Michigan/Detroit area firms?

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Michigan/Detroit area firms?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Sep 17, 2012 1:42 pm

What are the best Michigan and Detroit area firms? How do Bodman, Dykema, Dickinson Wright, Clark Hill, Kerr Russell & WNJ compare?? Trying to decide between offers!

I am a 2L at a Michigan school, top 25%.

NotMyRealName09
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Re: Michigan/Detroit area firms?

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Mon Sep 17, 2012 3:20 pm

You've got to go on gut with this one. Those firms are are all comparable (Kerr Russell is smaller though). I have my favorites but don't want to out myself. Some are growing, others aren't.

"Best" is really a subjective thing here. They will all have similar work.

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Re: Michigan/Detroit area firms?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Sep 17, 2012 3:34 pm

Is it pretty safe to assume that the work is the same, culture may be slightly different? Do you have any thoughts on what firm is better if you may want to work out of the area down the road? Or those that have better offer rates for associates?

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Re: Michigan/Detroit area firms?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Sep 17, 2012 3:41 pm

Anon b/c don't want to out myself.

I would disagree slightly with the first reply. I think it's generally accepted that Honigman, Bodman, Dickinson, Miller Canfield, and maybe Butzel (more so in the past, perhaps) are a cut above the rest in Detroit. Dykema is up there too. I would also say that Honigman is at the top of that tier, but that the culture is considerably more traditional and that the standards are correspondingly higher (both for getting in the door and sticking around).

Outside of the area, I think Honigman is the only one with any seriously impressive reputation, which isn't to say that the others have a bad rep. I do think that Honigman has a much more traditional/conservative feel, and that it has the highest standards of any of these firms (both for getting in the door and sticking around).

My sense is that part of the reason that Detroit firms tend to hire smaller classes is because they also tend to offer most people (Butzel may be an exception).

ETA: Western Mich is a totally different ball game and I don't know much about it. I know WNJ and Varnum are a cut above the rest out there, but I don't know how they relate to one another.

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Re: Michigan/Detroit area firms?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Sep 17, 2012 4:27 pm

Thank you - this is really helpful. So Honingman is the only one out of the group that may be nationally recognized even though some of the others have a bit of a national presence?

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Re: Michigan/Detroit area firms?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Sep 17, 2012 4:52 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Thank you - this is really helpful. So Honingman is the only one out of the group that may be nationally recognized even though some of the others have a bit of a national presence?


I think it's going to depend on where you go. Dykema is headquartered in Chicago, for example, and most of these firms will be recognized at least regionally (and probably beyond). My sense, though, is that Honigman has the highest recruiting standards, provides the best exit options, and is most likely to impress a NY lateral recruiter, but that the culture might tend to reflect this, if that makes sense.

The other firms are all nationally recognized to different degrees - Bodman, for example, recently made a list of the NLJ's "Hottest" firms (totally meaningless distinction, but at least they're getting some attention).

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Re: Michigan/Detroit area firms?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Sep 17, 2012 5:37 pm

(Anon) Dirt from a cynic:

Butzel no offered an entire summer class a few years ago and is a mess vis-a-vis firm management and partner defections.

Honigman lays off associates when times get tough (and cut its starting salary to 110k from 125k a few years ago), and Miller Canfield isn't shy about associate layoffs either.

Honigman fancies itself a New York style law firm - read: we'll hide the ball in discovery, represent both sides in transactions without full disclosure, and generally encourage our attorneys to be assholes. And just ask them - they will tell you how great they are. (yes, they do recruit good talent, but they also breed pricks, it’s a well-known phenomenon. Does that make you a better fit for a lateral to NY? Perhaps. Want to get yelled at by your partners? Have fun).

Opposite end of the spectrum, Clark Hill is a mid-west culture, "no assholes" sort of firm, but they don't have a "lock-step" partnership track - a plus or a minus depending on if you think you can build business. Varnum and WNJ are similar - more, shall we say, ethically oriented? (though I don't practice on the west-side, so I don't know first hand).

The rest will fall somewhere between those ends of the spectrum. Do you want to wear a suit every day, or business casual? That little piece of info can tell you more about a firm that you might think.

Dykema unwisely expanded into Dallas and LA pre-market crash, two areas saturated and not ripe for the picking.

Kerr Russel has a decent reputation, but is smaller, less resources.

Some firms will promote you to partner just by sticking around for 7 years and doing good work - which probably negatively hits PPP, and again, when the going gets tough, non-equity partners and associates get the boot. I've heard of this at Honigman and Dickinson, for example. Others will require you to build a book of business to make partner, again that being Clark Hill at least. So either you make partner but are actually a glorified non-equity associate, or entry into partnership is more difficult but PPP probably looks better.

There are subtleties in how firms are managed that you can feel out, but I couldn’t explain that here.

WNJ and Varnum (I believe) have lower billables but pay the same - 1700 hours! Foster Switft too I think. But, you sort of have to be from the Grand Rapids / western Michigan cult to get in the door. WNJ has eastern michigan offices, but their heart is Grand Rapids.

Try and find out about offer rates, ask your CSO office if you don't have friends in the know - I'm not sure I believe all the firms mentioned only hire on an as-needed basis. Some might hire more summers than they need to weed out the weak, which makes for a less collegial summer and tells you how the firm views its associates.

Consider what firms are expanding, contracting, or stagnating. Michigan isn't exactly the booming hotbed of legal work - think long term.




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