Detroit.
Detroit. (Credit: DenisTangneyJr/iStockphoto.com)

Arthur O’Reilly got a taste of what a homecoming to Jones Day would be like during Detroit’s bankruptcy process.

Representing the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) as a vice chair of litigation at Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn in Detroit, O’Reilly saw first-hand the work done by the global firm where he once was an associate. The lure was too strong to stay away.

Jones Day announced Monday that O’Reilly would join its Detroit office, which opened in July last year, shortly after the firm successfully ended its nearly $58 million representation of the city in the nation’s largest-ever municipal bankruptcy.

“I was reminded how good they are,” O’Reilly said of the Jones Day lawyers he called colleagues during his stint at the firm from 2002 to 2004. “Detroit is a city that I love, and for me that’s a really important thing that these lawyers did.”

O’Reilly spent the last decade of his career at Honigman defending clients in class-action suits, shareholder actions and bankruptcy litigation. In a statement provided to The American Lawyer, the firm praised its former partner and touted its regional footprint bolstered last year after a merger in Chicago.

“Art was a valued colleague for many years and we wish him well as he rejoins the firm where he began his career,” Honigman said. “Honigman continues its position of dominance with litigators whose backgrounds and experience are unparalleled in the Midwest.”

One of the more high-profile cases that O’Reilly handled at Honigman was his representation of the DIA, whose collection was threatened with being auctioned off as part of the city’s massive restructuring. O’Reilly and a team of Honigman litigators argued the DIA’s works belonged to the public and were beyond the reach of the city’s creditors.

Ultimately the creditors backed off their demands to sell artwork such as “The Wedding Dance” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder or “The Postman” by Van Gogh, when a deal was struck that included the DIA’s promise to help raise $100 million for the city’s pensioners over the next 20 years. (Tax records show that the DIA paid nearly $2.2 million in legal fees to Honigman during fiscal 2014.)

O’Reilly said he was impressed by the work that Jones Day did to get a bankruptcy plan agreed to in a short amount of time and set the city back on the path to prosperity.

“What occurred with respect to the Detroit bankruptcy was lawyers doing things lawyers are supposed to do: Try to help use the law in the right way to help improve people’s lives, and I think Jones Day did that remarkably well,” O’Reilly said.

“It was really a formidable challenge, and their ability to bring lawyers from [Los Angeles], in Bruce Bennett, or [Washington, D.C.] for litigation talent, very few firms could have done what they did,” added O’Reilly. “And to do it in the way they did to set this city on a path of revitalization and growth, I think as a lawyer, we all should be really proud of the work that was done.”

Jones Day currently lists 11 lawyers in its new Detroit office. O’Reilly, who will work in the firm’s business and tort litigation group, said Jones Day’s goal locally is to offer a “full suite” of legal services to clients.

Contact Roy Strom at Rstrom@alm.com and on Twitter: @RoyWStrom