Honigman plants flag downtown
Law firm’s new partners say they were drawn to supportive team, ‘gold standard’ practice
Detroit-based Honigman, Miller, Schwartz and Cohn law firm now has boots on the ground in Grand Rapids.
The local office at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW, Suite 240, which opened Dec. 17, is anchored by partners who say their decision to join was based largely on the firm’s reputation for quality.
“It’s been an absolute delight,” said Tracy Larsen, partner at Honigman’s Grand Rapids office. Larsen is a corporate lawyer who is co-chair of the firm’s mergers and acquisitions practice.
“I run a very large, busy M&A practice, one of the busiest in the Midwest, and needed the support of a broad team, and Honigman offered that support.”
Kenneth Vermeulen, who focuses his practice on real estate and environmental matters, also is a partner at the new office.
“I would have joined Honigman in 1989 when I graduated law school if they’d had a Grand Rapids office,” he said. “I’ve always considered Honigman the gold standard of law firms.”
The pair, who formerly worked together at the Grand Rapids office of Barnes & Thornburg, said they had worked jointly for five years, as their real estate and M&A practices complemented each other.
“So many of my M&A transactions have a significant component that involves real estate,” Larsen said. “I have a client in San Francisco that was involved in a $2-billion transaction, and Ken handled all the real estate for that. There were 43 sites in over 30 states. That’s so common that there’s a need for environmental and real estate counsel in those M&A transactions.”
Partners Doug Siegel, vice chair of Honigman’s intellectual property department, and Meredith Ervine, who focuses on public companies and capital markets, also have joined the firm’s Grand Rapids office.
They previously worked from the firm’s Kalamazoo office.
Larsen and Vermeulen said they have brought “virtually all” of their regional, national and international clients over to Honigman with them.
“Client support has been incredible,” Larsen said. “In fact, we will soon be closing on our third M&A transaction out of our new office.”
Currently, the firm has four attorneys — the partners — and two support staff, with managerial assistance from some of the firm’s other Michigan offices.
Larsen said they expect the number of staff to grow as the practice gets established.
“We’re actually under construction,” he said. “We have 10 offices in the office. And we have three offices barricaded off so they can complete construction. We’re supposed to have that completed by the first of February. Every office that is currently available is filled.”
Vermeulen said for the first 10 years of his practice, he focused on environmental work, including bringing underground storage tanks into regulatory compliance, as well as environmental cleanup work.
“As a society, we’ve become much more modern in our environmental practices,” he said. “So, there’s a lot less for lawyers to do.
“For instance, gas stations have changed how their underground storage tanks are designed to get up to speed with safer practices.”
So now, his focus has shifted in large part to real estate.
Larsen said he advises both buyers and sellers in M&A transactions.
“I advise on 30-35 transactions annually, and we will certainly hit that number this year if the market stays strong, which we anticipate it will,” he said.
The pair said Honigman is competitive in the Grand Rapids legal market, because it offers services from all its offices in each market and does it at competitive billing rates.
“For example, one of my clients literally within the week I came over here gave me a call to say that rates of some firms in town were going up a bit,” Vermeulen said. “And they wanted to know what our rates are, and what they were asking for is exactly what I was thinking we would set it at. So, I know our rates are exactly what they need to be.”
Larsen said experience is part of the firm’s “value proposition.”
“You can’t value a lawyer based on billing rates,” he said. “You have to value them based on experience. Honigman offers the perfect combination of both that is perfectly suited for the Grand Rapids market.”