2011 ‘Largest Law Firms’ directory message: Proceed with caution

Coming off a painful, economically challenging 2009, there were beacons of hope for many of the state’s largest law firms at the end of 2010.

There were positive shifts in work among once-cool practice sectors, such as real estate transactions, commercial contracts and loan originations. And there weren’t any layoffs or practice group dissolutions.

But several managing partners told Michigan Lawyers Weekly in its 2011 edition of “Michigan’s Largest Law Firms” directory, which publishes June 20, that sitting in the driver’s seat still meant impulsively scanning for potholes.

“[T]he last three years in the U.S. has shown it’s a tricky business,” said Michael W. Hartmann of No. 1-ranked Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, P.L.C. (279 attorneys). “In this world, things change pretty quickly, and you have to adapt pretty quickly.

“Law firms have concluded that; I don’t think you can assume what you did two years ago will work two years from now. Law firms have to adapt like clients do — and clients don’t get [much time] to adapt.”

Among the findings in the directory, which chronicles activity from Jan. 1, 2010, to Jan. 1, 2011, among 63 Michigan firms that have 20 or more attorneys:

Alternative billing methods and more-focused client budgets were widespread: As Henry B. Cooney of No. 8-ranked Plunkett Cooney (150 attorneys) explained, “Five, 10 years ago, the idea of having a litigation or transactional budget didn’t exist, at least not very much. It certainly exists today, and we see that quite a bit.”

They also were problematic: “I think most CEOs and general counsel would tell you, people are still trying to figure out alternative fees,” said David Foltyn of No. 2-ranked Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP (228 attorneys). “Clients are still trying to figure out how it works, and lawyers are still far behind in project managing and predictability.”

Lateral recruitment was frequent: And it was advantageous, the principal reason being “you can react to market conditions more quickly,” noted Douglas E. Wagner of No. 3-ranked Warner Norcross & Judd LLP (219 attorneys). “When you’re hiring a law student, you’re projecting out two or three years as to what your needs are going to be, but in a lateral market, you can fill a need within a few months.”

Value still is everything: Coming up with what’s expected from the firm isn’t always what the firm itself expects. Lawrence J. Murphy at No. 7-ranked Varnum LLP (153 attorneys) said one thing that’s been apparent in the past few years “is that clients are increasingly demanding that their law firms provide value as defined by the clients, not as defined by their lawyers.”

Rounding out the 10-largest firms list are Dickinson Wright PLLC (No. 4 with 218 attorneys); Dykema Gossett PLLC (No. 5 with 180); Clark Hill PLC (No. 6 with 166); Butzel Long (No. 9 with 143); and Bodman PLC (No. 10 with 138).

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Veteran litigator/ADR expert, ex-SBM president Muth named Lawyer of the Year

On March 15, Jon R. Muth, the 60th State Bar of Michigan president and Grand Rapids-based litigator and mediator, was named Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s 2011 Lawyer of the Year.

At the “2011 Leaders in the Law” luncheon and awards ceremony at the Detroit Marriott in Troy, Lawyers Weekly Publisher Don Stemmermann said that Muth “stood out as someone who we believe represents everything that we would expect a Michigan legal leader to be.”

The event saluted 25 lawyers recognized by Lawyers Weekly for outstanding service to their profession and communities.

Muth said he was “humbled” by the honor, but told the audience of more than 300 attendees that he’d be remise if he didn’t remark “that none of us 25 honored here today, and none of the 25 honored in the prior year ever got here by ourselves.”

He added, “I stand here today on the shoulders of a great, great many people who have helped me get here, and I hope that when you consider your own career, you look back and recognize those who assisted you.”

Besides acknowledging his parents and wife, Muth mentioned Art Snell and John Cummiskey, the founding partners at Miller, Johnson, Snell & Cummiskey, P.L.C., where he’s practiced for 40 years; as well as Jim Robinson, George Googasian, Victoria Roberts, Tom Cranmer and Tom Kienbaum, who worked with Muth leading up to and during his 1994-95 presidency.

The 24 other “Leaders in the Law” honorees were:

• Lawrence G. Almeda, Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione, Ann Arbor

• George W. Ash, Foley & Lardner LLP, Detroit

• Gary August, Zausmer, Kaufman, August, Caldwell & Tayler, P.C., Farmington Hills

• Timothy A. Baughman, Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, Detroit

• Mark R. Bendure, Bendure & Thomas, Detroit

• Michael Cavanaugh, Fraser Trebilcock Davis & Dunlap, P.C., Lansing

• Hon. Maura D. Corrigan, Michigan Department of Human Services, Lansing

• Stephen R. Drew, Drew, Cooper & Anding, P.C., Grand Rapids

• Michael Fabian, Fabian, Sklar & King PC, Farmington Hills

• Clayton F. Farrell, Collins, Einhorn, Farrell & Ulanoff, P.C., Southfield

• James P. Feeney, Dykema Gossett PLLC, Bloomfield Hills

• David H. Fink, Fink & Associates Law, Bloomfield Hills

• Kenneth Gross, Thav, Gross, Steinway & Bennett, P.C., Bingham Farms

• Hon. Milton L. Mack Jr., Wayne County Probate Court, Detroit

• Lawrence C. Mann, Bowman and Brooke LLP, Troy

• Paul A. McCarthy, Rhoades McKee PC, Grand Rapids

• Lawrence D. McLaughlin, Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP, Detroit

• Megan P. Norris, Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, P.L.C., Detroit

• Tom R. Pabst, Tom R. Pabst P.C., Flint

• Gregory J. Parry, Eagle Risk Management Law Firm PLC, Beverly Hills

• T. Joseph Seward, Cummings, McClorey, Davis & Acho, P.L.C., Livonia

• Patrick G. Seyferth, Bush Seyferth & Paige PLLC, Troy

• Norman D. Tucker, Sommers Schwartz, P.C., Southfield

• Douglas E. Wagner, Warner Norcross & Judd LLP, Grand Rapids

Look for a two-page photo story of the Leaders in the Law event in the March 28 edition of Lawyers Weekly.

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Leaders in the Law 2011 Announced

After a statewide call for nominees brought numerous worthy candidates, Michigan Lawyers Weekly has selected its 25 “Leaders in the Law” for 2011.

The honorees will be recognized in a special section to be published Feb. 28, and at the third annual Leaders in the Law luncheon, taking place March 15 at the Detroit Marriott in Troy. At the awards ceremony, Lawyers Weekly will reveal the 2011 Lawyer of the Year.

In selecting the 25 Leaders, a Lawyers Weekly editorial panel considered such details as:

• Possessing the ability to achieve success in his or her respective practice, while also displaying the strength of character that transcends results.

• Exemplifying the noble tradition of the legal profession, coupled with commitment to practicing law in Michigan.

• Being passionate and aggressive on behalf of both clients and the legal community.

• A record of winning cases, solving problems or coming to judicial conclusions that reflect the utmost integrity.

The 2011 roster reflects a diverse array of practice areas, from homeland security, consumer bankruptcy and asbestos litigation, to fire and explosion matters, Whistleblower Protection Act, and broker-dealer securities.

This year’s honorees are:

• Lawrence G. Almeda, Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione, Ann Arbor

• George W. Ash, Foley & Lardner LLP, Detroit

• Gary August, Zausmer, Kaufman, August, Caldwell & Tayler, P.C., Farmington Hills

• Timothy A. Baughman, Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, Detroit

• Mark R. Bendure, Bendure & Thomas, Detroit

• Michael Cavanaugh, Fraser Trebilcock Davis & Dunlap, P.C., Lansing

• Hon. Maura D. Corrigan, Michigan Department of Human Services, Lansing

• Stephen R. Drew, Drew, Cooper & Anding, P.C., Grand Rapids

• Michael Fabian, Fabian, Sklar & King PC, Farmington Hills

• Clayton F. Farrell, Collins, Einhorn, Farrell & Ulanoff, P.C., Southfield

• James P. Feeney, Dykema Gossett PLLC, Bloomfield Hills

• David H. Fink, Fink & Associates Law, Bloomfield Hills

• Kenneth Gross, Thav, Gross, Steinway & Bennett, P.C., Bingham Farms

• Hon. Milton L. Mack Jr., Wayne County Probate Court, Detroit

• Lawrence C. Mann, Bowman and Brooke LLP, Troy

• Paul A. McCarthy, Rhoades McKee PC, Grand Rapids

• Lawrence D. McLaughlin, Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP, Detroit

• Jon R. Muth, Miller, Johnson, Snell & Cummiskey, P.L.C., Grand Rapids

• Megan P. Norris, Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, P.L.C., Detroit

• Tom R. Pabst, Tom R. Pabst P.C., Flint

• Gregory J. Parry, Eagle Risk Management Law Firm PLC, Beverly Hills

• T. Joseph Seward, Cummings, McClorey, Davis & Acho, P.L.C., Livonia

• Patrick G. Seyferth, Bush Seyferth & Paige PLLC, Troy

• Norman D. Tucker, Sommers Schwartz, P.C., Southfield

• Douglas E. Wagner, Warner Norcross & Judd LLP, Grand Rapids