Good Friends Good Law

May 5, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — The media often portrays the legal profession as attack dogs, leaving the average citizen with the impression that all attorneys are routinely vicious and that all lawyers relish being able to fill that role.

All the growling going on in the widely covered Michael Jackson trial offers evidence for that notion.

But the partners of a new firm, Kuiper Orlebeke PC, feel that stereotypical depiction is deceiving. They say being difficult and bombastic on a case is counterproductive for the client and the firm and believe law should be practiced in a humane and civilized way.

“We’re all very serious lawyers who are all interested in the high quality of law, but with selectivity,” said Timothy Orlebeke.

Orlebeke, Tom Kuiper and Jack Hoffman started the firm in February with the goal of offering their clients personalized service by putting the human element back into play at a time when electronic communication can interfere with doing that.

“When clients hire us, they get one of us. They’re not farmed out,” said Kuiper.

The trio worked together at Wheeler Upham PC, the city’s oldest law firm, for 13 years before deciding to go out on their own, and together they bring 63 years worth of legal experience to the three-month-old firm.

Kuiper specializes in litigation and dispute resolution. His practice covers complex real estate issues, domestic disputes and personal injury incidents. He has chaired the litigation section of the Grand Rapids Bar Association for four terms and has assisted local judges in enacting an alternative resolution policy for disputes.

“We can provide clients with great service at a great rate through our business model of personal attention and sophisticated legal work at fair compensation. That is our mission and one we try to hold true to,” said Kuiper.

Orlebeke focuses on commercial and residential real estate, general business and contract law. He specializes in creating financing plans for high-quality, affordable housing and has worked with the Inner City Christian Federation, Dwelling Place and the Genesis Housing Corp. on a number of projects. Orlebeke also consults real estate professionals.

“Branching out and forming our own firm gives us the opportunity to continue to work together closely, to enhance our specialties and to be in a congenial environment, because we all like each other a lot and we’ve worked together very well,” he said.

“And our being together here is an entirely positive experience because of that.”

Hoffman practices in real estate, specialty no-fault issues and general litigation. He and Orlebeke closed the new market tax credits for Dwelling Place, the first time these credits were used in West Michigan. He also works with insurers and has developed a specialty in health-care charging issues. Hoffman recently finished a two-year case that resulted in his client winning a $500,000 judgment from a medical provider.

“We want to do some creative things and take advantage of some of the opportunities out there for developing areas of the law like downtown real estate. I also have an interest in the no-fault area of health-care financing and health-care charging for medical services,” he said.

“I think we just wanted some flexibility that working together would provide,” he added as to why they started the firm.

Kuiper Orlebeke began in a suite at the Brass Works Building at 648 Monroe Ave. NW. But soon the partners will move about five long blocks south and open their new office on the fourth floor of the city’s oldest commercial building at 180 Monroe Ave. NW. They hope to be set up in their new 4,200-square-foot suite this month.

Joining Kuiper, Orlebeke and Hoffman at the firm are two colleagues that worked with them at Wheeler Upham. Jill Colthorp is the firm’s paralegal and Nicole Cochran will run the office.

“We all knew each other before forming this firm and all genuinely enjoy each other’s company,” said Orlebeke. “A happy workplace is important to all of us.”    

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