Barry Adelman, ’69, is a senior partner in the corporate department at Friedman Kaplan Seiler & Adelman LLP in New York. As part of his practice, he has been involved in the wireless telecommunications industry since its inception in the early 1980s, and he was lead counsel in the formation of the joint venture that obtained licenses for more than 60 of the top 90 cellular markets. Adelman also is a business law faculty fellow and adjunct professor of law at Michigan. He created the Barry A. Adelman Endowed Scholarship in 2001.
Alicia Wodarski, a 2L from Toledo, Ohio, is the 2015–2016 Adelman Scholar. Last year she was a member of the Michigan Journal of Environmental & Administrative Law, and this year she serves on the Michigan Journal of International Law. Alicia holds bachelor’s degrees in piano and English literature from Bowling Green State University.Why did you want to go to law school, and why did you choose Michigan?
Why did you want to go to law school, and why did you choose Michigan?
Adelman: If my parents were alive and were asked this question, they would respond in two-part harmony by saying that as soon as I learned to speak—and maybe even earlier—I loved to argue about almost anything. It didn’t matter which side someone else took, I would immediately take the other side. My decision to go to law school certainly was based, in part, on my desire to spend my life doing what I loved. However, I also felt that it was important to continue my education after undergrad, and I loved and admired my grandfather, who was a prominent lawyer in Chicago. I spent my first year of law school at Indiana University, and I decided to transfer because of Michigan’s reputation as one of the top law schools in the country.
Wodarski: My path to law school was a bit atypical. I was a classical pianist, and for most of my undergraduate career I wanted to get a PhD in musicology. Around my junior year, I began to question the practicality of that decision. I went to a professor whom I really admired and explained my predicament. I told him that what I liked about musicology was that it allowed you to look at a piece from different angles—from a historical perspective, a theoretical perspective, etc. The professor said that if I was attracted to interdisciplinary thinking, I should go to law school. Though I was excited to be admitted to Michigan, I thought I would go somewhere less expensive and less prestigious. I loved the school and the friendly atmosphere, but I had never had the opportunity to go to a top school, and it seemed out of reach, even though I was admitted. However, every lawyer and professor I spoke with told me that I was crazy to go anywhere but Michigan. They all convinced me to come, and it was an excellent choice.
What class/professor impacted you the most, and why?
Adelman: I had the pleasure of taking several courses taught by Professor Alan Polasky. His seminar on estate planning was my favorite course. Each student was required to develop an estate plan for a hypothetical client. The exercise incorporated many other subjects I studied in law school, including business law courses, as the hypothetical estate consisted primarily of a privately owned family business. I thoroughly enjoyed the practical components of the seminar, and I believe that my experience in that course was great preparation for my first year of practice.
Wodarski: I loved Property with Professor Bill Miller. I really enjoyed that he had such a broad perspective on the law, with his background in Medieval English. I enjoy an environment in which it seems that the goal is learning, rather than pushing toward some arbitrary point on a syllabus. Even the first day of class, Professor Miller was talking to us about property rights in everyday life, like calling dibs on a seat. He got the class thinking about property rights in a very accessible way that made the class seem really relevant.
Favorite place to study and/or socialize?
Adelman: My favorite place to socialize was a room in the basement of the Law School in which a number of us met before classes each day to play bridge. We would interrupt our bridge game to attend classes and then return after each class to get in several more hands. My favorite place to study was the main room of the old library, and to this day I experience excitement when I walk into that room.
Wodarski: Of course, the Reading Room is beautiful. You can’t beat the stained glass.
Craziest thing you did in law school (that’s publishable)?
Adelman: Two responses come to mind. The first involves a course which I believe was entitled Business Planning. After finishing the answer to my final exam, I reviewed the question to make sure that I had responded to all of its parts. I was aghast to discover that I had completely misread the question and gone off on a tangent that had nothing to do with the question. I didn’t have sufficient time to rewrite my answer—on which I had spent approximately two hours. Accordingly, I printed at the beginning of my exam something to the effect, “Although I have not answered your question, I have answered the question that you should have asked. Please read this to the end, and I hope you forgive me for taking this liberty.” The professor gave me a high grade, perhaps not for the quality of my answer but rather for my audacity.
The second response involves my Trials, Appeals and Practice Court course. The class was broken into teams of two students—with half of the teams representing a plaintiff, and the other half representing a defendant—in a hypothetical case in which an automobile struck a pedestrian in front of Dominick’s. Each team had to prepare for and conduct a mock trial. My partner, who to this day remains a close friend, and I decided that, as plaintiff’s counsel, it was important to show that it was common knowledge that people crossed the street in front of Dominick’s and that the driver of the automobile, who was familiar with that street, should have been more careful. We wanted to drive this point home to the jury (consisting of other college students), so we arranged a meeting with our adversaries at Dominick’s, hid in the bushes with an 8mm movie camera, and filmed them crossing the street without looking in either direction at the exact place the accident occurred. We were thrilled we had what we believed was the silver bullet. Unfortunately, the judge (our professor) would not let us enter the film into evidence, over our strong objection.
Wodarski: It might not sound crazy to a lot of people, but if you knew my driving ability, I think my pathetic attempts to parallel park downtown qualify.
Why do you support scholarships for Michigan Law students?
Adelman: My legal career has not only been my life’s work but has also been one of my greatest joys. Simply put, I love being a lawyer, and even more than that I love being a deal junkie. There is nothing I would rather do than practice law. I feel incredibly fortunate that I am able, through my family’s endowed scholarship, to assist a future generation of lawyers in experiencing the same thrill and satisfaction that I have received over the years.
What does receiving the Adelman Scholarship mean to you?
Wodarski: The Adelman Scholarship meant the chance to attend Michigan Law. Period. Had I not had the scholarship, there’s no way I would have thought that Michigan was a practical choice for me. Sometimes I think about how much I wouldn’t have even known I was missing out on if I didn’t have the scholarship; I would have never had the chance to be in a classroom with so many inspiring professors, or had the chance to meet so many peers who challenge me intellectually.