Should You Start Horsing Around?

2horsing around

What is your passion?

Equine Law?

Long before it was popular to find a niche in legal practice, I encouraged my students to consider defining their practice narrowly. For many reasons, it is far better to define your practice within narrowly defined limits as much as possible because of efficiency in practice. And I would cite one attorney as an example of one who did just that, Julie Fershtman.

Julie is the past President of the State Bar of Michigan and a very accomplished attorney. She didn’t get there by doing what other lawyers did. Julie graduated from law school with the thought that it might be possible to merge her love and interest in horses with her professional aspirations. First, she immersed herself in any part of the Michigan Code concerning horse ownership, liability, commerce or anything else related to horses that she could find. She investigated court cases and developments in the code which had the potential to affect anyone owning, leasing, transporting, riding or the equipment associated with horses.  Before doing this, Julie was aware that Michigan has a very large population of horses. She understood the kind of issues that horse owners dealt with and decided to become one of the few lawyers in the United States with “equine law” expertise.

Are you risk adverse?

But this meant that she had to take some risks and she decided to ask a gentleman, Jay Foonberg, if that area of law might have traction. Jay Foonberg wrote, How to Start & Build a Law Practice which is currently in its 5th edition and in my own experience, often described by practitioners that I interview as,”the Bible” for practice principles. Jay is a “heavyweight” in the solo practice arena; so Julie sought his advice about an equine law practice. In Julie’s own words;

I asked Jay Foonberg in 1993 whether an Equine Law practice was viable. He replied “no” and told me I’d starve. That was a challenge. I didn’t. (NOTE: I also practice commercial litigation, insurance law, insurance defense — not just equine, but much of my business came from my Equine Law work.).

Julie didn’t do this without a plan. She had dependents and responsibilities, so she went about this with persistence and an ability to see the potential for a practice in this specialty.

Diamonds are nothing more than chunks of coal that stuck to their jobs. – Malcolm Forbes

Michigan has a few publications for the horse industry such as, “Saddle Up! Magazine” which is distributed all over Michigan and beyond every month. Julie offered to write a column each month on horses and the law. She has been doing this since 1993 and though equine law is not her exclusive domain, it have been a productive and unique practice area with very little competition from the start. Even as others have entered the market (I now see others advertising “equine law” as an area of practice), Julie is the first and foremost expert in equine law. She even travels to other states to make presentations and has been hired as pro hac vice counsel for those affected by developments in this area of the law.  She has been able to follow her passion and opened doors for others to follow her example in developing new and creative ways to use a law degree.

Julie has her own blog, which you may wish to visit to find out more about this topic or to contact her.


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