May 2018 Newsletter

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Leaders in the Law: Diane Hewson—Class of 2018 “Michigan Lawyer’s Weekly”

Diane Hewson, Partner and Vice President of Case Flow and Trial Management at Hewson & Van Hellemont P.C., joined by colleagues, friends and family, received her Leaders in the Law award on April 5th at a luncheon hosted by the Michigan Lawyer’s Weekly.

Ms. Hewson graduated from University of Michigan–Dearborn in 1986 with a BA in Political Science and secondary concentration in Philosophy. She graduated from the Detroit College of Law (now known as the Michigan State College of Law) in 1991 with a Juris Doctor.

Ms. Hewson spent the first part of her career with her focus in the area of plaintiff’s personal injury claims, including in-depth knowledge of auto accident related law. She also practiced as an associate for several large plaintiff firms and as a sole practitioner for several years. Her experience in the aggressive development of claims for the purpose of maximizing their settlement/trial value has given her the opportunity to advocate effectively for her clients.

She has developed a reputation for efficiently sorting out, early on, those claims that are legitimate from those that require an aggressive defense and a no-compromise position. Diane enjoys giving back to the legal community by volunteering her time and experience in various arenas. Some of those include presentations to various groups and organizations on effective deposition techniques, trial strategy and claims handling practices. She has been a return presenter to IASIU and ICLE, and is on the ICLE No-Fault Summit Board. She has had the honor of working with JLWOP (Juvenile Life Without Parole) program which represents juvenile offenders who were given life sentences but are now eligible for conversion to term of years sentences as a result of changes to the law at the federal and state level.

She grew up in Lincoln Park, MI and has fond memories of climbing, with her friend, every tree in a three block radius carving their initials in the trunks just for fun. As a kid she had decided to be a lawyer. She saw the movie “A Man for All Seasons” with Paul Scoffield as Sir Thomas More and she fell in love with the idea of law. In one scene, Sir More is berated by his son in-law for wanting to strictly follow the law, even though doing so would benefit a bad man. Mr. Scoffield aka Sir More replies: “I would give the devil the benefit of the law for my own safety’s sake.” That made a lot of sense to her then and still does today. Her first official job, other than babysitting, was for Toys R Us when she was 16. That experience confirmed her conviction to go to college and not have to work for Toys R Us.  

Being a lawyer has allowed her, a girl from Lincoln Park, to have an impact on the world around her. She has been able to represent people who otherwise could not have hired a lawyer because they did not have the means. Diane has been able to stand next to people and advocate for those who could not advocate for themselves. She is able to do her part to expose fraud and help defend a system that, at its best, provides for a life time of care to people catastrophically injured. In short, Diane, the daughter of parents who never went to college or accumulated any significant wealth, gets to make a difference. For some people, she has even changed their lives. If she had not been a lawyer she would have pursued another career that allowed her to be an advocate. Advocating on behalf of others is what she does best.

Ms. Hewson’s biggest professional accomplishment occurred 10 years before she realized it was her biggest professional accomplishment. She recounts: I represented a married man with three children, for injuries sustained in a car accident. He suffered from Bipolar Disorder which, when he was medicated, was well controlled. He was not always medicated. During the pendency of the case, his wife divorced him. She did not stop loving him or taking care of him but she couldn’t allow him to keep having access to the finances because he was ruining them. When he was in his manic stage, he would spend indiscriminately to the point he had to file for bankruptcy. There was a very large policy on the vehicle involved in the accident and my client’s injuries were such that he was entitled to all of it. I was concerned, however, that during a period when he was not well medicated, he would blow through the money, leaving him and his family unprotected. I was able to persuade him that he should take a small up front sum and allow the rest to be put into an annuity, with payouts every 5 years. I may have implied that it would be easier to get the case settled if he followed this plan.

Approximately 10 years later, I received a call from his wife. She told me that my former client committed suicide approximately 2 years before. The reason she was calling was to tell me that her youngest child had just graduated from college and that all of her children had been able to go to college because of the annuity we set up for her husband. She told me that she knew I talked her husband into doing that because of his illness and that the defendant would have paid out the proceeds in one lump sum, had I asked. She said it was important to her that I knew she knew that and that she wanted to thank me. I don’t have the words to describe how that felt.  
She did have some challenges in the legal professional. Her biggest challenge was returning to the practice of law after taking 5 years off to stay home with her children when they were small. She took that time right after tort reform was passed by the legislature. The field she returned to as a Plaintiff’s attorney was vastly different from the one she had left. In addition to dealing with all of the changes in the law, her lawyer skills had taken a beating while off. It turns out that you do not use the same skill set changing diapers as you do when trying a case. She does, however, believe her skill in negotiating her way out of unreasonable demands increased dramatically. 

Balancing her professional life and her personal life has been tough. Diane says, “This profession does not lead to balance, although I think that is changing. What I did was start my day incredibly early.  I got to the office as early as necessary so that I could leave by 4 or 5 to be home with my children. Being away from my kids when they were sleeping was a lot easier than being gone when they were awake. Also, I made sure that home time was home time and not - work away from the office - time.”  

Diane thinks, “The profession has changed a lot. For a long time, it seemed as if the profession was getting meaner and more aggressive for no better reason than to be mean and aggressive. The younger lawyers seem to be changing that. They are more cordial and civil. I like that. Of course, I’m old now so they may just be kind to the elderly but I don’t think so. They are bringing their own style and it is a welcome change.” Her advice to young lawyers, to help them find success and fulfillment in their career, is to not let anyone cheat you out of the honor of being a lawyer. Read the laws, read the rules, be as crafty as possible on behalf of your clients and be honorable. 

Hewson & Van Hellemont, P.C. is honored to acknowledge the contribution Ms. Hewson has made to legal profession and to the community. Congratulations Diane.

Welcome Our New Attorneys

Jasmine Moore

Ms. Moore attended Michigan State University and earned a B.A. in Social Relations and Policy from the James Madison College in 2014.

She went on to Wayne State Law School as a Damon J. Keith Scholar, where she graduated in 2017. At Wayne Law, Ms. Moore was an Note Editor for the Journal of Law and Society and served as the Academic Success Chair of the Black Law Student Association. During her law school tenure, Jasmine gained legal experience working at several private law offices, at the City of Detroit Law Department and with the Honorable Avern Cohn in the United Stated District Court of the Eastern District of Michigan.

Ms. Moore was admitted to the State Bar of Michigan in 2017 and joined Hewson & Van Hellemont, P.C. in February 2018. Ms. Moore is a member of the Wolverine Bar Association and is very active in her community serving as the Community Service chair for the Detroit Spartans Alumni Club.

Jillian Peterson

Ms. Peterson graduated from University of Michigan in 2012, with a Bachelor of Arts in History. She received her Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University, where she participated in multiple student organizations as well as the Journal of Law in Society. Ms. Peterson graduated from Wayne State University Law School in 2015, cum laude. In addition to being a licensed member of the State Bar of Michigan, Ms. Peterson is also a member of several professional organizations such as the Oakland County Bar Association and the Centennial Chapter of the American Inns of Court.

Before joining Hewson & Van Hellemont, P.C. in 2018, Ms. Peterson worked at a personal injury firm where she frequently encountered Plaintiffs’ first- and third-party claims. Prior to that, Ms. Peterson worked at the Genesee County Circuit Court in the Civil/Criminal division as a law clerk to the Honorable Joseph J. Farah. Ms. Peterson also served as the Chairperson of the Free Legal Aid Clinic, a non-profit legal aid organization dedicated to helping low-income members of Wayne County find access to justice.

Chioma Nwachukwu

Ms. Nwachukwu received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Michigan in 2004 where she studied Biopsychology and Cognitive Science as well as History. She attended the University of Michigan Law School and graduated with her Juris Doctorate in 2008.

While attending the University of Michigan Law School, Chioma was an active member of the Michigan Journal of Race & Law, serving as its Editor-In-Chief during her last year. She also served as a student attorney in the Child Advocacy Law Clinic and interned as a law clerk with Public Advocates, a nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization in San Francisco, California.

Prior to joining Hewson & Van Hellemont, Ms. Nwachukwu worked as an associate attorney with Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe in San Francisco, California. She also worked in the private sector as an operations and program manager for a home health and rehabilitation company.

Ms. Nwachukwu was admitted to the State Bar of Michigan in 2017. She is a member of the American Bar Association, Federal Bar Association and Oakland County Bar Association. Ms. Nwachukwu joined Hewson & Van Hellemont in April 2018. Her area of practice includes insurance defense for no-fault cases.

Eric Jones

Eric Jones attended the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and received a B.S. in Biopsychology. He was a James B. Angell Scholar with class honors and interned at the School of Medicine. He then went on to Wayne State University Law School where he received his Juris Doctor. While studying he was a brief writer for the Moot Court National Team and was the recipient of the Bronze Key, the Faculty Award and an Honors Pass in Legal Research and Writing.

Eric has a broad range of litigation experience including insurance defense, commercial litigation, first and third-party automobile litigation, utilizing his experience in litigating multi-faceted catastrophic automobile insurance coverage issues, trucking litigation, contract disputes, coverage analysis and disputes, premises liability defense with an emphasis on retail establishments, general liability litigation, medical malpractice defense, professional liability defense, high-exposure property damage litigation and products liability defense. He joins the insurance defense team at Hewson & Van Hellemont.

Staff Changes: Cynthia Moore

The Board of Directors announces Cynthia Moore is promoted to the position of Firm Administrator. Cynthia has been an asset to the firm and has been relied upon to deal with the daily issues at the firm so this promotion recognizes her accomplishments.
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