- people on the move
Clark Hill expands presence in downtown Grand Rapids
David Centner, a partner of Clark Hill West Michigan, 200 Ottawa Ave. NW, said the reason for the increase from nine to 26 attorneys since the downtown office opened in 2006 is, in part, a response to clients’ demand for a deeper level of legal expertise.
Clark Hill’s practice areas include municipal bonds, real estate, business transactions, litigation, public affairs, estate planning, and education and entertainment law.
Centner attributed the firm’s hiring uptick not to a slick marketing campaign, but a natural progression of fulfilling clients’ expectations.
“I’d definitely say we’ve grown organically,” Centner said. “Everything we do is an effort to increase client services and that starts at the staff level, from secretarial to receptionist, all the way up to partner level. We have some policies that include a 24-hour response time to telephone calls, and investments in technology to speed up client responsiveness.”
Centner said the firm initially leased space on the Ottawa Avenue building’s fifth floor, which it still does, but recently it leased another 4,400 square feet on the sixth floor, bringing its total to nearly 20,000 square feet. The building’s professional tenant base includes Chase Bank, Dickinson Wright PLLC and Marsh USA Inc.
Remaining in downtown Grand Rapids was a no-brainer, Centner said, due in part to a well-known art competition that’s become an international draw.
“We’re across the street from City Hall, and the governmental offices are next door,” he said. “The state court is two doors down, the Michigan Court of Appeals, and across the street is the federal building, the federal courts. And it’s right smack downtown, which is convenient for clients and offers networking opportunities and other benefits of being downtown.
“With ArtPrize coming up, that type of thing really lends itself to client events and client entertainment.”
The growth of the Grand Rapids office is consistent with the firm’s overall growth.
Clark Hill has collectively grown in the last 10 years from 84 to 225 lawyers, with offices in Birmingham, Detroit and Lansing, and, outside of Michigan, in Phoenix, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
“Clients are asking for more services, greater geographic coverage, and are asking for a deeper level of experience, and so, in response to clients’ needs, the decision was made to grow and expand,” said Centner.
“At that time, the firm was in Detroit and Lansing, so in 2006, we opened this Grand Rapids office with eight or nine lawyers, all from Grand Rapids. And since then, we’ve grown in Chicago and, in 2008, Washington, D.C., and in 2009, Clark Hill's location in Phoenix, Ariz.
“We added significant intellectual property back in Chicago when we merged with an employment and labor firm,” continued Centner, “and added attorneys in Washington, D.C., as environmental and energy resources, which are all areas to address clients’ needs and to better serve our clients.”
Technology plays an integral role in serving clients, Centner said. Today, clients are not tethered geographically to a particular attorney or office of attorneys, but can draw from a wider legal net if needed.
“We have wireless access in common areas where clients can come where there’s state-of-the-art video conference systems that allow us to connect to multiple offices, including Washington, D.C, Grand Rapids and Phoenix,” said Centner.
“We can have meetings in those offices without incurring travel and time, and there’s no delay. … We can hold meetings and depositions that way and save clients the expense. We regularly draw on expertise in Detroit and Washington and can have a client meeting without a client ever leaving Grand Rapids.”
Clark Hill also provides webinars, e-newsletters and password-protected portals that enable clients to check up on the status of their cases.
“It’s permitted by advances in technology and the firm’s investment in technology,” said Centner. “That type of expense goes beyond simply replacing a laptop on an attorney’s desk.”