations—March 10, 2002, Detroit. Annual Meeting of the Society of Automotive Engineers (Organized by Fred Frank, Partner Honigman, Miller, Schwartz & Cohn, Detroit and James Serocki, Tax Partner, KPMG, Detroit. Panelists included Lois Bingham, Assistant General Counsel of RL Polk, James Serocki and his colleagues from KPMG and Clara Mager, Butzel Long)
- Foreign Companies' Use of Minority Joint Ventures—May 22, 2002, Troy
- World Trade Week, Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce and U.S. Department of Commerce (Organized by Bruce Birgbauer, Partner, Miller Canfield, Detroit. Speakers included Carmen Munoz, Executive Director, Michigan Minority Business Development Council, Howard Hill of the Law Offices of Howard B. Hill, Glenn Stafford, former Director of Minority Procurement, General Motors, Saul Green, former US Attorney for Southern District of Michigan, and Shailesh N. Doshi, President of Doshi Prettl International, Inc.)
Protecting the Homeland While Safeguarding Civil Rights September 26, 2002, Grand Rapids Annual Meeting of the State Bar of Michigan (Organized by Clara Mager, Chair Elect. Speakers will include Nasser Beydoun, Executive Director of the Arab American Chamber of Commerce and Honorable Jeffrey Collins, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Michigan)
The Section has also published two print editions of The Michigan International Lawyer, due in large part to the efforts of Professors John Mogk and Julia Qin of Wayne State Law School and their student editors, Jodie Giles and Alex Fedynsky. For the first time ever, these journals were posted on the Section's Website with the State Bar of Michigan so that they are available electronically to all Section members. While some debugging is still required, the electronic versions will allow the Section to transmit Section news and information instantaneously, while saving the Section considerable money.
As reported in my April letter, the Michigan Bar Journal is dedicating an issue next year to International Law. Further details will be provided. The officers have set the requirement that all potential contributors must have also written for the Michigan International Lawyer in the last 2 years as a precondition to writing for the Bar Journal.
For the first time ever, officers and members of the Executive Council became accountable for contributing and supporting the Journal as well as attending meetings. Everyone is now responsible for attending at least 80% of the meetings in person or by phone and either writing an article for the Journal or organizing a seminar at least once every 2 years. Election to these posts is an honor, but also a responsibility. To underline this point, one member was formally removed for failing to attend any meeting in 2 1/2 years.
For the first time ever, the officers met last August and set dates and locations for the Executive Council meetings for the next 3 years, deadlines for publication of the Journal and notices and agendas of meetings were circulated in advance. I believe a large measure of the success of this year was due to such planning and I am pleased to report that the officers have already met to plan events for the coming year.
For the first time ever, Executive Council meetings were opened to all members and the Section paid for dinner afterwards to promote an informal interchange of ideas. While this can't be a practice for every meeting, it has promoted a fellowship unseen before. Average attendance at these Executive Council meetings has tripled from past years; some of us old timers remember when only 3-4 people would turn out.
What I may be most proud of is the involvement of new members in Section activities. The invitation has been issued and reissued and the members have responded positively. 11 of 16 officers and members of the Executive Council were not active 2 years ago.
The caliber of people involved as officers, Executive Council members, committee chairs, and attendees is unprecedented. Besides the names already mentioned, at one of our events, we had Logan Robinson, vice president and general counsel of Delphi and Bill Kohler, general counsel of Johnson Controls Automotive debating practical issues with Francis Jacobs of the European Court.
The core of talent who will be heading the Section next year is equally impressive.
The following have been nominated as Officers for 2002-2003:
- Chair Clara Mager, Partner, Butzel Long
- Chair-elect Jan McMillan, Solo Practitioner
- Secretary Randy Wright, Partner, Berry Moorman
- Treasurer Bruce Birgbauer, Partner, Miller Canfield
Clara went to law school at nights while holding a full time job and is now head of the immigration practice of Butzel Long. Jan has established a unique niche in international family law cases and has argued a custody case before the European Court. Randy practices corporate law and has been active in a group, Search for a Common Ground, which among other things has lead to his firm establishing an office in Russia. Bruce is a former chair of the Business Law Section of the State Bar and is head of the international practice for Miller Canfield.
The proposed slate of the one third of Executive Council members up for election every year is equally vaunting. This year, as permitted by the bylaws, we have nominated 5 members for a 3 year term ending September, 2005 and one member to fill the unexpired term ending September, 2004, of Bruce Birgbauer, who has been nominated for treasurer.
Term Expiring 9/2005:
Narinder J.S. Kathuria, is a member of the Indian and Michigan bars and former general counsel for ANR.
James S. Serocki is the international tax partner at KPMG, Detroit.
Lois E. Bingham is assistant general counsel, R. L. Polk, Southfield.
Marc C. McGuire is assistant general counsel, international for Delphi Corporation, Troy.
Andrew Segovia is assistant general counsel, Latin America for General Motors, Detroit.
Vacancy for Term Expiring 9/2004:
William H. Dance has practiced immigration law for over 40 years and is a partner at Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, Troy.
These nominees will be proposed for election at the Section's business meeting held in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the State Bar of Michigan scheduled for 2 p.m. on Thursday, September 26, 2002, at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The panel discussion described earlier will follow immediately.
Another aspect of the Annual Meeting is the Section Award established last year to those who have made outstanding contributions to the Section. The inaugural award was given to Professor John Mogk, long time editor of the Michigan International Lawyer. I am pleased to announce that the Executive Council has selected Stuart H. Deming, partner of Inman Deming, Jackson, Michigan and Washington, DC and former chair of the Section to receive this year's award.
Finally, to encourage attendance at the Grand Rapids meeting, the Section will rent a passenger van for the day to transport those members from SE Michigan, where most of our members are located, to and from the meeting.
As always, if you have ideas or want to become involved before the Annual Meeting, simply email me. Everyone who has contacted me to date has been put to work. Indeed, as I was writing this letter, Andrew Doornaert, formerly with the customs practice at Arthur Anderson and now with Miller Canfield, e-mailed asking to become involved and he has been charged with organizing the Customs Law Committee for next year.
So as you can see, the Section has been active and innovative and with a budget surplus. If you enjoyed this year, wait until you see what next year's leadership does—hang on for the ride.
Thank you for the unique privilege of serving as your Chair.
Howard B. Hill