Be bold. Be brave.
These were the words Julie Fershtman heard in her head when, as a young lawyer, she decided to start an equine law practice in metro Detroit.
It was certainly bold. It was incredibly brave. And it worked.
Fershtman went on to become one of the nation's best and most respected equine lawyers, traveling the country writing books, speaking to attorneys and equine experts, and trying cases.
She also got involved with the State Bar, serving as the head of the Young Lawyers Section and eventually going on to become the fifth female president of the State Bar of Michigan and the first to develop a blog (the second in the country.)
Fershtman used her position and her blog to encourage other lawyers—particularly new lawyers, women lawyers, and solo practitioners—to follow their dreams and do what they love.
Just before her term in 2011, she wrote a section for an American Bar Association book focused on women lawyers who took risks to form their own practices and was selected from more than 100 authors to share her suggestions at the ABA's annual meeting that year.
During her term, she authored a Bar Journal article entitled, not surprisingly, "Be Bold: Overcoming the Glass Ceiling in Michigan's Legal Profession." She also spearheaded the development of the Bar's Mentoring Center and traveled extensively around the state delivering her powerful message.
After her term, she continued her mission, developing what one of her law partners called a "unique, empowering presentation" designed to help women lawyers improve their lawyer ratings and image and taking it to bar associations across Michigan.
But perhaps most remarkably, she accomplished all of this after being diagnosed with breast cancer just two weeks into her presidency—a testament to her drive and determination to help others.
Fershtman's brave and bold message has inspired many Michigan lawyers to follow their dreams.
One of those lawyers, a young female law student who heard her speak at an event, later thanked her by e-mail, and wrote:
"When I thought I was crazy (and many others did too) for packing up the car to essentially go nowhere, I just kept telling myself to be brave and bold. Your words gave me the encouragement and strength I needed to take a risk I knew was right for me."
That risk paid off just like it did for Fershtman two decades ago, and just like it will for many others who have had the good fortune to hear her message.
Story by Lynn Ingram