Giving back to the school is a role that’s important to me. All of us who graduated owe something to the school for that education.
Kathryn Ossian, ’84
At 18, Kathryn Ossian embarked on her college career at Michigan State University with a major in food science. A star student in her Novi high school, she had been encouraged to major in science and found herself in organic chemistry class her first year on campus.
“I looked around and thought, ‘I’m not into this the way these people are,’” Ossian says with a laugh. She switched to economics, and soon found herself in an antitrust class taught by former Law College President Walter Adams.
“He used the Socratic Method in class, and it was a good introduction to law school,” she says. “Once I changed my major to economics, I pretty much knew I was going to go down that path.” Ossian graduated from the Law College in 1984.
Today Ossian is a leader in the metro Detroit legal community, and a principal at Miller Canfield, heading its team of lawyers dedicated to information technology (IT) law. She counsels major corporations, school districts, and individuals on how to legally navigate the brave new world of technology, and speaks around the country on the myriad legal issues technology raises.
Her work on IT began in 1997, 10 years into her tenure with Miller Canfield. Ossian, a litigator at the time, had a couple of cases of computer contracts gone bad. The cases piqued her interest in the transactional side of IT law. Miller Canfield didn’t have an IT legal team at the time, and Ossian saw opportunity.
“Information technology was a niche we didn’t have. It was a new and upcoming area at the time,” she says. “I started transitioning and picking up those cases. [My] litigation experience was really helpful to contracts. I realized there were pitfalls, and we didn’t want to leave things vague.”
Ossian’s work has earned her accolades and led to speaking engagements and writing assignments. Michigan Super Lawyers named Ossian one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers of 2009. A former case notes editor for the Detroit College of Law Review, Ossian now writes a regular column for MLive and has published in the Michigan Business Law Journal and Corp! magazine.
She is also engaged in her community: Ossian is a member of the Armenian Bar Association, past president of the local Armenian-American Bar Association, and a board member for Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan (she was also a troop leader for 13 years).
Some of Ossian’s most active involvement has been with the Law College, from which, she happily notes, her nephew graduated in 2009. She spent several years as a member of the MSU Law development council and today regularly attends alumni events. She’s a member of the Law College’s Circle of Friends donor society at the Benefactor’s Club level.
“Giving back to the school is a role that’s important to me,” she says. “All of us who graduated owe something to the school for that education. My view is that we really should give something back. Not just, ‘Well, I paid my tuition and I’m done.’ To me it’s an ongoing commitment.
“My long-range plan is that, when I retire, the practice is sustainable and my associates can take it over,” she adds. “It’s the same with the school—for those of us who are graduates to look to the school and see what we can do to help.”
A version of this profile originally appeared in the fall 2010 issue of Amicus, published by the MSU College of Law.