A city of less than 200,000 people isn’t usually tops on the list for Am Law 200 leaders looking for new opportunities. Yet, Detroit-based Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn is enjoying a growth spurt in the growing Western Michigan metropolis of Grand Rapids.
Since setting up shop in Grand Rapids late last year following its addition of Barnes & Thornburg’s former corporate practice leader, Tracy Larsen, Honigman’s office in the city will have grown from virtually nothing to 16 legal professionals by the end of January 2018.
Honigman is now moving into space that will allow for another doubling of its current roster, said Larsen, who now co-chairs the firm’s M&A practice.
“It’s probably the strongest year in my career, and I’ve enjoyed some pretty strong years,” Larsen said. “[I'm] just covered up in really good, quality deals.”
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Larsen this year advised HomeService of America Inc. in its purchase of The Long & Foster Companies Inc., which at the time was the largest private residential real estate company in the country. While the terms of that transaction have not been disclosed, Larsen also represented Rockford, Michigan-based boot and shoemaker Wolverine World Wide Inc. on the divestitures of four businesses. Most of his team’s deals involve private companies, Larsen said.
In June, Honigman transferred three lawyers to its Grand Rapids office. On Tuesday, the Am Law 200 firm, whose only outpost outside of Michigan is in Chicago, announced it hire three more lawyers in Grand Rapids.
Joseph Sadler has come aboard as a litigation partner from Michigan’s Kotz Sangster Wysocki. Honigman also added corporate practice associates Emily Byl and Taylor Webb.
Webb, a former associate at Chapman and Cutler in Chicago, was hired by Honigman earlier this year from his role as an in-house counsel at Lake Forest, Illinois-based alternative asset management firm Z Capital Management LLC. Byl joins Honigman from Sullivan & Cromwell in New York, where she was an associate at the leading Am Law 100 firm.
Byl and Webb are two examples of a talent strategy that Honigman CEO David Foltyn points to as crucial for his outfit: Hire talented lawyers who start their careers in the major offices of Big Law, and who move to Honigman if they are looking to relocate closer to their Midwest families.
In September, Honigman recruited former Simpson Thacher & Bartlett associate Caroline Gross in New York as a partner for its corporate group in Ann Arbor, Michigan, while also bringing on ex-Kirkland & Ellis associate Mohamed Awan in Chicago as a litigation partner in Detroit. Christopher Zdarsky, a former Quarles & Brady associate in Chicago, joined Honigman in October as a litigation partner in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Larsen said five of the soon-to-be 16 legal professionals in its Grand Rapids office will have started their careers in major “money centers” before moving to Honigman’s home state of Michigan. The firm’s Chicago office, which opened in 2015, now has more than 25 lawyers.
“It speaks pretty highly as to the power of the [Honigman] brand,” Larsen said.