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Inside Track: Man’s best friend
Trial attorney comes out of retirement to create law firm to support animals.
Allen Fiorletta proved retirement is not for everyone.
After four months of retirement, Fiorletta, a trial attorney, decided to jump back in the legal realm where he has been practicing law for nearly 30 years.
However, this time around is different. Instead of using the revenue for his personal benefit, he is donating it to support animals.
“Every first of the month, we pay our bills, we see what is left and we see who we can help,” he said.
While his passion to help animals through his law firm continues to grow, his journey to become an attorney was not a walk in the park.
Fiorletta grew up in Detroit in the late 1970s, where his mother was a homemaker and his dad a truck driver.
He recalls his neighborhood being crime-ridden with several gangs. Fiorletta said during high school, there were metal detectors and a strong police presence inside and outside the school. He said they would have lockdowns because of rumors of guns and knives brought to school.
He said when he took the school bus to and from school, there were times when the bus driver took unconventional precautions.
“We rode the bus, the public city bus, to school every day, and sometimes the bus would get so rowdy that the driver wouldn’t stop to drop us off,” he said. “He would just drive us to the police station. There was a strong gang presence. There were about 15 different gangs in the neighborhood, but like everything else, that was all I knew. I didn’t know what Birmingham or Grosse Pointe schools were like.”
Fiorletta said during that time, college wasn’t on the radar until he saw some of his friends, who once lived in his neighborhood but later moved to the suburbs and started going to private schools, were going to college. He said he was motivated to do the same. He had the grades he needed, and he took the ACT, which he said afforded him scholarships to go to college. Fiorletta said by continuing his education with scholarships, it alleviated the financial burden for his father.
He attended Michigan State University with the intention of becoming a police officer, but he changed his mind when his brother-in-law, who was a police officer, died on patrol. Fiorletta said he saw the pain it caused his sister, and he didn’t want to cause that same pain for his parents. As a result, he took a different route and decided he wanted to be an attorney.
He graduated from Michigan State University’s College of Law second in his class. After graduating, Fiorletta worked at Dykema Gossett, but he said he hated it.
“(I was) not in court with these big firms,” Fiorletta said. “(I was) not in court, (I was) not in court trying cases. (I was) just pushing paper and doing billing … bill, bill, bill, bill. The only thing I liked was getting paid.”
After about two years, Fiorletta left Dykema and started his own law firm in 1991, The Fiorletta Law Group PLLC. Throughout the years, he had partners and associates working with him, but the majority of the time was Fiorletta working alone.
While he was practicing law, Fiorletta also decided to be a firefighter for East Grand Rapids, and at times, his legal work clashed with emergency fires.
“One time I was in court, in my suit, and I was called to a fire,” he said. “I had my gear in my truck, and I was changing from my suit into my fire gear and I got into my truck and drove to the fire. Afterward, I realized I had left my dress shoes on the concrete (outside of the court.) I went back, and they were gone.”
He served as a firefighter for three years and got married in the early 2000s. He continued his legal profession, and earlier this year, Fiorletta retired and sold his firm.
During the summer, he quickly realized he was going to be bored at home. Fiorletta spoke to his wife, Kathy, about his idea of opening a firm with all the benefits going to help animals, and with his wife’s blessing, in November he opened the Foster’s Place Law Firm, which is named after one of his dogs.
The firm is located in the Calder Plaza Building, 250 Monroe Ave. NW. Foster’s Place currently has two attorneys working as independent contractors, and Fiorletta expects to hire associate attorneys after the holiday season but noted they will not be making a huge salary.
He said the attorneys will not be making $250,000 — or even $75,000 — because he would rather use that money to help animal organizations.
“It defeats the goal of what I want to do,” Fiorletta said. “I would rather take that $5,000 and do what I say I am going to do. This is not a position that you are going to have top-tier medical benefits.”
Fiorletta said he will donate to The Humane Society of the United States, Mackenzie’s Animal Sanctuary in Lake Odessa and also to individuals who cannot afford medical treatment or food for their animals. He said the law firm does not have a rigid standard that animal caretakers have to meet. He said in whatever way he can help, he is willing to do so.
“By and large, people are hiring lawyers based on cost, unless their reputation is above and beyond everyone else’s,” he said. “So, if you call someone who is going to charge $3,500 and then you call me and I tell you that I am going to charge $3,500, but the money that we make from your case … is going to buy 100 bags of dog food for the Humane Society or we are going to donate blankets to (a) shelter or we are going to pay off this vet bill, doesn’t it make you feel good about what you are spending your money on?”
Throughout his legal profession, Fiorletta said one of the most memorable cases that inspired him to help animals involved a dog that got loose and bit a mailman. The dog was taken to a pound and officials wanted to put it down. However, he said he took the case free of charge and worked out an agreement, which forced the dog owners to build a fence of a certain height, allowing them to keep their dog.
“This is the stuff that I can get behind,” Fiorletta said. “These are the things I can feel good about every day at work. I am not interested in representing drunk drivers. I am not interested in representing a guy who wants to divorce his wife because of what he thinks is a prettier wife. I just cringe at that stuff. If I can take cases now, which I can, that I want to take and use that money to feed, house, rehabilitate dogs, cats, horses and also provide vests for police dogs, then that is what I am going to do.”