to a hot city with cool lawyers
We’ve invested. We’ve transformed. We’ve made our comeback.
We’ve entered the national spotlight. And now we’re asking you to join us…
the vibrant legal community of Grand Rapids, MI.
Here in Grand Rapids, we invest in ideas. Innovation fuels success and through projects like Start Garden (www.startgarden.com), hundreds have come together to form a citywide ecosystem to support entrepreneurs in transforming creative ideas into revolutionary realities. Millennials are our new CEOs.
Just ½-hour away from the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan and surrounded by dozens of pristine lakes and winding rivers, we preserve our community. So much so that Fast Company named Grand Rapids “America’s Greenest City” – a place you can enjoy over 20 farm-to-fork restaurants or ride on 100+ miles of bike lanes or work in LEED-certified buildings. In fact, Grand Rapids is home to more LEED-certified buildings per capita than any other city in the U.S., including the nation’s first LEED-certified art museum, the GRAM.
Evenings downtown offer you the opportunity to mix it up – swing dancing on Rosa Parks Circle, zombie walks on Monroe Avenue, pillow fights or paper airplane flights. Be a part of a melting pot that comes together to celebrate, share and enjoy in a variety of activities or decide to enfold a conversation at lively coffeehouses like MADCAP. You’ll find Grand Rapids a great place to call home.
Voted BeerCity USA in both 2012 and 2013, we cannot help but offer you a taste! With more than one dozen local microbreweries, you can share a pint on the front porch of Founders (listed 3rd best world brewery by www.ratebeer.com) or huddle up in the winter months at Brewery Vivant (chapel turned sustainable brewery).
Every year, over 1,700 artists come to Grand Rapids to participate in one of the largest open art competitions in the world – ArtPrize. From amateur to the elite, creative entries are displayed throughout the city for 2+ weeks for you to view, enjoy and be inspired! This creativity runs deep. We recently launched GRid70, a downtown design hub where creative teams from different industries collaborate to develop new products and concepts.
We give back, and we give back big. Transforming health care services, our community’s philanthropy efforts have built a billion dollar Medical Mile that provides world renowned medical treatment. As one of the most philanthropic cities in the country, you can invest your time and money into organizations that connect and inspire you. Find comfort in the healing power of laughing at cancer through LaughFest, a 10-day festival bringing in the best of America’s comedians to raise money for Gilda’s Club. It is not just from the wallet, you can also serve with your time. Every single day Kids’ Food Basket packs 5,000 sack suppers for children in the community who might otherwise go to bed hungry.
Grand Rapids has the perks of a big city with the affordability and ease of a small town. With a low cost of living, you can afford to do all the extras you want to do. Whether you choose to live in a quaint, historic neighborhood like Heritage Hill or in an up-and-coming downtown loft, your commute time will be minimal. From the working professional to the starving artist, Grand Rapids is the ideal place to launch a career.
Nothing feels better than working in and being part of a vibrant city; a place brimming with positivity and possibilities from the business district to downtown living. From intellectual property to trust and estates and from downtown to the burbs, the combinations and opportunities are limitless.
If you haven’t visited Grand Rapids, Michigan lately, you’re in for quite a surprise. It’s becoming a town known for embracing great talent and for valuing the rich perspectives different cultures bring to the area.
In the Grand Rapids’ legal community, you’ll find momentum growing behind grab LAW, a unique diversity initiative developed by the Grand Rapids Bar Association and the Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative. Through grab LAW, you can find an incredibly rewarding legal career that fits your life, personally and professionally. grab LAW is about YOU – your achievements and balance both on and off-of-the job.
Our work to grow, attract and retain the best, diverse talent in Grand Rapids’ legal community is really quite epic, and innovative change is what this region is all about. We’re on a roll with making greater Grand Rapids a strong, sustainable and successful community where achievement of your goals is balanced with an exceptional quality of living… making Grand Rapids a great place to call home!
In our firms, we embrace progressive practices where you take ownership and control of your career and your life. These practices are ever-changing and always evolving. Here are a few ways to achieve your goals and find balance in your legal career (check individual firms for benefits).
Marcia Bennett Boyce, a Member practicing corporate law at Miller Johnson’s Grand Rapids office, and her husband, Hayden, a neurosurgeon at Spectrum Health, fell in love with Grand Rapids following a recent visit. The native New Yorkers had worked in the Detroit area for several years and then relocated to Pennsylvania in 2008 to be closer to family.
As the couple started their own family, Marcia opted to stay home with their children for a couple years. An opportunity for her husband to be a part of Grand Rapids’ dynamic health field brought them here for the first time in 2012. They were drawn to the “refreshing welcome” they received and the family-friendly attractions like the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum and the Frederik Meijer Gardens. Exploring the area, Marcia found herself considering a return to practice, but on a part-time basis so she could balance time with her young family. “Miller Johnson has been a great fit,” she said. “The firm has both quality work and people.” The Boyces moved here permanently last summer and couldn’t be happier. “I still know I’m valued and the quality of my work is not going to vary because I made that [part-time] choice.”
Hometown: Bronx, New York
Law school: Fordham University
Favorite restaurant: Palace of India (carry-out!)
Favorite professional organization: Economic Club of Grand Rapids
Favorite things to do: Going for walks, learning to play the piano and spending time with my family
Favorite thing about Grand Rapids: Small enough to have a sense of community, with big-city flair
Why practice law in Grand Rapids: I work part-time and do not feel like that will affect my career
Best coffee in town: Biggby (soy chai latte)
Having recently celebrated the first anniversary of opening his own law firm in downtown Grand Rapids, Brent Geers described the experience as a “great adventure.” Brent said the move has generated tremendous support from attorneys and business leaders near and far. ”I was blown away with all of the texts, emails and calls of encouragement,” he said. He’s optimistic about his firm’s future. “There’s a lot of momentum going on about Grand Rapids right now… I continue to be excited.”
Hometown: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Law school: Cooley
Neighborhood: Grand Rapids
Favorite restaurant: Depends on my mood; Mikado’s for sushi, and for comfort food/breakfast, Cheshire Grill or Wolfgang’s
Favorite professional organization: Can I pick two? BL2END and LINC
Favorite things to do: Whitecaps games, bike rides and trying craft beers
What’s unique about GR: It’s everything you want in a city without big-city problems
Why practice law in Grand Rapids: It has this potential that’s not fully tapped
Best coffee in town: Biggby
Dawn Garcia Ward describes her personal and professional life as the “best of both worlds.” The litigation and data management attorney at Warner Norcross & Judd maintains a flexible schedule to spend time with her two young children while enjoying a satisfying career. In addition, she has the support of a firm that encourages community involvement. “We don’t practice law in a silo; there is a heart aspect to what we do,” said Dawn.
She also appreciates the region’s culture of respect for differences of opinions and perspectives. “It’s about being heard. As a woman and a minority, I have loved this area [Holland] because there is an effort to understand a variety of voices.”
Hometown: Los Lunas, New Mexico
Law school: Notre Dame
Neighborhood: Holland – northside
Favorite restaurant: Taco Fiesta, Inc.
Favorite professional organization: I am on the Holland Historical board and the Holland Hospital board. I strongly believe in the missions of both of these organizations
Favorite things to do: Exploring Holland; the beaches up and down the coast of Lake Michigan and having picnics on the beach for dinner
Why GR is unique: There’s something always going on – from the Hispanic Festival to ArtPrize. Even if there’s not a major event going on, there’s something to do for everyone – families, singles and professionals. It offers diverse options. And, there are so many giving opportunities
Why practice law in Grand Rapids: It is not just about your job but all of these facets that play into making my job interesting
Best coffee in town: JP’s (Holland)
When she talks with her legal peers practicing in larger markets, Charissa Huang feels lucky to enjoy a fulfilling position in a firm that encourages entrepreneurism and ample latitude for development, without the presence of micro-managing. “We’re (associates) not confined to any one practice group. I’m encouraged to be the best I can be, and then the firm supports that. It’s a very unique place.” Charissa also finds Smith Haughey “refreshing” in welcoming minorities, beyond friendly courtesies. I’m a lot more than a woman and a minority. There’s a lot more to me than that. The people around here get it… the substance of a person.
Hometown: Kalamazoo, Michigan
Law School: Northwestern University
Favorite restaurant: Bistro Bella Vita (San Chez is a close second!)
Favorite things to do: Concerts, hanging out in Saugatuck or with friends
Favorite professional organization: Serves on the boards of St. Cecilia Music Center (she’s a musician at heart) and the West Michigan Cooperative
Favorite thing about Grand Rapids: The overwhelming generosity of individuals and private entities both inside and outside of the legal community in terms of philanthropic efforts. It’s seriously impressive how committed people are to helping those in need. It shows the character of the community
Why practice law in Grand Rapids: It’s surprisingly collegial. I have never experienced a legal community so generous with their time – who has helped me out, without knowing me or meeting me, without expecting anything in return
Best coffee in town: MADCAP
When Susan Im first arrived in Grand Rapids, she didn’t have any family ties here. Once the energetic attorney decided to launch her own immigration practice in 1997, she found her niche in work and in life – here in West Michigan. Not only could Susan concentrate on her passion for immigration law, but do so in a region supportive of entrepreneurs. Susan built a successful immigration practice to eventually grow ImLaw to the recognized specialty firm it is today. Susan is the immediate past Chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Michigan Chapter, consisting of over 300 immigration attorneys statewide, and is the first elected Chair from West Michigan. She regularly speaks on immigration law topics for AILA and the Institute of Continuing Legal Education (ICLE) on a national and local level. Susan is also a founder of the Asian Professionals Organization (APO) in West Michigan, which is now the West Michigan Asian American Association.
Hometown: Traverse City, Michigan
Law School: Wayne State University
Favorite restaurant: It’s a three-way tie – Marado Sushi, San Chez and Angel’s Thai Cafe
Favorite things to do: Hanging out with my family (I have a seven and three year old and a puppy!). When my husband and I do go out, we enjoy a good meal and live music
Favorite professional organization: West Michigan Asian American Association
Favorite thing about Grand Rapids: It’s an ideal combination of entrepreneurial opportunities together with a wonderful place to raise your family. We also love its close proximity to Lake Michigan
Why practice law in Grand Rapids: It’s a great place for opportunity if you are at all entrepreneurial-minded. You can be a big fish in a small pond and the start-up expenses are not as high as other major cities. The cost of living here is extremely reasonable
Best coffee in town: I’m a tea drinker
After graduating from Harvard Law School at age 23, Patrick Miles, Jr. had the training and determination to go anywhere in the world to launch his legal career. He chose to return to his beloved hometown, where he has thrived as an attorney and community leader ever since. Patrick’s accolades are too numerous to list, but among the most notable are his nomination by President Obama and Senate confirmation as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, the State Bar of Michigan’s Outstanding Young Lawyer Award and being elected to serve as Grand Rapids Bar Association president as well as becoming president of the newly-formed Grand Rapids Black Chamber of Commerce.
Hometown: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Law School: Harvard
Neighborhood: East Grand Rapids
Favorite restaurant: Parsley Mediterranean Grille
Favorite things to do: Golf
Favorite professional organization: Grand Rapids Bar Association
Why GR is unique: It has all the benefits of a large city on a smaller scale and is more affordable and easier to live. Plus, Michigan has great outdoor activities including sandy beaches, ski resorts, boating, fishing, championship golf courses, parks, and hiking trails
Why practice law in Grand Rapids: There’s an opportunity to stand out. You can be a trailblazer if you want. You can establish a positive professional reputation here easier than a bigger city
Best coffee in town: Gave it up. I’m a tea drinker
Married with two young children, Tracey and Kenyatta Brame do an amazing job of juggling demanding careers, a satisfying home life and volunteering in the community. Tracey is the assistant dean of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Grand Rapids and Kenyatta is the Chief Administrative Officer of Cascade Engineering. The duo met during their first day of orientation at law school. With strong family ties to the area, the Brames have never regretted their decision to make Grand Rapids their home.
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Law School: University of Michigan
Neighborhood: Southeast Grand Rapids
Favorite professional organization: Floyd Skinner Bar Association
Why GR is unique: Grand Rapids is the best of all worlds. I have a very satisfying career working in a community that values family. I have the flexibility to go on my kids’ field trips, while maintaining a connection to the professional community and that balance means the world to me. Grand Rapids is a growing city on the cusp of great things, and just a great place to raise a family
Why practice law in Grand Rapids: The legal community here is supportive and tight knit. It is also very giving. Lawyers give of their time and resources freely to help those in need. As the city continues to grow, and to nurture diversity, there are exciting opportunities afoot
Best coffee in town: I’m a Starbucks girl, but locally, I really like MADCAP
Hometown: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Law School: University of Michigan…Go Blue!
Neighborhood: Southeast Grand Rapids
Favorite restaurant: Real Food Café; the best breakfast in town
Favorite professional organization: BL²END
Favorite things to do: Talk with my wife, spend time with my BSA Troop, volunteer with my family at N.P.H. in Honduras and retreat to our cottage
Why GR is unique: I have lived in many places around the world and always have returned home to GR because it is like nowhere else. Because I grew up here, I really appreciate how much we (the city) have changed over the years. There is so much energy in the community it is palpable. We have businesses that care about the communities they work in, a growing business sector, a robust entrepreneurial culture, great restaurants, multiple languages are spoken, a variety of churches and religious beliefs, vibrant non-profits, strong philanthropy, great arts festivals, gardens and museums, higher education institutions, engaged neighborhoods, activities for all ages and people who truly care about the city and the people who live and work here. I am truly happy to be a part of this community
Why practice law in Grand Rapids: You are able to find the balance between personal growth as a lawyer and work-life balance. You can have a successful career and be an engaged member of this community. It is a “both,” not an “or”
Best coffee in town: I don’t always drink coffee, but when I do I prefer to patronize neighborhood establishments
As vice president & system chief risk officer for Spectrum Health Corp., Bridget oversees the risk management and corporate compliance programs of the large, integrated health system. She credits Spectrum’s openness and opportunities as reasons she is celebrating more than 13 years with West Michigan’s largest employer (more than 20,000 employees).
Hometown: South Haven, Michigan
Law School: University of Michigan
Favorite restaurant: Green Well
Favorite things to do: Hanging out with family
Favorite professional organization: Legal Aid of Western Michigan
Favorite thing about GR: It has the big city amenities with a small town feel. I’ve made some really good friends here. And I don’t have a two-hour commute to work
Women and minorities are making strides in their judicial representation in Kent County. Learn more about this at www.accesskent.com/courts/17thcc/judges.htm