A mentor to students, athletes and sexual assault survivors, super lawyer Mary Pat Rosen has made it her mission to right wrongs.
By Susan Peck
Photography by Derrick Martinez
Top lawyer Mary Pat Rosen’s mission every day is to “help right a wrong” for those who have suffered from an avoidable medical or personal injury. She’s been a foot soldier for justice, practicing law over 30 years with Charfoos & Christensen Law Firm in Royal Oak.
Rosen’s efforts have also made her a leader in the community. She is the president of Impact100 Oakland County, coach for Cranbrook Middle School’s boys cross country and track team, and member of Cranbrook’s Horizons-Upward Bound development committee.
“After law school I was working for the Department of Labor with the Commission of Handicapper Concerns and the Commission for the Blind, and looking back I can see my experiences there put me on a trajectory to give those in need a voice,” says Rosen, 61, of Bloomfield Hills. “I have a strong nurturing side that pulls me to advocate for others and to help them be the best they can be.”
She’s part of the coalition of attorneys representing 169 women who make up the second group of survivors filing suit against Michigan State University in the Larry Nassar sexual abuse case. They were recently in federal court with MSU for a dispute about the dispersion of funds set aside for this second wave lawsuit. “It’s our belief that all of the abuse survivors should be treated equally in terms of a settlement, and as it stands now that’s not the case for this second group,” Rosen says. “We’re working to hold MSU accountable to do the right thing for them.”
Survivor Kelly Buchanan, 21, was afraid to come forward with her story about Nassar until she met Rosen, who earned her trust. “I only speak with Mary Pat about my experiences and wouldn’t be able to handle this with anyone else,” says Buchanan, who lives in Minneapolis and is applying to medical school to be a surgeon. “There seems to be a lot of fake sympathy from people surrounding our case, but I can see she genuinely feels my pain and is fighting for us for the right reasons.”
Buchanan recalls when she testified in front of the MSU Board of Trustees and had to leave the room because of her emotions. “Mary Pat followed me out to comfort me for quite awhile until I collected myself,” Buchanan says. “It would be easy to feel exploited or just a number during this ordeal, but she always treats me with a very personal care, one-on-one.”
Rosen says these cases have led to “the most personal and intimate discussions” she’s ever had with clients.
“I know the women we represent are appreciative to have me — another woman — to call and discuss their concerns,” she says, “…and they know I will try to understand what they are experiencing the best I can while representing their interests.”
Mother of 25-year-old son Jake Rosen, who attended Kalamazoo College and the University of Michigan, Rosen has been called a study in contrasts. Law firm associate David Christensen says he believes she is both high achieving and humble because of her upbringing.
Growing up in Ypsilanti in a family that struggled financially, Rosen was a state competitive swimmer, and her parents demanded all six of their children participate in athletics and go on to college. “When she was first assisting me in court I asked her to get a document for me by the next day — she had it to me that day after the lunch break,” Christensen says. “Mary Pat gives 100 percent in everything she does, something I think she learned early on, and makes her the extraordinary person she is today.” Rosen is the president of Impact100 Oakland County — an organization of women that provides substantial grants to nonprofits in Metro Detroit. A 2018 recipient, The Rainbow Connection, received a $90,000 award to further its mission of making dreams come true for children with life-threatening illnesses. Common Ground and the Huron-Clinton Metroparks Foundation also received funding.
Working with Cranbrook’s Horizons-Upward Bound — a college prep program for students with limited opportunities — for over a decade, HUB Director Dr. Darryl Taylor says Rosen is “paying it forward” as a mentor in the program. “Mary Pat pays us with her most valuable commodity — her time,” Taylor says. “She works on reading skills and shows students an example of what you can accomplish in life with hard work, often sharing personal stories of her own struggles growing up.”
Recently inducted into the Ypsilanti High School Athletic Hall of Fame, the coach for Cranbrook’s boys middle school cross country and track team believes that “sports can play a big part in teaching the teens time management, commitment, team skills and how to come back from a loss — all things important for success in life.”
How does she further define her own journey of success? “Being recognized for the skills and expertise I have worked hard to build is a big part of my definition of success,” Rosen says, “and most importantly, to continue to keep my listener’s ear, and to give those in need a safe place to be heard so justice is given a chance to prevail.”