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    After 43 years with Secrest Wardle, Lois J. Martin retires

    By: Dana Burleigh

    Lois Martin began her career at Secrest Wardle as a legal assistant in 1977 for Wayne D. Gardner. Through her long tenure with the firm, she worked for several senior partners. In 1997, her attorney became Managing Partner and Lois became involved in all activities related to management responsibilities at the firm. She was appointed Human Resources Manager for the firm in January, 2009. Lois underwent extensive training for the job and at that time had been a member of the local chapter of the ALA since 2006. She was elected to the ALA board of directors serving as its president in 2011.

    Lois obtained her Business Degree from Lansing Business University and attended Oakland Community College.

    In an email to the entire firm earlier this year announcing her retirement, Mark Morley noted that Lois has always had a special understanding of the demands placed on the support staff. She never asked or expected anyone to perform task that she, herself, has not done hundreds of times. The Firm has benefitted greatly from her work ethic, her ability to understand and manage all types of personnel situations and her good humor.

    I have had the opportunity to get to know Lois over the last several weeks since she hired me to fill part of her role at the firm. I sat down with her to ask a few questions about her life and career.

    Lois, tell me about how you got into working in the legal field.
    Answer: I decided in high school that I wanted to be a legal secretary (n/k/a Legal Assistant). I wanted a career that I believed would allow me to work for many years, take time off to raise a family and then return. I thought the area of law would be more lucrative than a general secretary.

    Because many of us have, was there a time you ever thought of getting out of legal? What would you have done if not this?
    Answer: I did consider trying to do something different at the point in my career where the Sr. Partner I was working for started talking about his retirement plan. At that point I didn’t know what I wanted to do – just knew it had to be different. Early on I considered going back to school to be a teacher, but then I started having children and my “free time” was no longer “free.”

    What is the best part of your day working at Secrest Wardle?
    Answer: I have always enjoyed mentoring our Legal Assistants. When I meet with staff for performance reviews, I enjoy the conversations we have about how to do things possibly a little differently, more efficiently or even coming up with creative ways of trying to get their attorneys on track and how to work better as a team.

    Tell me about some of the biggest challenges you faced over the years.
    Answer: Laying off and restructuring staff in 2008 when the economy took a downturn; losing a beloved Legal Assistant to suicide, dealing with the continuing changes to Legal Assistant duties. With the increase in technology, updating protocols for keeping documents and saving of emails! And finally, trying to hire and maintain a motivated, hard-working team.

    You and I have been doing this job for a very long time. Tell me a “remember when” story.
    Answer: I was actually putting together a congratulatory email today for one of our Legal Assistants who has been with the firm 35 years – in one of her reference letters it talked about her abilities in handling shorthand and “mag card” equipment… Oh my, that brought back memories. I remember being thrilled when Selectric typerwriters came into vogue with the correcting back space, erasable bond, the challenge of making copies with carbon paper. I could go on and on. I have seen a lot of changes in my career and I hope I will always, “remember when.”

    What made you join ALA and what has been the best part of your experience with the Chapter and National Organization?
    Answer: Our firm had always encouraged managers to be associated with the ALA. In fact, the woman who hired me, Linda Widrig, was very involved in the formation of the original Metro Detroit Chapter. I have always admired her and in some part feel some of my management strategies mirror hers. As I had never managed staff before, I felt the Chapter meetings would be a place where I could network and learn from others who had been managing for some time. I had no idea the wealth of knowledge and the comradery I would obtain from this group. I learned so much. I had the privilege of attending several National and Regional conferences and these were extremely beneficial. As you know when you are a manager, you are basically an “island” within your firm and to be able to share stories and experience with others while learning from them is something I will always treasure. The travel experiences and friendships, especially while serving on the Board, are memories I will always treasure.

    What are you most proud of?
    Answer: For me the best part has been watching certain staff members through the years grow and develop into well-rounded, gifted people. That is something that has really made me proud. When you are able to give someone a chance and watch them learn to love what they do, find their strengths and become a valuable part of your team that is a great feeling. I compare it often to watching your child grow into an established, independent member of society.

    Everyone will want to know what you and Tom (Lois’ husband) are going to do now!
    Answer: Originally, we were going to take some time and travel this summer. We have friends in many parts of the country we were hoping to spend time with. Obviously, that has now changed. We look forward to spending time with our grandchildren (hopefully soon), both in Michigan and Ohio, get our yard back into shape and enjoy not having a routine!

    Working with Lois these last several weeks makes me wish I’d had the opportunity to work with her a lot longer. She will be greatly missed by her firm and she had to hire two of us to fill her shoes. Lauren Lewis and I are grateful for the extensive training, mentorship and fast friendship!

    Senior Legal Assistant and Client Coordinator, Beth Pelligrini, had this to say about Lois: “I have personally never met or worked with anyone like Lois in my 30 years of being in the legal world. What she has taught me in the last six years of my career is you can still be a loyal and dedicated employee without losing your personal life. She has impacted my work life and my family’s life by showing me how to be humble, when to be silent and that balance in my life will give me happiness. She indeed is a respectful boss, an appreciative manager, and a kind human being.” Penny Winger, Legal Assistant/Firm Trainer, added: “I have worked with Lois for the last 31 years. Lois has been the best HR Manager we have had since I have worked at Secrest Wardle. She always had the open-door policy and was there to support the staff. She will be truly missed.”

    ALA Members, Denise Doherty and Beth Lockwood also shared some thoughts with me about Lois. “Lois is truly one of a kind! We met Lois through ALA and developed a friendship that will endure a lifetime. We served on the ALA Board together as each of us served as President of the Chapter. We have countless memories, but our fondest memories include attending many ALA seminars together and our time on the ALA Board. Although we are so happy for her retirement, she will truly be missed in the legal community. Lois is an amazing role model for her dedication to her family, her role at Secrest Wardle and ALA.”

    From all of us at the Metro Detroit Chapter, Lois, all the best in your future endeavors!