Congratulations to our Member of the Month
Liisa R. Speaker is the founder of Speaker Law Firm, PLLC, an appellate boutique law firm representing clients in the Michigan and Federal Appellate Courts. She has been of Member of WLAM for many years and is highly involved in the legal community. Ms Speaker was appointed by the Michigan Supreme Court to two four-year terms on the Court Reporter and Recorder Board of Review. She is a past chair of the Appellate Practice Section for the State Bar of Michigan. She is also the Past President to the Ingham County Bar Association. She was awarded Women in the Law by Michigan Lawyers Weekly in 2014. Through her written and oral advocacy, Ms. Speaker has demonstrated a passion for developing an appellate practice that gives her clients a voice, while contributing to the legal community.
Liisa drafted and submitted amicus briefs in the Michigan Supreme Court on behalf of organizations such as the Family Law Section for the State Bar of Michigan, the Family Defense Attorneys of Michigan, the Appellate Practice Section for the State Bar of Michigan, the Coalition Protecting Auto No-Fault, and the Michigan Association for Justice. These briefs aided the Court in drafting opinions or orders that had profound impacts on the law in Allard v Allard, Estes v Titus; USF&G v MCCA, Rowland v Washtenaw County Road Commission, Beaver v Barton Malow, U of M Regents v Titan Insurance, and McCormick v Carrier, to name a few.
Liisa graduated from the University of Texas School of Law and now lives on a river in Lansing with her husband, two daughters, Great Dane and a cat.
ANGELA L. WALKER
Angela was the 2016 recipient of the Mary Foster Award from the WLAM Washtenaw Region
Angela is a founding partner of the Ann Arbor-based employment litigation firm, Blanchard & Walker, PLLC. Angela provides advice to executives making job transitions, and handles complex severance negotiations for highly compensated employees. She also focuses on helping employees with disabilities enforce their rights with regard to ADA accommodations, FMLA leave, and employee benefits matters. She has litigated gender discrimination, Equal Pay Act, and lactation rights cases, and frequently represents women with cancer facing discriminatory conduct at work.
Throughout her career, Angela has been active in the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan, including serving on the board of Washtenaw Region from 2006-2011. She returned in 2016 to serve as Washtenaw’s regional representative to the WLAM state board. Angela also currently sits on the board of the Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor. She frequently presents on ADA and FMLA issues, and is a co-author of the FMLA chapter of ICLE’s Employment Litigation in Michigan book.
Angela graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in English Language and Literature in 2000. She received her law degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 2004. She lives in Ann Arbor with her husband, James, and their daughter, Jocie.
MELISSA R. ATHERTON
Since she joined WLAM in 2012, Melissa has been an active member of the Oakland region, holding several committee and board positions. This year, she is Oakland region’s representative to WLAM.
Melissa has been recognized as a Rising Star by Michigan Super Lawyers for two consecutive years for her expertise in intellectual property. She focuses primarily on trademark and copyright prosecution, clearance, enforcement and litigation, as well as internet and domain name disputes.
Melissa strives to use her expertise to better the community around her. She was recently a panelist at the Detroit Entrepreneur Week Small Business Legal Academy held at Wayne State University School of Law. She also recently served a two-year term with the International Trademark Association’s pro bono committee where she collaborated with attorneys from around the world in an initiative to provide law schools with resources and support to establish trademark legal clinics.
Outside of the legal world, Melissa is a member of the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) Detroit and serves on ACG Detroit’s Women’s Forum committee, a committee that strives to foster relationships among women in business. In her free time, she spends time with her husband and two Old English Bulldogs, Petunia and Winston.
NIKOLE L. CANUTE
Nikole L. Canute is a member of Mika Meyers, PLC, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her areas of practice include: labor and employment law, employment litigation, energy litigation, civil litigation, fraud investigation and litigation and securities litigation. Nikole is very skilled in handling employment investigations, electronic discovery and matters involving computer forensic investigations. Nikole currently serves as Chair of Mika Meyers’ Diversity Committee, and Vice Chair of its Labor and Employment Practice Group.
Nikole is very involved in the Grand Rapids community. She serves as Vice President of the board of directors for Family Promise of Grand Rapids, a non-profit organization focused on assisting homeless families in west Michigan. Additionally, for several years, Nikole has been involved in the planning of the annual Women Lawyers v. Judges Softball Game, which raises approximately $20,000 each year for the YWCA of West Central Michigan, and is currently chairing the event planning committee. In past years, Nikole has been an officer of the Grand Rapids Bar Association, and spent several years on the board of directors for the WLAM, Western Region, which selected her as its 2013 “Outstanding Member of the Year.”
Nikole graduated from Alma College in 2002, and received her law degree from the University of Notre Dame Law School in 2005. While she a passionate Notre Dame fan, Nikole does not (usually) discriminate against those with other allegiances.
JULIE I. FERSHTMAN
Julie was recently named a 2016 MLW Woman in the Law
Julie I. Fershtman is a Shareholder in the Southfield, Michigan, office of Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith, PC, where her practice focuses on insurance defense, commercial litigation, insurance coverage, and equine law.
Julie was the 2011-2012 President of State Bar of Michigan (only the 5th woman). More recently, in 2015-2016, she co-chaired the State Bar’s “21st Century Practice Task Force,” which examined issues facing the legal profession and offered recommendations to protect the public and support lawyers in the face of a rapidly changing profession. She currently serves on the board of trustees of the Michigan State Bar Foundation and the Board of Directors of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society.
She has tried cases before juries in 4 states and has been admitted pro hac vice counsel in state and federal courts in 17 jurisdictions. She is listed in The Best Lawyers in America for Commercial Litigation and Insurance Law.
A frequent speaker, her speaking engagements span 29 states, primarily on topics of liability, insurance, and risk management. She writes frequently and is the author of 2 books and a contributor to 5 books published by the ABA. She has written more than 400 published articles and is an active blogger.
She graduated from Emory College in 1983 and Emory Law School in 1986. Julie and her husband, Robert Bick, live in Franklin. Their daughter, Katie, is a Junior in college.
RACHEL A. SMITH
Rachel was named as one of Oakland County Executive’s Elite 40 under 40 for 2016!
Rachel is a registered patent attorney and focuses primarily on domestic and foreign patent prosecution in the electrical arts. Rachel consults clients from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups. She enjoys working closely with clients to counsel them on how to best protect their intellectual property based on their specific business goals.
Rachel has a deep understanding of various technologies in mechanical and electrical arts. In particular, she has extensive experience prosecuting patent applications in consumer electronics, automotive, medical device, and network technologies. Her practice further includes drafting patentability, infringement, validity and freedom to operate opinions.
Rachel’s practice also includes consulting clients on open source software license agreements. She works with clients to understand complex software licenses and copyright matters. Rachel has worked with the firm’s open source team to perform software audits on complex systems and has advised clients on software license obligations while assisting in compliance solutions.
Rachel received a Juris Doctor from Wayne State University Law School and a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Ohio Northern University. During law school Rachel was a member and officer of the Wayne State Intellectual Property Student Association (WIPSA) and earned the Silver Key Award for academic achievement. At Ohio Northern University she was active in several student groups holding numerous leadership positions. Rachel served as president of both the student chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and her social sorority. Prior to attending law school, Rachel gained electronics hardware and software experience while working as an intern at an avionics safety company in Columbus, OH.
LORI A. BUITEWEG
Lori was sworn in as the President of the State Bar of Michigan.
Lori A. Buiteweg, of Ann Arbor, has been sworn in as the 81st president of the State Bar of Michigan. Ms. Buiteweg will lead an organization of over 44,000 members that works to improve the administration of justice, promotes the legal profession, and builds public understanding of the legal system. She has been involved in State Bar work for more than a decade and has served on many of its committees and groups. She has served on the SBM Board of Commissioners since 2003, and has served as treasurer, secretary, vice president, and president-elect She served as chair of the State Bar of Michigan Representative Assembly from 2005-2006.
Buiteweg served as president of the Washtenaw County Bar Association from 2000-2001. She currently serves on the WCBA Public Service Committee, as chair of its highly successful Constitution Day Project. She received the 2013 Patriot Award from the Washtenaw County Bar Association for her community service, pro bono representation, and education of the public about the U.S. Constitution. She received the 2012 Citizen of the Year Award from the Michigan Council for Social Studies. And she was named Grand Blanc High School Alumna of the Year in 2006. Buiteweg is a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, one of fewer than 50 in Michigan and 1,600 nationwide. And she is a founding member of the Washtenaw County Eastern Michigan University Legal Resource Center which awarded her their “Outstanding Service” award at their 10th anniversary celebration earlier this month.
She graduated from the Honors College at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and economics and she earned her juris doctor from Wayne State University Law School in Detroit.
DAWN VAN HOEK
Dawn was the 2014 recipient of the Jean L. King Leadership Award.
Dawn Van Hoek is Director of the State Appellate Defender Office, Michigan’s only state-funded public defense agency. Twice recognized by Michigan Lawyers Weekly as one of the state’s most influential lawyers, Ms. Van Hoek has chaired the State Bar’s Representative Assembly, Attorney Discipline Board hearing panels, and co-chaired the Bar’s Task Force on Racial, Ethnic and Gender Issues in the Courts and Legal Profession. She has served as President of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan Foundation since 1997, leading a scholarship program that has awarded nearly $500,000 to 210 outstanding women law students. Ms. Van Hoek is a past president of the statewide Women Lawyers Association of Michigan and also has served as the President of the Wayne Region Women Lawyers Association of Michigan.
A recipient of the 2013 Metro Detroit ACLU’s Bill of Rights Award, Ms. Van Hoek was honored in 2014 with the WLAM Foundation’s Legacy Award. She currently serves on the boards of the Michigan Campaign for Justice, the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, and Wayne County’s Criminal Advocacy Program. Her community service includes serving as a mentor in the Just the Beginning Program, linking college-bound students with practicing lawyers.
Chanelle specializes in criminal defense and family law and is the owner and managing partner of Channelle Kizy, PLLC.
Chanelle is active in the legal community. Chanelle is the President-Elect of the Women’s Bar Association (WBA is the Oakland Region of WLAM) and has served in various capacities as a member of the WBA since 2010, including: Mentorship Chair; Regional Representative to the State Board; Treasurer; and Vice-President. Chanelle is also a member of several other organizations including the Michigan Inter-Professional Association, the Chaldean American Bar Association, the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, and the Family Law Section and Criminal Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan.
In addition to her recent award, Chanelle is a Michigan Super Lawyers Rising Star (2010-2014), a dbusiness top family law lawyer two year in a row, and a Women Lawyers Association of Michigan, Regional Award Recipient (2012).