Attorney joins leadership of SBM section


By Jo Mathis
Legal News
Detroit attorney Jody Aaron has been practicing law for 30 years.

But when she has a question about something, she’s apt to call 40-year-old Ann Arbor trial lawyer Chad Engelhardt.

“Chad is always someone I count on,” said Aaron. “And although I’ve been in practice longer, he’s up on all the cases, very well read and learned in terms of things that matter. I’m a huge fan and have been from our first encounter.”

That’s why Aaron pleased to nominate Engelhardt to the leadership council of the State Bar of Michigan’s Negligence Law Section. He was elected to the section during the SBM’s annual meeting last month.

The Negligence Law Section is composed of about 4,300 litigators and governed by a council of 14 members of the plaintiff and defense bar who are elected to three-year terms.

Its purpose is to study the procedures, rules and statutes, which embody the law of negligence as well as promote the fair administration of negligence litigation in Michigan’s trial and appellate courts.

Aaron said the council is very different from that of a litigator, because it involves camaraderie between plaintiffs and defendants, who are so often divided.

“We have the common goal of facilitating a better practice of law,” she said. “Chad in particular has been involved in a number of efforts to protect the rights
of litigants. He’s very well thought of on both sides of the courtroom, and for a relatively young attorney, he’s established an outstanding reputation for being knowledgeable, honorable and helpful. A lot of attorneys have information, but don’t like to share it. He’s always willing to be of help to other attorneys so they can better represent their clients.”

Engelhardt, a former Oakland County deputy sheriff for 12 years, is a partner at Goethel Engelhardt PLLC in Ann Arbor, where he and his senior partner Steve Goethel focus their practice on the prosecution of medical malpractice, catastrophic injury and wrongful death claims.

He graduated magna cum laude from Cooley Law School in January 2005 while working fulltime.

Engelhardt said the section’s mission of advancing professionalism, preserving the jury trial system and commitment to legal scholarship mirrors his own values.

One of the important things the section does is advance law student and continuing legal education for the bench and bar, he explained.

“At its core, the law is a rich teaching tradition,” he said. “Whether briefing a complex appellate issue for the court, counseling a client about their rights and obligations under the law, or telling your client’s story to a jury, the law is really about teaching.” 

Engelhardt, who is married to medical malpractice defense lawyer Jennifer Engelhardt, jokes: “But I probably get plenty of practice for that at home.”  Grand Rapids attorney Robert Buchanan is commissioner to the Negligence Section, which he said should delight in the election of Engelhardt.

“He is a brilliant and energetic medical negligence attorney who enthusiastically helps or shares great gems with colleagues, and always with grace and a smile,” said Buchanan.  “His phone number is one of the few on my speed dial.”

In addition to his private practice, Engelhardt is an adjunct professor at Cooley Law School’s Ann Arbor campus where he teaches courses in litigation skills and medical malpractice. 

He also serves as the Michigan Association for Justice’s education chair and is a regular CLE speaker on medical negligence issues.

Engelhardt has received many honors, and was named one of Michigan’s top medical malpractice and personal injury attorneys by DBusiness magazine.