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Shining Star Award

With such busy lives it can be hard to imagine taking on any more responsibilities. However, there are paralegals/legal assistants out there that, in addition to all the pressures of life, go above and beyond what is expected of them. Shining Stars are Michigan paralegal/legal assistants that have been nominated and selected to be featured on our website, in the Michigan Paralegal, and on our Section's Facebook page for their outstanding charitable and/or community service works. Nominees will be randomly selected each month and their story published on our website. During the next newsletter all winners' stories will be re-published. Shining Stars is a way to honor those you know that deserve to be recognized for all the good things they do!

Nominate Someone for a Shining Star

Past Winners

April 2014

Jean Mitchell-Walster

Jean Mitchell-Walster
Jean is a very competent paralegal with Julie Taylor & Associates. She does a phenomenal job with everything that she is assigned. While working full-time, she also earned two insurance designations- Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) and Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) which are very important designations in the insurance industry. She also attends Oakland Community College for post degree studies in ceramics technology, while working full-time. Besides all of that, she holds a Bachelor’s degree in photography and a Master of Arts degree in Communications. Her nominator opined that she would be a great lawyer and has been encouraged to consider law school as well. She is currently studying for the Certified Paralegal (CP) designation.

She also coordinates charitable giving efforts in the office for Thanksgiving and arranges for the office to adopt a foster child for Christmas while collecting designated gifts for that child. She is the sole driving force of that endeavor. She is indeed a worthy recipient of this award.

March 2014

Renee Jent, CLA
Renee is a Senior Claims Specialist for ProAssurance Companies handling legal malpractice claims on behalf of attorneys in several states.  She is also a licensed insurance adjuster in the State of Delaware.  She has been continually active in promoting the paralegal profession, initially as a board member and President of LAAM (Legal Assistants Association of Michigan) beginning in 1997 and tirelessly as a board member and officer of the Paralegal Section of the State Bar of Michigan since that time. Renee currently serves as Secretary of the Section and chair of the Annual Meeting.  Besides being a graduate of the Lake Superior State University Legal Assistant program, she also received her degree in Office Administration (both in 1995).  Renee was honored with the Outstanding Student Associate Degree in both the Legal Assistant and Business Programs.  She is also an active member of the National Association of Legal Assistants and has participated in the LEAP leadership program of that organization.  Renee obtained her Certified Legal Assistant designation from NALA in 2002.

Renee has demonstrated a commitment to excellence in her chosen profession throughout her career, including interstate child support enforcement with the Friend of the Court in the 26th Judicial Circuit Court.  She has also demonstrated significant service through past employment at private legal and insurance firms. She was President of the Downtown Development Authority for Village of Lincoln from 1999 to 2004.  Renee is Past President of the former statewide NALA affiliate Legal  Assistants Association of Michigan, Inc. (LAAM) from 2003 to 2007 and served as LAAM’s NALA Liaison from 2001 to 2003. She currently sits on the Paralegal Program Advisory Committee at Lansing Community College and previously served the Legal Studies Advisory Committee of Lake Superior State University from 1997-2010. 

Renee’s star not only shines in the legal profession, but she is also involved in numerous civic activities and enjoys being in the community of Williamston. 
February 2014

Ida Rose Farhat, ACP
Ida is a corporate paralegal with Foster Swift Collins& Smith, P.C., in Lansing, Michigan. Ida has served in many leadership positions within the State Bar of Michigan Paralegal Association. Ida is currently serving on the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) Certifying Board and has been a member of this Board since 2009. In addition, Ida has served NALA as Nominations and Elections Chair and was a participant in NALA's inaugural Leadership Enhancement and Preparation Initiative.

Seeing a need for a local paralegal association, Ida was instrumental in the formation of the new Michigan NALA affiliated association "Great Lakes Paralegal Association" ("GLPA"). As a co-founder of GLPA and one of its charter members, Ida tirelessly works to promote the profession – in particular, to promote continuing education and voluntary certification for all paralegals. Ida deeply believes in the importance of mentoring paralegal students and new paralegals to the field and is constantly helping those within the legal community. Ida is passionate about the profession and has a remarkable gift for helping those around her – she is a "Shining Star"!

January 2014

Vanessa Lozzi
Vanessa is a bank officer and litigation support specialist with Flagstar Bank in Troy. During 2007-2008, she served as a committee chair for SBM Paralegal/Legal Assistant Section. For several years, she co-organized this Section’s Annual Day of Education and social mixers. She is program chair for Eastern Michigan Chapter of ALSP (a division of ACEDS) and past president. She is a member of ILTA and serves on Law Department Steering Committee, as Detroit Regional member liaison, and assists coordinating ILTA’s National Conference and educational programs. She is an ARMA International, Detroit Chapter, member. From 2004-2007, she was Section chair of Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association. From 2004-2006, she was the assistant to the Vice Chair of the SBM Real Property Law Section. From 1999-2000, she was assistant to Program Chair of FBA, Executive Board, Eastern District of Michigan Chapter.

For the past six years, she organized ALSP (a division of ACEDS) and WiE’s (joined co-cohosting two years ago) Annual Holiday Party benefitting Grace Centers of Hope, raising proceeds for “The Face of the Homeless,” providing refuge, safety, security, and homes for those without one. She served on Fundraising Committee for Turning Point in Mt. Clemens.

From 2004-2012, she served on Baker College Paralegal Advisory Board of Clinton Township and assisted in developing its ABA-approved program and since then she is now an adjunct professor. She was a contributor to the Technology and the Paralegal chapter of The Paralegal Profession, Second Edition. She has been a panel moderator and speaker at several college, paralegal and litigation support professional events. In 2007, she was a recipient of the DMBA Distinguished Award.

Vanessa’s dedication to serving with various paralegal/bar associations and organizations, her charitable work for those in need and educating students and colleagues has earned her the first Shining Star Award for 2014!

December 2013

Lynda B. Falotico (awarded posthumously)
Lynda was a devoted long time paralegal at Lipson, Neilson, Cole, Seltzer & Garin P.C. Law and a charter member of the State Bar's paralegal section since 1999. She passed away on September 14, 2013. Her skills in handling litigation matters, in various fields, were stellar. Her ability to relate to clients helped create outstanding relationships with them. Her willingness to take on new types of work was much appreciated. Her family, colleagues and the clients she served miss her very much.

She was nominated by her employer Mr. Steven Malach. By honoring her family’s wishes, the Paralegal Section of the State Bar of Michigan is making a donation to the American Cancer Society in lieu of a gift card. Lynda set the bar high for what a paralegal can accomplish if they have the heart and desire. The December, 2013 Shining Star Award will be presented to Lynda’s family in her honor.

November 2013

Nicole M. Cook
Ms. Nicole M. Cook is a phenomenal paralegal "in progress" whose dedication to the profession has made her an excellent candidate and winner of the State Bar of Michigan’s Paralegal/Legal Assistant Section’s Shining Star Award. As a former officer in the Paralegal/Legal Assistant Section of the State Bar and Legal Assistant Association of Michigan, Ms. Cook has contributed to the advancement of our field through her dedication to these organizations.

Throughout her career, beginning with her service in the United States Army Reserves JAG Corp., Ms. Cook held subsequent legal employment with private firms and public entities within the Lansing area. Her commitment to education is ongoing as she is enrolled in a Master of Public Administration (MPA), Public Administration program with expected completion in 2014. She does all of this while parenting her three fantastic children.

Ms. Cook’s work-life balance is awe inspiring and worthy of recognition through the Section’s Shining Star Award. Congratulations Nicole!

May 2013

Beth Kinnaird (awarded posthumously)
Beth died suddenly on April 5, 2013, at age 43. Beth was a hardworking and driven paralegal who devoted her time to the profession and to her family. She was a trademark paralegal at Butzel Long for more than 15 years before moving to Honigman Miller Schwartz & Cohn LLP in 2010. With Beth's passing we lose a good friend, co-worker and fellow Section member. The May 2013 Shining Star Award will be presented to Beth's family in her honor.

April 2013 Jaxine Wintjen, CLA (awarded posthumously)
Former SBM Paralegal/Legal Assistant Section officer and council member Jaxine Wintjen, CLA, of Williamston, has been awarded the Shining Star Award for April 2013 for her continuous dedication to the paralegal profession. Jaxine died on May 1, 2013, at age 53, at Hospice House of Mid-Michigan. She was an active participant in the Section from its inception in 1989/1990 and served the Section in a variety of capacities—as chair, secretary, treasurer, council member, and committee chair. She was a member of NALA and LAAM. She worked in the legal profession for more than 30 years and for Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith, in Lansing, as an employee benefits paralegal for 37 years. The April 2013 Shining Star Award will be presented to Jaxine's family in her honor.
December 2012

Kelly A. LaGrave, ACP
Kelly is a corporate paralegal with Foster Swift Collins& Smith, P.C., in Lansing. She was elected First Vice President of the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) in July 2012. She is an Advisory Committee Member for the Lansing Community College Paralegal Program, a frequent speaker and columnist, and a member of numerous legal and community organizations. Kelly has always understood that education doesn’t stop upon earning a degree. The hallmark of her success is her integrity. Kelly has earned the title Shining Star for her dedication to the profession, to education and to her community! Congratulations, Kelly. Please keep up the good work!

August 2011

Vicki Voisin has worked as a paralegal for over 20 years and has become a nationally recognized author and speaker, widely known for her paralegal seminars, her work mentoring other paralegals, and her unique approach to ethics training for legal staff. She writes comprehensively about how paralegals can enhance and advance their careers in The Paralegal Mentor: Strategies for Paralegals Seeking Excellence. She is co-host of "The Paralegal Voice" on Legal Talk Network. And she authors a weekly online magazine called Paralegal Strategies. She has served as president of the National Association of Legal Assistants and president of the SBM Paralegal/Legal Assistant Section.

July 2011

Charlie Campbell received the award for his work helping low-income people in Kent County. He is the program coordinator at Legal Assistance Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation in Grand Rapids. He began working at the Center as a student intern and continued to volunteer there even after he graduated from Davenport University and was hired by an attorney in private practice. The dedication with which Campbell produced his work as a volunteer was of such a high quality that the Center offered him a position as an employee. He is a valuable asset to the Center, and very enthusiastic about his job and his profession.



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State Bar of Michigan
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