Affiliate Spotlight: The Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association Barristers

Vol. 39 No. 5


D’Ontae D. Sylvertooth is an Assistant Editor of The Affiliate and a Trial Attorney in the Albuquerque, New Mexico Area Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In recent years, when one mentions the city of Detroit, the resulting thoughts tend to be negative—a bankrupt city with high crime rates, political corruption, and houses selling for $40. To me, the city of Detroit is more than what the headlines say it is.

Over 20 years ago, on Hamilton and Burlingame, affectionately known as the Westside of Detroit, I had my first trial—a trial that garnered my first unanimous verdict. Even though it was an imaginary trial and I was only in elementary school, it was a trial nevertheless, and the one that sparked my desire to be a lawyer. Growing up in Detroit, I didn’t personally know a single lawyer and the only lawyers I remotely knew anything about were those on the billboards displayed throughout the city and in local commercials. Things have certainly changed since my days in Detroit, and although I no longer call Detroit my home, I am certainly proud of the good work that the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association (DMBA) Barristers are doing to make Detroit a better place.

Like many young lawyers affiliates, the DMBA Barristers encourages young lawyers to hone their leadership skills, while simultaneously permitting its members to develop their networks with other young lawyers, experienced professionals, and law students. Here are just a few of the events that the DMBA Barristers have put on over the past few months.

Happy Feet Sock Drive

This past November, the Barristers made an effort to support the Fort Street Open Door Program, a charity out of the Fort Street Presbyterian Church located in downtown Detroit that offers a variety of services for the homeless, including food, clothing, hygienic services, and counseling. For those of you in the region, you know just how bad this past winter was, with record breaking temperatures and snowfall. Such tumultuous weather makes it difficult to stay warm, especially if one has wet and cold feet. So when the Fort Street Open Door Program was suffering a drought in socks, the Barristers stepped in and collected new and gently used socks to donate to Fort Street so that the program can continue its efforts to provide assistance to the homeless. With the Barristers help, many individuals throughout the Metropolitan area had happy feet because they were able to have two pairs of socks—one to wear and another to dry.

School Partnership Program

The Barristers also are busy helping local schools by providing mentorship to young students. As a result, many students in the metropolitan area are on a first name basis with area lawyers, something that I wish I had had the opportunity to have. Through the Barristers’ School Partnership Program, young lawyers and law students visit Detroit area schools, places where students’ understandings of the law and legal careers may be limited. The Barristers, while partnering with Teach for America, visited my alma mater—Cass Technical High School-to reach students from all across the city.

At these events, young lawyers and law students meet with students to begin mentoring relationships known as the “Budding Barristers.” The experience provides a great opportunity for young students to have a successful lawyer in the community as a positive role model.

Hats of to the DMBA Barristers for their work with local schools—my inner youth is certainly envious of the opportunities these young students have.

Make No Mistake About It, the Barristers Can Also Party like Rock Stars!

Along with all the charitable and educational components in the Barristers’ repertoire, the Section also knows the importance of relaxation and fun. During the Section’s “Pins ‘n’ Stripes” event, lawyers trade in their dress shoes and heels for some stylish bowling shoes. This event allows young lawyers to bowl, network, and enjoy good ole fashioned bowling food and beverages. I can only imagine the amount of trash talking that goes on between the lawyers about who will have the highest scores, or who simply is the gutter ball king or queen. All in all, it sounds like fun times.

During the “Summer Breeze and Law Clerk Party,” young lawyers, law clerks, law students, and members of the judiciary came together for an evening of networking. During the event, the Barristers recognize some of the best and brightest young attorneys who have exhibited great potential as future leaders of the legal community.

Kudos to the Detroit Metro Bar Association Barristers for all the great work that they have done, and the work they continue to do, to better the community and the profession. After reading this article, you will know why I am extremely proud to be “Imported from Detroit,” as they say in the commercials.


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