Shining Star Winners

With such busy lives, it can be hard to imagine taking on any more responsibilities.  However, there are paralegals/legal assistants out there who, in addition to all the pressures of life, go above and beyond what is expected of them.  Shining Stars are Michigan paralegals/legal assistants who have been nominated and selected to be featured on our website, our Section's Facebook page and in the Michigan Paralegal, for their outstanding charitable and/or community service works.   

Shining Stars Winners

February 2020


Heidi Pierce is the Co-Chair of the recently founded Ingham County Bar Association Paralegal Section. She stepped into that role with confidence and without hesitation. She is dedicated to providing educational and networking opportunities to paralegals, legal assistants, and anyone else in the legal community - all for free. Heidi is a great mentor, and is kind and patient, especially with this nominator - her Co-Chair of the section - who normally runs around like a chicken with her head cut off. Heidi has helped make the dream of starting a paralegal section in the area a reality. She goes above and beyond on a daily basis - not only for the section, but also for her clients.

Heidi is a 2015 Summa Cum Laude graduate of Baker College, where she received her Associates of Business - Paralegal. Prior to her internship with attorney Rosemary Howley Buhl, Heidi had accumulated many years of office administration and customer service experience. Upon introduction to the elder law field, she quickly realized that it was a great fit for her patient and compassionate personality. Heidi continues to assist attorney Buhl with Estate Planning, Estate and Trust Administration, Guardianship and Conservatorship Petitions, and all related matters. She is an active volunteer with the Capital Area Humane Society; and a member of both NALA and SBM Paralegal/Legal Assistant Section. Heidi lives in East Lansing and enjoys road trips, concerts, and spending time with her dog, Buster.

Heidi thank you for being the Shining Star you are!

November 2019

Donna Norman

Good leadership is often a rare quality and should be acknowledged.   Therefore, our Shining Star for November 2019 is Donna Norman! 

Donna received a Criminal Justice degree from Baker College, and is currently working as a paralegal with Fakhoury Global Immigration, USA PC.  Donna has been a paralegal in the immigration field for four years, after having initially worked as a legal assistant, and she specializes in H-1, L-1 petitions, in addition to handling a variety of other paralegal work.  Donna is very knowledgeable in the immigration field, and her work ethic is beyond reproach.  Co-workers describe Donna as compassionate, honest, intelligent, and loving.   

Outside of work, Donna cares for her two children - Devonte and Deyanna. Devonte will graduate high school next year, and Deyanna is a beautiful singer.  Donna has a great passion for helping others and, in doing so, has made a great impact in her community.  Donna is extremely outgoing and is always the life of the party.

Donna’s leadership, authentic personality, work ethic, and impact on people she encounters, all make her a shining star.

Great Job Donna!!!

March 2019

Katherine Michael has been a paralegal with The Meisner Law Group, P.C. which specializes in Community and Condominium Association Law, a very specialized area of law, for 35 years. She works harder than any other paralegal in the firm, meeting with clients in the evenings and on weekends, and attending annual corporate meetings, meanwhile she is a very effective manager for the law firm. Even though she fills many shoes, her work ethic is beyond reproach and she is meticulous with regard to her work product, keeping up with changing laws and drafting documents that benefit the firm's clients both now and that which is anticipated for the future.

She is an awesome mother and very important to her family, lovingly taking care of parents that need her. She is a wonderful and loyal friend, and despite her heavy workload and personal obligations, maintains a very positive mindset as well as a sense of humor. She is a wonderful person to know, to work with, and to call a friend.

Thank you Katherine for being the wonderful and fabulous Shining Star you are!  We honor you this month!

December 2018

Kim Thelen has been a paralegal for almost 10 years, specializing in criminal defense litigation. She has worked on all aspects of litigation in state and federal court, and her efforts have been instrumental in numerous successes. Kim's kindness and intelligence know no bounds. Many clients have praised her compassion and work ethic. With the area of law that she specializes in, it can be a scary and frustrating process for clients, but her warm and kind demeanor quickly eases clients' worries. Kim is incredibly knowledgeable when it comes to the legal process and has been a mentor to numerous staff members over the years - including her nominator, Elizabeth Cary, who thanks her greatly for all that she has taught her.

During work hours, Kim's passion is breathing life into the Constitution. Outside of work, her passion is improving the health of others. As a certified kickboxing instructor, she has volunteered her time for multiple health fairs through local hospitals. She believes that learning to love fitness should start at a young age, so she started offering free fitness classes for children at the local elementary and high schools, and became a volunteer coach for numerous soccer, volleyball and baseball teams.

Kim's impeccable work ethic, passion for volunteering, and kind demeanor make her a shining star!!!

October 2018


Marcy Jankovich, ACP’s engagement as mentee and mentor within associations has benefited many legal assistants. She served as a regional director for NALA. Marcy was an officer in the Legal Assistants Association of Michigan, Inc. (LAAM). LAAM is a past affiliate of NALA. Her work as an officer and council member of the Legal Assistant/Paralegal Section of the State Bar of Michigan is renowned. Marcy gave presentations, wrote articles, and retained notable speakers including a sitting state supreme court justice for events. Marcy was instrumental in obtaining the first and many successive proclamations for Legal Assistant/Paralegal Day in Michigan.

Marcy graduated from the Southeastern Paralegal Institute. After a divorce, Marcy had the desire to know how she could have done better in the settlement. Marcy was involved in her supervisor’s, a prosecuting attorney’s, election to the bench. It redirected her career to become a claims specialist with LawyerCare where she investigated lawyers professional liability claims and thoroughly enjoyed telling attorneys what to do. In her career, Marcy sat “…in the United States Supreme Court in Washington, DC in the front row (behind attorneys) directly across from Chief Justice Roberts in the Special Guest section watching MY case argued. (We lost).

Her civic endurance is inspiring. Marcy is active in the local political scene. Her belief in safe gun handling skills prompted Marcy to cofound a shooting chapter of The Well Armed Woman (T.W.A.W.) in Jackson. Finally, Marcy’s unwavering support of family and friends qualifies her as a Shining Star. As Sir Isaac Newton said, "If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants". Many paralegals, including the nominator, are indebted to Marcy for all of her giant contributions to our profession. Thank you Ms. Jankovich.

September 2017


Samantha L. Jones is a Paralegal with Apple Street Law Office, specializing in Family Law with a focus on Child Custody, Parenting Time, and Child Support matters. She has a passion for alternative dispute resolution and is State Court Administrator’s Office (SCAO) certified in domestic relations mediation and domestic violence screening.

Samantha has experience as a Parenting Coordinator, helping to implement the parenting time orders of the court and to resolve parenting disputes and supervising parenting time. She became a member of the State Bar of Michigan’s Paralegal/Legal Assistant Section after earning her American Bar Association (ABA) accredited Bachelor Degree in Paralegal Studies from Davenport University. While attending Davenport, she worked side-by-side with the Department Chair of Paralegal Studies assisting with the renewal of the ABA accreditation. Samantha continues to attend continuing legal education seminars to stay current on the changing laws. She has been able to achieve her accomplishments with the assistance of her four boys and a loving, supportive husband.

Prior to Davenport, Samantha earned an ABA accredited Associates Degree in Paralegal Studies from Kellogg Community College where she graduated with honors as a member of the paralegal honors society, Lambda Epsilon Chi (LEX). During her internships at KCC, she worked closely with a local defense attorney on a Michigan Supreme Court foreclosure case helping with the preparation of the brief. While attending KCC, she jumped at the chance to shadow a Special Assistant Attorney General regarding the preparation for and attending of child support hearings, which sparked her interest in family law.

Samantha and her family are long-standing members of the Barry County Community. Her family has owned businesses in Hastings, including the Shell Gas Station and Hastings Color Center.

Nominated by: Diane Vanderweide

Great Job Samantha!!!


June 2017


Ann Coleman’s career at Collins Einhorn Farrell PC as a paralegal in asbestos-bodily injury litigation is unparalleled and has set the standard for defense firms not only in Michigan, but throughout the country. Ann has been instrumental in implementing and maintaining the protocols, reporting requirements and litigation-tracking systems in-place for the numerous entities where Collins Einhorn serves as National Coordinating Counsel. This is in addition to her having systems in-place to instantly know the background, allegations of exposure and testimony of all Michigan plaintiffs, both past and present.

The assistance and advice Ann provides, whether it be to a client, an attorney or paralegal anywhere in America or within Collins Einhorn, is always delivered with a smile and in an effort to make the endeavor easier on all involved! In addition to her work on the Michigan docket  on the National asbestos scene, Ann’s charitable side has led her to head Collins Einhorn's award-winning United Way Fund Drive Committee.

Great job Ann!!

September 2015


Melvenna Fant-Jones is a very intelligent, humble, competent, honest, and reliable paralegal. She graduated in 2007 from the Academy of Court Reporting in Clawson (Summa Cum Laude), with a Paralegal Certification specializing in criminal, civil, family, immigration, and bankruptcy law. She is currently an immigration paralegal for Fakhoury Law Group in Troy. Melvenna assists with the PERM Labor Certification cases, EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 I-140 cases, Adjustment of Status cases, Green Card renewal cases, and H-1B cases pending with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. She has worked with many foreign nationals under the direction of her supervising attorneys and assisted foreign nationals in obtaining employment, legal permanent residence, and green cards throughout the United States.

Melvenna is an associate member of the State Bar of Michigan, an associate member of the American Bar Association, and a member of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations. Additionally, Melvenna is also a member of Sara's House which helps battered and abused women like she once was become self-sufficient. Melvenna's passion is to strengthen and empower women who think they have no purpose, be successful not only for themselves but for their children as well. The battles she has faced growing up to now being a successful and gracious paralegal makes Melvenna the best person for this award. She is definitely a shining star who gives herself tirelessly to anyone in need!

February 2015


Joseph D. Farley is an honest, professional, and humble paralegal. He began his journey in 2007, by starting a Men's Life coaching company called “Friends of Fathers” to help fathers with child support issues navigate properly through the Friend of the Court process. His coaching services provides educational, advocacy, and resource services for fathers. He has helped many fathers to become self-sufficient and more supportive to their children and families.

As a Men's Life coach, he has suffered ridicule, slander, false accusations, and the like. However, during his transition from life coach to paralegal, Joseph remained humble and steadfast. He has since then obtained his paralegal degree and has also become an active member of the National Federation of Paralegal Association. He is now a paralegal for attorney Mikal Crawford of Crawford & Associates, while maintaining his life coaching company. Joseph's passion is to strengthen men and empower fathers to be reconnected with their families.  He is indeed a worthy recipient of this award.

April 2014


Jean Mitchell-Walster is a very competent paralegal with Julie Taylor & Associates. She does a phenomenal job with everything that she is assigned. While working full time, she also earned two insurance designations- Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter and Chartered Financial Consultant which are very important designations in the insurance industry. She also attends Oakland Community College for post degree studies in ceramics technology, while working full time. Besides all of that, she holds a Bachelor’s degree in photography and a Master of Arts degree in communications. Her nominator opined that she would be a great lawyer and has been encouraged to consider law school as well. She is currently studying for the Certified Paralegal designation.

She also coordinates charitable giving efforts in the office for Thanksgiving and arranges for the office to adopt a foster child for Christmas while collecting designated gifts for that child. She is the sole driving force of that endeavor. She is indeed a worthy recipient of this award.

March 2014

Renee Jent, CLA is a senior claims specialist for ProAssurance Companies handling legal malpractice claims on behalf of attorneys in several states. She is also a licensed insurance adjuster in the State of Delaware. She has been continually active in promoting the paralegal profession, initially as a board member and president of LAAM (Legal Assistants Association of Michigan) beginning in 1997 and tirelessly as a board member and officer of the Paralegal Section of the State Bar of Michigan since that time. Renee currently serves as secretary of the Section and chair of the Annual Meeting.  Besides being a graduate of the Lake Superior State University legal assistant program, she also received her degree in office administration (both in 1995). Renee was honored with the Outstanding Student Associate Degree in both the legal assistant and business programs. She is also an active member of the National Association of Legal Assistants and has participated in the LEAP leadership program of that organization. Renee obtained her Certified Legal Assistant designation from NALA in 2002.

Renee has demonstrated a commitment to excellence in her chosen profession throughout her career, including interstate child support enforcement with the Friend of the Court in the 26th Judicial Circuit Court. She has also demonstrated significant service through past employment at private legal and insurance firms. She was president of the Downtown Development Authority for Village of Lincoln from 1999 to 2004. Renee is past president of the former statewide NALA affiliate Legal  Assistants Association of Michigan, Inc. (LAAM) from 2003 to 2007 and served as LAAM’s NALA liaison from 2001 to 2003. She currently sits on the Paralegal Program Advisory Committee at Lansing Community College and previously served the Legal Studies Advisory Committee of Lake Superior State University from 1997-2010. 

Renee’s star not only shines in the legal profession, but she is also involved in numerous civic activities and enjoys being in the community of Williamston.

February 2014

Ida Rose Farhat, ACP is a corporate paralegal with Foster Swift Collins& Smith, P.C., in Lansing, Michigan. Ida has served in many leadership positions within the State Bar of Michigan Paralegal Association. Ida is currently serving on the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) Certifying Board and has been a member of this Board since 2009. In addition, Ida has served NALA as Nominations and Elections Chair and was a participant in NALA's inaugural Leadership Enhancement and Preparation Initiative.

Seeing a need for a local paralegal association, Ida was instrumental in the formation of the new Michigan NALA affiliated association "Great Lakes Paralegal Association" ("GLPA"). As a co-founder of GLPA and one of its charter members, Ida tirelessly works to promote the profession – in particular, to promote continuing education and voluntary certification for all paralegals. Ida deeply believes in the importance of mentoring paralegal students and new paralegals to the field and is constantly helping those within the legal community. Ida is passionate about the profession and has a remarkable gift for helping those around her – she is a "Shining Star"!

January 2014

Vanessa Lozzi is a bank officer and litigation support specialist with Flagstar Bank in Troy. During 2007-2008, she served as a committee chair for SBM Paralegal/Legal Assistant Section. For several years, she co-organized this Section’s Annual Day of Education and social mixers. She is program chair for Eastern Michigan Chapter of ALSP (a division of ACEDS) and past president. She is a member of ILTA and serves on Law Department Steering Committee, as Detroit Regional member liaison, and assists coordinating ILTA’s National Conference and educational programs. She is an ARMA International, Detroit Chapter, member. From 2004-2007, she was Section chair of Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association. From 2004-2006, she was the assistant to the Vice Chair of the SBM Real Property Law Section. From 1999-2000, she was assistant to Program Chair of FBA, Executive Board, Eastern District of Michigan Chapter.

For the past six years, she organized ALSP (a division of ACEDS) and WiE’s (joined co-cohosting two years ago) Annual Holiday Party benefitting Grace Centers of Hope, raising proceeds for “The Face of the Homeless,” providing refuge, safety, security, and homes for those without one. She served on Fundraising Committee for Turning Point in Mt. Clemens.

From 2004-2012, she served on Baker College Paralegal Advisory Board of Clinton Township and assisted in developing its ABA-approved program and since then she is now an adjunct professor. She was a contributor to the Technology and the Paralegal chapter of The Paralegal Profession, Second Edition. She has been a panel moderator and speaker at several college, paralegal and litigation support professional events. In 2007, she was a recipient of the DMBA Distinguished Award.

Vanessa’s dedication to serving with various paralegal/bar associations and organizations, her charitable work for those in need and educating students and colleagues has earned her the first Shining Star Award for 2014!

December 2013

Lynda B. Falotico (awarded posthumously) was a devoted long time paralegal at Lipson, Neilson, Cole, Seltzer & Garin P.C. Law and a charter member of the State Bar's paralegal section since 1999. She passed away on September 14, 2013. Her skills in handling litigation matters, in various fields, were stellar. Her ability to relate to clients helped create outstanding relationships with them. Her willingness to take on new types of work was much appreciated. Her family, colleagues and the clients she served miss her very much.

She was nominated by her employer Mr. Steven Malach. By honoring her family’s wishes, the Paralegal Section of the State Bar of Michigan is making a donation to the American Cancer Society in lieu of a gift card. Lynda set the bar high for what a paralegal can accomplish if they have the heart and desire. The December, 2013 Shining Star Award will be presented to Lynda’s family in her honor.

November 2013

Nicole M. Cook is a phenomenal paralegal "in progress" whose dedication to the profession has made her an excellent candidate and winner of the State Bar of Michigan’s Paralegal/Legal Assistant Section’s Shining Star Award. As a former officer in the Paralegal/Legal Assistant Section of the State Bar and Legal Assistant Association of Michigan, Ms. Cook has contributed to the advancement of our field through her dedication to these organizations.

Throughout her career, beginning with her service in the United States Army Reserves JAG Corp., Ms. Cook held subsequent legal employment with private firms and public entities within the Lansing area. Her commitment to education is ongoing as she is enrolled in a Master of Public Administration (MPA), Public Administration program with expected completion in 2014. She does all of this while parenting her three fantastic children.

Ms. Cook’s work-life balance is awe inspiring and worthy of recognition through the Section’s Shining Star Award. Congratulations Nicole!

May 2013

Beth Kinnaird (awarded posthumously) died suddenly on April 5, 2013, at age 43. Beth was a hardworking and driven paralegal who devoted her time to the profession and to her family. She was a trademark paralegal at Butzel Long for more than 15 years before moving to Honigman Miller Schwartz & Cohn LLP in 2010. With Beth's passing we lose a good friend, co-worker and fellow Section member. The May 2013 Shining Star Award will be presented to Beth's family in her honor.

April 2013

Jaxine Wintjen, CLA (awarded posthumously) former SBM Paralegal/Legal Assistant Section officer and council member Jaxine Wintjen, CLA, of Williamston, has been awarded the Shining Star Award for April 2013 for her continuous dedication to the paralegal profession. Jaxine died on May 1, 2013, at age 53, at Hospice House of Mid-Michigan. She was an active participant in the Section from its inception in 1989/1990 and served the Section in a variety of capacities—as chair, secretary, treasurer, council member, and committee chair. She was a member of NALA and LAAM. She worked in the legal profession for more than 30 years and for Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith, in Lansing, as an employee benefits paralegal for 37 years. The April 2013 Shining Star Award will be presented to Jaxine's family in her honor.

December 2012

Kelly A. LaGrave, ACP is a corporate paralegal with Foster Swift Collins& Smith, P.C., in Lansing. She was elected First Vice President of the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) in July 2012. She is an Advisory Committee Member for the Lansing Community College Paralegal Program, a frequent speaker and columnist, and a member of numerous legal and community organizations. Kelly has always understood that education doesn’t stop upon earning a degree. The hallmark of her success is her integrity. Kelly has earned the title Shining Star for her dedication to the profession, to education and to her community! Congratulations, Kelly. Please keep up the good work!

August 2011

Vicki Voisin has worked as a paralegal for over 20 years and has become a nationally recognized author and speaker, widely known for her paralegal seminars, her work mentoring other paralegals, and her unique approach to ethics training for legal staff. She writes comprehensively about how paralegals can enhance and advance their careers in The Paralegal Mentor: Strategies for Paralegals Seeking Excellence. She is co-host of "The Paralegal Voice" on Legal Talk Network. And she authors a weekly online magazine called Paralegal Strategies. She has served as president of the National Association of Legal Assistants and president of the SBM Paralegal/Legal Assistant Section.

July 2011

Charlie Campbell received the award for his work helping low-income people in Kent County. He is the program coordinator at Legal Assistance Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation in Grand Rapids. He began working at the Center as a student intern and continued to volunteer there even after he graduated from Davenport University and was hired by an attorney in private practice. The dedication with which Campbell produced his work as a volunteer was of such a high quality that the Center offered him a position as an employee. He is a valuable asset to the Center, and very enthusiastic about his job and his profession.