Faces in the Crowd: Dick Allen

May 31, 2018

By Gene Bodnar
Correspondent

Have you ever met a good lawyer? Now, that sounds like the beginning of a lawyer joke, but lawyers don’t like such jokes, so we’ll skip any punch lines.

I met Dick Allen sitting at a table at the Doherty Hotel with several of his friends enjoying their camaraderie. When I asked him for an interview, his friends commented that they could add a few tidbits to his biography, but they had second thoughts and decided to leave us alone.

Dick Allen, an imposing gray-haired man of 77 year of age, was born in Charlevoix, Michigan. When he was 5 years old, his parents moved to East Lansing right

Dick Allen is the Secretary to the Board of Trustees of Mid-Michigan College, a position he has held since 1986.

Dick Allen is the Secretary to the Board of Trustees of Mid-Michigan College, a position he has held since 1986.

across the street from the Michigan State University campus. His father was the Assistant Director of Transportation in East Lansing, and his mother was a Registered Nurse who worked for the Olin Health Center, a Michigan State Hospital.

Dick attended grammar and high school, graduating from East Lansing High School in 1957. That same year, he married Barbara, who has the distinction of being the first woman mayor of the City of Clare (1997-1998). The marriage produced a daughter, Marcy Klaus, who is currently Probate Judge to the 55th Circuit Court. Dick currently has two grandsons, Andrew in the 6th grade, and Sutton in the 4th grade.

He attended Michigan State University, where he received a degree in Arts and Sciences. In 1962, he joined the Army and was stationed in Germany for three years. While in Heidelberg, Germany, he passed the law school admission test for Wayne State University, which was a grueling six-hour exam.

Returning to Michigan after his stint in the Army, he attended the Wayne State University for three years, receiving a Juris Doctorate degree in 1969. Shortly thereafter, he began working at J Trucks & Associates, currently located on Pine Street in Clare. They specialized in Social Security, accidents, personal injury, and property damage.

After working at J Trucks for three years, Dick became the Assistant Prosecutor for the Clare County Circuit Court, a position he held from 1973-1975. During this period, he also taught medical law at Mid-Michigan College, mostly to nurses and emergency medical technicians. This teaching career lasted for eleven years.

Overlapping this time, he also taught medical law at Central Michigan University for another three years. Also, from 1975 to 1980, Dick became the Clare County Prosecutor.

For a period of 45 years, Dick was an extremely active attorney with his own firm. He represented insurance companies all around the state, including Oakland, the Straits, and Muskegon. During this time, Dick has three secretaries who kept track of his cases, and sometimes he would leave one case and be sent immediately to another, frequently requiring long-distance drives around the state between cases. He also represented Citizens Insurance and Fremont Mutual for an uncounted number of lawsuits. He was also the legal attorney for the United Auto Workers. For 22 years out of these 45, he also represented a title insurance company. Finally, he represent K-Mart in numerous cases.

Dick recalls a case in which the alleged injured person tried to sue K-Mart for slipping and falling on their newly waxed floor. Dick was able to prove that K-Mart’s floor wax contained an ingredient that precluded the possibility of a slip-and-fall accident. Instead of being slippery, the ingredient made the wax sticky and completely slip-proof. The case was dismissed.

For a period of about fifteen years, Dick wrote a newspaper column for the Clare Sentinel and then later for the Clare County Review entitled “You and the Law.”
He admits that a few of his columns were controversial, but most of his columns were full of useful information. However, he also admits that he would write a tongue-in-cheek article, one that would stretch the imagination to the limit.

For example, in one article he related, Japanese dignitaries came to a Clare hotel, bringing a sumo wrestler with them. The sumo wrestler wore nothing but a loincloth. An ill-advised hotel employee called the police, notifying them of a nude man in their hotel.

When the police arrived, they attempted to subdue the wrestler, but instead, the wrestler slammed one of the officers into a nearby vending machine. Later, a Saginaw newspaper got wind of this event, so they sent a reporter to gather further details, much to the amusement of everyone but the reporter.

Today, Dick Allen is retired. “Retired” is used loosely here because he is still employed as a Mediator. He is currently hired by attorneys in Circuit Court as well as District Court to mediate cases. For the uninitiated, heavy court caseloads and rising court costs have prompted many people to settle their legal disputes outside the courtroom through a process known as alternative dispute resolution. The idea is to allow the parties to a lawsuit to explore and negotiate solutions on their own.

Thus, Dick helps resolve conflicts between the disputing parties. Of course, it the conflict is indeed resolved, literally thousands of dollars can be saved by both parties by avoiding court costs and further attorney fees.

Dick Allen is the Secretary to the Board of Trustees of Mid-Michigan College, a position he has held since 1986, and a position he has successfully run for re-election ever since. He also serves the community through Rotary International, and he’s a member of the American Legion, although he says he hasn’t been very active in the latter.

I asked Dick what he liked to do for recreation, or if he even had time for recreation. He responded that he loves to travel. He’s been to most countries in Europe, most recently to Paris, France. He also loves fishing and anything that involves being outdoors.

Dick is also an aficionado of nautical fiction, having read most of the books by such authors as C. S. Forester, Dewey Lambdin, and Patrick O’Brian, all of whom specialize in writing about sea warfare during the Napoleonic Era, the exciting age of sail.

Lawyers are given a bad rap in lawyer jokes. Just think about Dick Allen’s life. I’m sure it has been exhausting over a lifetime to find himself always in the midst of resolving conflict. The amount of reading and studying to remain current in his field is an enormous task in itself.

His is a high-stress profession that requires lots of thinking, including strategy, time management, project management, anticipatory analysis and strategy.
I’m sure Dick has met other lawyers who have stolen his time with underhanded shenanigans, and with whom he must negotiate.

Furthermore, he must be able to master all the facts and meet all the deadlines set by the courts.

Thus, you can see that Dick has led a fulfilling, if stressful, life. First, nearly 50 years of his life have been devoted to assisting people with legal problems in almost every imaginable field, from injury cases to being Prosecutor to being a Mediator.

Second, more than three decades of his life have been devoted to education, whether it be teaching medical law or being on the Board of Directors of a college.
Even today, in his late 70s, he continues to forge ahead in his rich a productive life.

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