April 5, 2013 11:16 Age: 1 yrs

Raising the Bar

Serving others and their profession  guides three alumnae, Robin Frazer Clark  88L, Patrise Perkins-Hooker 84L 84B and Julie I. Fershtman 83C 86L, as they help lead their state bar associations.

“The leadership of the State Bar of Georgia should be representative of the composition of the bar membership,” says Clark, a personal injury lawyer in private  practice and the second woman to be president of the State Bar of Georgia. “We have approximately 44,000 members of the state bar now, and a large percentage of those members is women. Diversity is a good thing. It brings a richness and depth  to issues that  before perhaps weren’t taken into account.”

Perkins-Hooker, vice president and general counsel for the Atlanta Beltline and treasurer of the State Bar of Georgia, is the third female and the first African- American to serve as an officer.

“Part  of our professional responsibilities is to be interested in and to undertake leadership roles for our profession,” Perkins-Hooker says.

For Fershtman, shareholder in Foster Swift Collins & Smith in Farmington Hills, Mich., involvement  with her state bar began soon after graduation from Emory Law. “I was elected chair of the State Bar’s Young Lawyer’s Section and later chair of the Representative Assembly. Soon after, I was elected to the bar’s governing body and moved up the ranks from there.

“I’ve seen the impact the bar can have on our profession and the public we serve,” says Fershtman, the first equine law attorney to hold the Michigan  state bar presidency.

“We help improve the administration of justice, promote advancements in the law and help lawyers serve clients better. I want to continue  working with others to accomplish  these goals.”

Each sees communicating with their members and involving them in the associations as priorities.

Perkins-Hooker is trying to affect issues with electronic filing and automation. For starters, as secretary last year she placed the board and executive committee minutes on the website. "Before, you couldn't get them anywhere."

Fershtman instituted a blog, www.sbmpres2012.com, a first for a Michigan bar president and perhaps, the second nationwide. "We need to listen to our members carefully," Fershtman says. "We've completed two member surveys, which helped us learn more about  member concerns and the economics of their practices.”

Improving and expanding the bar’s practice management services to help lawyers master technology is another of Fershtman’s  goals.

As president of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association, Clark was often at the Georgia  Capitol. This gave her wisdom and relationships in Georgia’s political  world that should benefit the state bar. “It’s important for the state bar to have a strong political presence at the capitol.”
The women readily acknowledge Emory Law’s influence on building confidence and encouraging community involvement. “Their top notch trial advocacy program made me a more confident lawyer and a better public speaker,” Fershtman says

With only seven African-Americans in her class of 270, Perkins-Hooker says Emory Law provided a fantastic opportunity in dealing with all types of people.

“Emory  Law encourages you to go out and use your skills for the good of the community,” Perkins-Hooker says.

Clark, a native of rural Kentucky, says Emory and her background shaped her ability to relate to lawyers from all walks of life and all types of practices. “It informed my ability to listen and gain an understanding of the other person’s position before I seek to have my position  understood.”

--Jennifer Bryon Owen

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