College of Law

Jennifer Grieco '97

Leading the State Bar of Michigan as President

January 23, 2019

Jennifer Grieco

On September 27, 2018, Jennifer Grieco '97 was sworn in as the 84th president of the State Bar of Michigan. She serves as one of only seven other women presidents in the organization's history.

Grieco earned her BA and JD degrees from The University of Toledo. At Toledo Law, she served as note and comment editor of The University of Toledo Law Review. She graduated cum laude, as a member of the Order of the Coif honor society.

Grieco is a partner at Neuman Anderson Grieco McKenney, P.C. in Birmingham, Michigan, where she practices commercial litigation. She sits on the board of directors of Lakeshore Legal Aid, offering free legal services to low income and senior communities. She also helped establish the Oakland County Bar Pro Bono Mentor Match program, which partners new attorneys with seasoned legal mentors in the representation of a pro bono client.

Prior to serving as president of the state bar, she served as president of the Oakland County Bar Association (OCBA) and the Oakland County region of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan. She has also served as chair of the OCBA New Lawyers Committee.

Her distinctions include the Legal Aid and Defender Association Pro Bono Service Award and the OCBA Michael K. Lee Memorial Award recognizing diversity. She was named to Michigan Lawyers Weekly Women in the Law and to Crain's Detroit Business 40 under 40.

Q&A with Jennifer Grieco

What were the turning points in your education and career that led you to where you are now?
I was always determined to enter law school and to pursue a career in the law. When I started law school, I had intended to practice criminal law.  However, after securing a clerkship as a 2L at a large plaintiff’s firm in Southfield, Michigan, (and commuting back and forth to Toledo) I switched my focus to civil litigation. It was at this firm that I was encouraged to become an active member of the bar association as a young lawyer and that early involvement in the new lawyers committee certainly set me on the path that led me to serve as state bar president today.

What do you enjoy most about being a lawyer? And what is the most challenging aspect of being a lawyer?
I love being able to make a difference – whether it’s in a client’s life or impacting the future of a business – or for the public in our work in the bar association. We are so fortunate to have the skills and ability to make positive change in society.

I’ve always loved being a trial lawyer and the art of cross-examination. There’s nothing better than an effective cross-examination in trial, arbitration or deposition.

There are certainly a number of challenges – the constant competition for business, the billable hour and the inability to completely disengage from the practice of law are all challenges to being happy, especially in litigation.

What goals do you have for The State Bar of Michigan during your term as president?
Many! I have focused on collaboration with our many local bar associations and how we can work together to improve not only the practice of law for lawyers but access to the law for the public. We brought together local bar leaders for a Professionalism Summit to develop recommendations for how we can improve civility in an increasingly divisive world. I would be very pleased if, as a result of these efforts, the State Bar develops civility principles that would be adopted by the Supreme Court for use in all state courts in Michigan and for the discussion of improving civility to continue in local and affinity bar associations throughout the state.

I have really tried to simply engage members and educate them on the resources and benefits that the bar has to offer as well as the opportunities to become engaged and give back.

What suggestions do you have for current law students and new lawyers?
I would definitely suggest that they become active in their local or state bar association. It is not typical for a lawyer to practice law at one firm for their entire career. I’ve worked at three firms now. The colleagues that I have met through my local bar association are friends/colleagues that I have known (many of them) my entire career and that I have been able to go to for advice when I was making a firm change. The relationships that I have made in the bar association have really made the difference – especially for someone who did not grow up in Michigan and was without any contacts or family in Michigan – not just with networking but my satisfaction with the law.

Being a member of a bar association and keeping a focus on the “big picture” – how we as lawyers can work together to improve the law, provide access to the law and improve society as a whole, has helped to sustain me through my career and given me a true purpose.

Lawyers can engage in bar associations at any point in their career where their schedule allows the time. I would suggest that new lawyers develop those relationships and start building that reputation as a leader as soon as they can.

Do you have a favorite memory from attending Toledo Law?
I have many wonderful memories thanks to the people at Toledo Law – whether it was studying with friends in the library or visiting with Professor Gerald Moran and Professor Blake Morant who shared a suite at the time. I was Professor Moran’s research assistant during 2L and 3L and over that time, he became more of a mentor and a friend. But, if I’m honest, my favorite memories were celebrating after that last final and at graduation!

How did Toledo Law prepare you for a legal career?
Critical thinking, trial practice, and legal research and writing are skills that I gained at Toledo Law and have utilized for 21 years now. But I also developed the organization skills and focus in law school that I have needed to practice law, serve in leadership roles in the bar association and still maintain a work/life balance.

The Office of Career Development (now the Office of Professional Development) was invaluable in helping me to secure a position as a law clerk in Michigan, which led to full-time employment.

What are you passionate about?
The ability to use my law degree to make a difference – to help those in need with pro bono programs, to educate children on civics, to promote civility in the profession and society, etc. I’m currently collaborating on a project to provide pro bono legal services to the victims on human trafficking. It’s so rewarding to focus on the potential to solve problems for those in need and providing much-needed access to justice.

How do you like to spend your free time?
I spend as much of my free time as I can with my 9-year-old daughter, Meadow, who is growing up too fast. We have a Volkswagen camper bus and love to camp along Lake Michigan in the summer and fall. There’s nothing better than camping on the beach with a couple of good books. I’m also a fan of live music.

Share with us a fun or interesting fact about yourself.
My father was in the U.S Army and stationed throughout the U.S. and in Germany. I was born in Frankfurt, Germany and graduated from high school in Heidelberg, Germany. I was fortunate to spend three years living in Germany and touring Europe on family vacations and holidays.

Is there anything else you would like to share?
I strongly believe that the law and our profession would be well served if the public viewed lawyers more as public citizens (see Preamble to Rules of Professional Conduct) and officers of the court as opposed to simply business owners offering services which the general public cannot afford.

Last Updated: 10/3/19