July 2013 MAJ Pacesetter
When Mt. Clemens attorney Stu Fraser IV was young, he had a wonderful relationship with his elderly Aunt Pete (Mary Margaret was actually her name). Her husband was a lawyer in a Detroit firm who passed on too young. “My Aunt Pete would always tell me that every day Uncle Walter was, ‘as chipper as a bird’ when he would leave for work, and he loved practicing law. That silly phrase stuck with me, and ultimately served as an inspiration for me to become a lawyer, simply because I wanted to enjoy what kind of work I did in life. Fortunately, my aunt’s inspirational comments led me to a fascinating career over the past 35 years,” stated Fraser.
After 15 years working as a “black sheep” doing all of the plaintiff work in a firm doing primarily self-insured product liability defense, Fraser started his own firm. “I joined MAJ in 1991 because I needed the benefit of sharing ideas, info and strategies with other plaintiff lawyers, which MAJ certainly provides. Creating solidarity in support of our many causes can only be done efficiently through a network such as the MAJ. MAJ members meet about the important challenges facing injured victims, testify about the issues in Lansing, and reach out to the community to educate our clients and others on how the laws impact their lives. One major benefit of membership in the MAJ is the list server. I read it every day and save much time by searching archives for insights on the law.”
Fraser has been on the MAJ executive board for many years, and in recent years has made a much stronger commitment of time and finances. “The obstacles we face are larger, and we therefore have to grow and aggressively overcome these attacks on the rights of injured victims. Justice PAC is essential to our success. Our efforts in advancing our beliefs and helping plaintiffs can only be successful if we have a vital, flush Justice PAC. Our firm believes in giving until it hurts and then giving more. It should not be an option. It is essential.”
Fraser’s firm has purposefully remained small, presently consisting of three lawyers. “We abide by the approach that one word dominates success in this field of the law, which is ‘selectivity’. We try to screen our prospective clients’ cases in depth, and ultimately provide a more personalized, aggressive approach in the handling of the cases. My secretary (the right hand lady) has worked with me for over 30 years and is brilliant in dealing with clients, managing the firm, and cranking out the legal work. The two attorneys I have working with me, my business partner Ed Souweidane and my son Stu, possess the traits which make a firm flourish: honesty, hard work, and legal acumen. I receive constant compliments from other lawyers, clients, and judges about how nice it is to work with these two men, who are both polite and tough.”
Fraser’s most memorable case was a product liability case against a vehicle manufacturer, representing a young boy who was a backseat passenger in a vehicle with only lap belts available in the back seat. “A head-on collision resulted in a ‘jackknife’ type of injury, with paraplegia. The case was fulfilling because he made the most out of his life, was incredibly grateful, and we kept in contact for many years. That young boy went on to star in a wheelchair basketball league which our firm sponsored, played wheelchair basketball at a Big Ten college, and became an internationally-recognized wheelchair basketball phenom. Despite his devastating permanent injury, the young man made the best out of his predicament, and was perhaps one of the most grateful, upbeat persons I have ever known. He is now an assistant basketball coach for both a university, and for the U.S. Women’s Wheelchair Basketball team in the Paralympic Games. He is an inspiration to me, and I am sure to all the wheelchair bound persons he has coached. For me the most fulfilling, rewarding part of practicing personal injury law is the gratitude from clients. I wish I had kept all the thank you cards, letters, and emails I received over the years. I encourage you to do the same.
“I hope to keep my good health and keep practicing law as long as I can because, like my uncle, I still enjoy getting up and going to work every day. My lovely wife, Robin, and I have been married for 30 years, and we enjoy traveling, primarily to northen Michigan, northern California, and the Carribean. My daughter and son-in-law blessed us with our first grandchild six months ago. It is rewarding to work every day with my son, Stu. While my son is a hard worker, he also fills the firm with good humor, and we must remember to have fun along the way. Away from the family, I like hanging out with my buddies, on guy trips to Vegas or elsewhere, golfing, and just sharing stories.”