Brinkmeyer Pushes Bar Higher

September 2, 2003
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — On Sept. 12 when Scott Brinkmeyer is sworn in as the new State Bar of Michigan president, he will bring with him his 28 years of law experience coupled with his drive to make the state association everything he believes it can be.

And what he feels it can be is very close to what he has helped it become over several years as a member and participant.

Brinkmeyer, a member of Mika, Meyers, Beckett & Jones, will work all year on a variety of state bar issues, including helping the organization stay on top of its recently adopted strategic plan.

"Historically the bar had developed something called the presidential mission where the president-elect, before his upcoming term as president, would announce their agenda," said Brinkmeyer. "The problem was that these programs were usually far reaching and they required lots of time and money. Most of them also ended up lasting far beyond the president's term. A few years ago a number of officers decided having a presidential agenda was not in the best interests (of the association) so we developed a strategic plan."

Before assuming the presidency, Brinkmeyer had to spend time in various offices within the bar. Organizationally, the State Bar of Michigan has a board of commissioners elected from districts across the state set up according to lawyer population. It also has a representative assembly, whose members are elected by the constituencies from their respective districts.

Brinkmeyer was elected to serve on the representative assembly and served two terms until he became chair of the assembly, the last of three positions he held, which also included assembly clerk and vice chair.

For the next year, he will be president of the 35,000-member bar.

"Once you become vice president, you move up automatically. Prior to that position the board elects you every year to serve each position for one year, so you have to have the confidence of the board behind you," said Brinkmeyer. "This year it will be my responsibility to serve as a representative for those 35,000 members, to travel around the state to talk with the various bar associations from the Upper Peninsula to the south, to talk with them about the bar, what is happening in their regions, what difficulties they are encountering and what we can do to help them in the practice of law."

During his year of service he will work on various committees, talk with thousands of lawyers to ascertain their perspectives on law in different areas of the state, interface with the state Supreme Court, the governor and her team, and do his part to carry out and promote the mission of the state bar across the state.

He also will work to implement the strategic plan he helped to create in 2001.

One of the strategic plan's core focuses was on finances, dealing with the large bill the presidential agendas had run up. The bar association has since achieved a balanced budget. The plan also has several internal focuses, including a review of staff functions and business practices. During a time of reorganization through the strategic plan, the state bar terminated its relationship with its former executive director and hired John T. Berry to assist in the refinement process of the internal aspects of the bar.

"He helped us refine our staff, committees, sections and functions," said Brinkmeyer. "If there was ever an application of leaner and meaner, it has been within the state bar over the past couple of years. There is a brand new organization structure within the bar and we have raised our dues for the first time in over a decade."

While Brinkmeyer is busy keeping the state bar running, he also will actively continue his practice with Mika Meyers, where he works in civil litigation, commercial, torte law and oil and gas litigation, among other things.

"I have been lucky to have such a regionally diverse practice and have been able to practice from the Soo to southeast Michigan, on both sides of the table, prosecuting and defense," said Brinkmeyer. "I think with this new job, my connections will continue and I will be able to continue to work with minority lawyers, lawyers from the Upper Peninsula, and people I wouldn't have been able to if it wasn't for the state bar."           

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