Women rise to leadership positions at two firms

By Thomas Franz
BridgeTower Media Newswires

DETROIT — A pair of Michigan firms recently announced landmark leadership changes as women received significant new roles.

Bodman PLC announced Carrie Leahy was appointed chair-elect of the firm’s executive management committee.

Foster, Swift, Collins, & Smith PC announced that its 2019 leadership team includes a record number of women with two female executive committee members and female leaders for three of the firm’s seven practice groups.

At Bodman, Leahy will succeed Larry R. Shulman as chair Jan. 1, 2020. Leahy is the fourth chair of the firm and first female chair.

“It means a lot to me both from the perspective of being a lawyer here and from being a woman here,” Leahy said. “It’s an honor to be named the first female chair of Bodman. I think I’m joining unfortunately a small group of other women in terms of the national level, so my hope is that in 10 years or five years it’s not as newsworthy that a firm is naming their first female chair.”

Leahy has served as administrative member of Bodman’s Ann Arbor office and serves on the firm’s executive management committee and finance committee.

“Carrie is an effective leader and strategist who has excelled in all of her roles in firm management,” Shulman said in a press release. “We are thrilled that she has accepted this new challenge and are confident that Bodman will continue to grow and prosper with Carrie at the helm.”

In her practice, Leahy focuses on corporate and business law. She works with businesses on general corporate transactions, mergers and acquisitions, compliance with securities regulations, and issues involving venture capital funding.

When she begins her new role, Leahy said she will maintain her practice while working to accomplish her goals for the firm as chair.

“My plan in the next six months is to talk with my colleagues and work with our board and develop and refine what my specific goals are,” Leahy said.

“We’re looking to bring in a chief diversity officer. I would also like to continue our focus on our people. Our people are our most valuable resource here at the firm. We’ve been looking to expand our Grand Rapids office and we are building out some space there. That’s going to be one of our chief strategic things we’ll be working on.”

Leahy joined Bodman in 2004 after beginning her career in the Chicago office of DLA Piper. She earned her law degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law. Leahy serves as a board member and treasurer for the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti SmartZone Local Development Finance Authority and as a member of the United Way of Washtenaw County Campaign Cabinet.

At Foster Swift, an increase of women in its associate and shareholder ranks is now reflected in leadership positions.

Anne Seurynck was re-elected as vice president of the firm’s executive committee for the firm’s West Michigan offices, and Julie Fershtman was elected to the same position for the firm’s Southeast Michigan offices.

“We didn’t set out to have a record number of women in leadership, they just rose to the occasion,” said firm president Mike Sanders. “We put the best people in the positions and it just so happened to be a record number of women.”

The firm reported that its 2019 associate class is 75 percent female, and four of its five summer associates are women.

In other firm leadership positions, Anna Gibson, Patricia Scott and Mindi Johnson are practice group leaders of Trusts and Estates, Finance and Bankruptcy, and Business and Tax, respectively.

Laura Genovich chairs the firm’s Political Action Committee and Allison Collins chairs the firm’s Associate Attorney Committee.

“Women bring a different perspective for sure, but we’ve always had women in leadership roles,” Sanders said. “I think this helps us be more in tune with gender issues or child care issues, reduced schedules and telecommuting.”

Seurynck has been with the firm since graduating from law school in 1996. She was the first female chair of the firm’s Recruiting Committee and also led the Administrative and Municipal Practice Group. By taking on those roles while on a reduced schedule, Sanders said Seurynck exemplifies the firm’s philosophy of keeping leadership roles open to anyone in the firm.

“We just don’t rule out anybody. It’s been an eye opener for us that women with small children in the home still want to and can assume leadership roles at the firm while managing the practice as well. That’s probably been the thing that set the trend for us here, is not making assumptions,” Sanders said.

Fershtman is a past president of the State Bar of Michigan and was the fifth woman to hold that position.

“We’ve just been waiting for her to assume a leadership position at the firm since she’s been active outside of the firm. We had to wait for some of that stuff to be done so we could promote her here into a leadership position,” Sanders said.