Veteran GR Law Firm Loses Partners

February 17, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — Law, Weathers & Richardson PC is looking for a few good lawyers and a litigator or two, because up to nine partners and possibly two associates are leaving the firm to open a local office of Clark Hill PLC, a legal practice based in Detroit.

But Kevin Krauss, new president and managing shareholder of Law Weathers, said the changes being forced on his firm through the personnel loss is simply a sign of the times.

"In the old days, it used to be when a person left a law firm it was a black mark on their professional career. But now people move back and forth, or between firms, and there may be one other that might go," he said.

"Actually, it's a pretty exciting deal, because everybody now is really focused and has high energy," added Krauss about the remaining partners, associates and support staff.

Krauss told the Business Journal last week that Clark Hill contacted Law Weathers last summer about merging, but the shareholders voted to nix that idea.

"Like every other Detroit firm, they want to get into the Grand Rapids market. So they came to us last June to talk. But we've been approached before. We're the second oldest law firm in the state of Michigan. So to get Law Weathers in a merger would almost be like capturing the flag," he said.

"Out of respect, we looked at this one and we eventually just felt it wasn't right. They have 120 attorneys, but they're 200 miles away," he added. "The mix wasn't right and we were concerned about charging Detroit rates to our West Michigan clients. Our clients are our friends."

Law Weathers specializes in family and public sector law. The Grand Rapids firm was founded in 1868, and began the year with 42 attorneys and a support staff of 29 at its office in Bridgewater Place. Law Weathers was named one of the best West Michigan companies to work for last year.

Clark Hill was formed 10 years ago, when Clark, Klein and Beaumont merged with Hill Lewis, but traces its roots back to 1890. The firm has offices in Birmingham and Lansing with 145 attorneys onboard. Inside Michigan Politics, an independent political newsletter published in Lansing, named Clark Hill as one of the top 10 lobbying firms in the state last month.

Clark Hill CEO John Hern said his firm would occupy an undisclosed temporary space downtown until its permanent office opens in August.

"The diverse nature of the West Michigan economy and the number of our current clients who already do business on the west side of the state made it an easy decision to expand to Grand Rapids," said Hern.

Former Law Weathers President John Schneider is joining Clark Hill, along with at least eight others from the Grand Rapids firm.

Krauss said Law Weathers was losing municipal, small business and real estate lawyers and litigators to Clark Hill. But he doesn't expect to lose much in the way of business from the migration due to the bond that the firm has with its clientele.

"Our client relationships are very strong. These are personal relationships with the shareholders of this firm. Our firm is very strong financially; that was one of the reasons that we're a target (for a merger)," he said.

Krauss was just elected to his new management posts three weeks ago. And even before his chair gets broken in, he has to fill some vital vacancies at the firm.

"I was on the executive committee 12 years ago or so when we entered this building. It was so time consuming that I took 12 years off, and now I'm back — and right at the wrong time," he said with a laugh.

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