Top Northern Michigan Lawyers 2008

Northern Michigan is a region with a wealth of legal expertise. The following list of the region’s top-rated attorneys, including our featured attorneys, is culled from the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, the guide that has long set the standard for peer-reviewed ratings in the legal profession.

MyNorth’s Featured Lawyers (Bios Below!) 

Northern Michigan’s A-List

For more than a century, lawyers have relied on Martindale-Hubbell® as an entry point to the worldwide legal profession with a database of more than a million lawyers and law firms from more than 160 countries. Thousands of people come to the interactive martindale.com and lawyers.com sites every day to network, to read written information and watch video content on legal matters or attorneys, and to find and select lawyers or law firms to provide services for their personal and professional legal needs.

Martindale-Hubbell’s trademarked Peer Review Ratings help users select the attorneys named on the following pages. To create a list of top rated Northern Michigan lawyers, LexisNexis reviewed its comprehensive database of Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Rated attorneys to identify those from the region who have been rated by their peers as both highly ethical and preeminent in their legal abilities. The list reflects attorneys who received an “AV” rating—the highest Peer Review Rating available. These lawyers can be found online at lawyers.com and martindale.com.

Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings are objective and driven by lawyers and members of the judiciary who receive invitations from Martindale-Hubbell, either in electronic “eConfidential” form or via the mail, to provide reviews of a lawyer or law firm whom they have personal knowledge. Peer Review Rated attorneys are not required to have a paid membership for Martindale-Hubbell to be rated. These ratings reflect the confidential opinions of members of the bar and judiciary. They appear in all formats of the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, in the online listings on martindale.com, on the LexisNexis service, on CD-ROM and in print.

Eric A. Andrzejak

Atkinson Petruska Kozma & Hart PC; Gaylord, St. Ignace, Channing

Linda M. Atkinson

Atkinson Petruska Kozma & Hart PC; Gaylord, St. Ignace, Channing

David W. Barton

Bodman LLP; Cheboygan

Roger C. Bauer

Gillard, Bauer, Mazrum, Florip, Smigelski and Gulden; Alpena

George Frederick Bearup

Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge; Traverse City

Richard G. Bensinger

Bensinger, Cotant & Menkes; Gaylord

Dennis H. Benson

Avon Rubber & Plastics, Inc.; Cadillac

Mark P. Bickel

Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge; Traverse City

Frederick R. Bimber

Traverse City

Douglas S. Bishop

Bishop & Heintz; Traverse City

John R. Blakeslee

Running, Wise and Ford; Traverse City

James W. Boyd

Zimmerman, Kuhn, Darling, Boyd, Quandt and Phelps; Traverse City

Donald A. Brandt

Brandt Fisher Alward & Roy; Traverse City

Paul W. Brown

Mackinac Island

James J. Brown

Brown and Brown; St. Ignace

Prentiss M. Brown

Brown and Brown; St. Ignace

Mark A. Burnheimer

Burnheimer + Company; Traverse City

Robert A. Burns

Korn & Burns; Cadillac

William B. Calcutt

Calcutt Rogers & Boynton; Traverse City

Steven J. Cannello

Moher & Cannello; Sault Ste. Marie, Newberry

Stephen C. Chambers

Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge; Traverse City

Jerome A. Colligan

Bishop & Heintz; Traverse City

James C. Conboy Jr.

Bodman LLP; Cheboygan

Thomas L. Cooper

Plunkett Cooney; Petoskey

James C. Cotant

Bensinger, Cotant & Menkes; Gaylord

Bruce Cranham

Cheboygan

James F. Dalrymple

Traverse City

Mark R. Dancer

Dingeman Dancer and Christopherson; Traverse City

William M. Davison

Traverse City

Michael H. Dettmer

Dettmer Law Office; Traverse City

W. Peter Doren

Sondee, Racine & Doren; Traverse City

Tom H. Evashevski

Brown and Brown; St. Ignace

Richard J. Figura

Simen, Figura & Parker; Empire

Joseph C. Fisher

Brandt Fisher Alward & Roy; Traverse City

James D. Florip

Gillard, Bauer, Mazrum, Florip, Smigelski and Gulden; Alpena

Charles H. Gano

Plunkett Cooney; Petoskey

Miles C. Gerberding

Running, Wise and Ford; Traverse City

Charles F. Glass

Harbor Springs

Bruce C. Gockerman

Gockerman, Wilson, Saylor & Hesslin; Manistee

Rex O. Graff

Graff & Hunt; Traverse City

Bryan E. Graham

Graham, Elsenheimer, Wendling & Kazim; Bellaire

Roy C. Hayes III

Hayes, Turkelson & Groat, P.C.; Charlevoix

Patrick E. Heintz

Bishop & Heintz; Traverse City

Daniel D. Hesslin

Gockerman, Wilson, Saylor & Hesslin; Manistee

William W. Hofmann

Plunkett Cooney; Petoskey

Lee Hornberger

Traverse City

Stuart D. Hubbell

Hubbell & Hubbell; Traverse City

James M. Hunt

Graff & Hunt; Traverse City

Harry Ingleson II

Petoskey

Sandra L. Jasinski

Bodman LLP; Cheboygan

Charles B. Judson

Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge; Traverse City

Thomas E. Keenan

Pedersen, Keenan, King, Wachsberg & Andrzejak; Traverse City

Dennis L. Keleher

Keleher & Brunner; Manistee

Daniel P. King

Pedersen, Keenan, King, Wachsberg & Andrzejak; Traverse City

Warren F. Krapohl

Levering

Dennis E. Krolczyk

Manistee

Richard L. Lang

Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative, Inc.; Cadillac

George R. Lewis

Petoskey

Michael D. Lewis

Lewis, Schuknecht & Keilitz; Traverse City

Peter J. Lyons

Stroup, Erhart & Lyons; Petoskey

John A. MacNeal

Sondee, Racine & Doren; Traverse City

Neil Marzella

Harbor Springs

James L. Mazrum

Gillard, Bauer, Mazrum, Florip, Smigelski and Gulden; Alpena

David S. McCurdy

McCurdy, Wotila & Porteous; Cadillac

Joan Swartz McKay

McKay & McKay; Frankfort

Lawrence I. McKay

McKay & McKay; Frankfort

Michael E. Menkes

Bensinger, Cotant & Menkes; Gaylord

Timothy S. Moher

Moher & Cannello; Sault Ste. Marie, Newberry

Donald J. Molosky

Molosky & Co.; Petoskey

John F. Muller Jr.

Muller, Muller, Richmond, Harms & Myers; Traverse City

Jane Gootee Nelson

Stroup, Erhart & Lyons; Petoskey

Terence J. O’Neill

O’Neill, Wallace & Doyle; Petoskey

Gretchen L. Olsen

Plunkett Cooney; Petoskey

James M. Olson

Olson, Bzdok & Howard; Traverse City

James F. Pagels

Benaway & Pagels; Gaylord

Paul E. Pedersen

Pedersen, Keenan, King, Wachsberg & Andrzejak; Traverse City

David R. Peterson

Cadillac

Thomas A. Pezzetti

Brandt Fisher Alward & Roy; Traverse City

Thomas L. Phillips

Walton, Smith, Phillips & Dixon; Traverse City

Thomas D. Pointner

Charlevoix

Joseph E. Quandt

Zimmerman, Kuhn, Darling, Boyd, Quandt and Phelps; Traverse City

John P. Racine Jr.

Sondee, Racine & Doren; Traverse City

James T. Ramer

Ramer, Moore, Schmoll & Martin; Harbor Springs

Thomas R. Rensberry

Rensberry, Hicok & O’Hagan; Cadillac

Dean A. Robb

Dean Robb Law Firm; Suttons Bay

Donald C. Samardich

McCurdy, Wotila & Porteous; Cadillac

George V. Saylor III

Gockerman, Wilson, Saylor & Hesslin; Manistee

Linda C. Scheuerman

Traverse City

Frederick L. Schmoll III

Ramer, Moore, Schmoll & Martin; Harbor Springs

Ronald A. Schuknecht

Lewis, Schuknecht & Keilitz; Traverse City

John A. Scott

Traverse City

John W. Sharp (1953–2008)

Garan Lucow Miller; Traverse City

John D. Sills

Sills, Law, Essad, Fiedler & Charboneau; Traverse City

Geoff G. Smith

Walton, Smith, Phillips & Dixon; Traverse City

Wayne Richard Smith

Harbor Springs

Timothy Paul Smith

Smith & Johnson; Traverse City

Louis A. Smith

Smith & Johnson; Traverse City

Ronald W. Sondee

Sondee, Racine & Doren; Traverse City

Michael A. Stack

Bodman LLP; Cheboygan

Nathaniel W. Stroup

Stroup, Erhart & Lyons; Petoskey

George R. Thompson

Thompson, O’Neil & VanderVeen; Traverse City

Robert P. Tremp

Traverse City

Stephen J. Tresidder

Tresidder, Stephen J.; Petoskey

Wallace H. Tuttle

Traverse City

Michael M. Wachsberg

Pedersen, Keenan, King, Wachsberg & Andrzejak; Traverse City

David A. Wallace

O’Neill, Wallace & Doyle; Petoskey

L. Kent Walton

Walton, Smith, Phillips & Dixon; Traverse City

Thomas B. Wells

Traverse City

Robert T. Westerman

Gaylord

Daniel W. White

White, Mack & McDonald; Alpena

Patrick J. Wilson Jr.

Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge; Traverse City

Richard M. Wilson Jr.

Gockerman, Wilson, Saylor & Hesslin; Manistee

William L. Wise

Running, Wise and Ford; Traverse City

Roger L. Wotila

McCurdy, Wotila & Porteous; Cadillac

James G. Young

Bellaire

Joseph J. Zimmerman

Zimmerman, Kuhn, Darling, Boyd, Quandt and Phelps; Traverse City


Charles JudsonMr. Traverse City

Charles B. Judson: Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge, Traverse City
The Brief: University of Detroit, J.D., 1980
Practice Areas: Alternative Dispute Resolution, Banking and Finance, Bankruptcy, Municipal Law, Real Estate, Tax-exempt Organizations.

A number of your clients are some of Traverse City’s most beloved institutions, including the National Cherry Festival. Tell us about your work during the festival.

Most of the work is contract related, but I try to gear down my practice that week in order to be available if something unplanned comes up. For instance, we’ve had a demonstration or two at the Open Space by different groups, and I’ve had to work out a process with the city so that people can express themselves safely. Every year it’s different.

You view yourself as much as a counselor and mediator as a litigator.

I view most of my practice as solving problems. Probably one-third has developed to be mediation and that has been very satisfying. I enjoy helping two opposing viewpoints negotiate a solution as opposed to exaggerating the dispute through litigation.

You were instrumental in protecting the Grand Traverse Commons in its early years.

I’m not comfortable taking credit for the commons but I was the first attorney the board retained. I persuaded the board to initiate a default provision in order to protect the project from a bankruptcy by the first developer. When the developer filed bankruptcy a year later we forced the developer and its creditor to release the commons so that the community could move forward with the current development.


Charles JudsonKeeping Harbor Springs Beautiful

James Ramer: Ramer, Moore, Schmoll & Martin PLLC, Harbor Springs
The Brief: Tulane University School of Law, J.D., 1974; City Attorney, City of Harbor Springs, 1977-present; Cross Village Township, 2004-present; Assistant Prosecutor, Emmet County, Michigan, 1977-1996
Practice Areas: Commercial Litigation, Probate Administration Law, Real Estate Law, Estate Planning Law, Creditors Rights, Civil Litigation, Complex Litigation, Trial Practice.

After you graduated from Tulane, you exchanged your dream of practicing in New Orleans for Harbor Springs.

I found I missed the Midwest. My family had vacationed in Michigan all my life, so it was a natural transition to come to Harbor Springs and open an office.

Good move?

I love Harbor Springs. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

And now you are a partner in the largest law firm in town.

The practice has evolved. When we first started it was a broad general practice. Now it is corporate, estate and commercial—homeowners associations, individuals who own real estate, issues regarding small corporations. And we pride ourselves on being at the top of the game in terms of estate planning.

Besides your private practice you’ve been city attorney for Harbor Springs since 1977—how does the town manage to stay so charming?

Keeping the small town ambiance and preserving the environment is really important to people who live here. We’ve modeled some of our ordinances after Carmel, California, particularly in prohibiting fast food establishments.

Seminal cases in your career?

Most of our cases ultimately settle out of court. That’s what sets our firm apart. We really try to resolve matters rather than going to the death with litigation.


Michael H. DettmerRebuilder of Lives

Michael H. Dettmer: Of Counsel to Olson, Bzdok, & Howard, P.C., Traverse City
The Brief: Wayne State University’s Law School, J.D., 1971; United States Attorney and chief federal prosecutor for the Western District of Michigan, 1994-2001; 59th President, State Bar of Michigan
Practice Areas: Civil and Commercial Litigation, Environmental, Personal and Product Injury.

The accomplishments from your tenure as U.S. Attorney include major initiatives in community crime prevention in Western Michigan. Your office also came up with a creative way to deal with health care fraud.

We would ask the court as part of its sentence, to order convicted health care providers to take out full-page ads in their local paper that read: I committed Health Care Fraud. If anything reduced health care fraud, at least for a moment, in the Western District, that was it.

Personal injury lawsuits have a pretty bad rap, care to comment?

It’s undeserved; the climate in Michigan is horrible right now. The court and the legislature have so instilled tort reform in the state that people have lost their access to our courts and even so, their insurance premiums continue to rise. The system has lost its fairness and balance.

Tell me about a personal injury lawsuit that helped put a life back together.

My client had received a quadriplegic injury as a young Marine. Because of his disability, he had an elevator lift installed in his home. He had used it only a few times when it failed, sending him to the lower level and injuring him at a higher level of his spine. The defendants knew of the potential defect in the lift’s gearbox but did nothing to warn users. When the matter was resolved my client moved to Mexico and bought a resort catering to people with special needs/accessibility.


William CalcuttThe Case for Integrity

William Calcutt: Calcutt, Rogers & Boynton, PLLC, Traverse City
The Brief: University of Detroit Law School, J.D., 1978; Charter Member of the International Society of Primerus Law Firms
Practice Areas: Business, Commercial, Construction, Employment, Real Estate Law, and Civil Litigation.

You didn’t start your practice in Traverse City.

I started out in a large corporate law firm in Detroit for four or five years before I came back. The advantage of having worked for a large firm is that if you do litigation with such a firm you know how they operate, so you are less likely to be intimidated.

And your firm does handle cases for large corporations and against large metropolitan law firms.

We get a lot of work from small and large corporations and from lawyers outside of the area—Grand Rapids, Detroit, Chicago. We do transactional work that ranges anywhere from $1,000 to $50 million dollars in value.

Your firm has a winning reputation.

I think a lawyer in litigation who seeks a motion or some sort of interim relief should win that motion or request almost all the time. If that is not the case, it may indicate that the lawyer is not using good judgment.

What should people consider before choosing an attorney?

A good lawyer candidly informs his or her clients of potential costs and possible risks or consequences relative to a client’s objective. A lawyer should also offer a good faith approach for customizing his or her legal services, so that they are cost-effective relative to the amount of the value or risk in a transaction or litigation matter.

Your firm is the only one in Northern Michigan to be a member of the International Society of Primerus Law Firms.

To be approved as a member Primerus screens you for integrity, competency and civility.


Kirsten L. KeilitzUp and Coming

Kirsten L. Keilitz: Lewis, Schuknecht & Keilitz, P.C., Traverse City
The Brief: William Mitchell College of Law; Thomas M. Cooley Law School, J.D., 1993
Practice Areas: Domestic Relations, Divorce, Family Law, Child Custody, Misdemeanors, Criminal Defense, Civil Practice.

Describe your approach in your practice.

Pragmatic—acting as a guide through the process. I attempt not to interject my personality. There are already two personalities involved, and if you count the other lawyer, three. At the same time I am a strong advocate for my clients, dotting i’s and crossing t’s.

What simplifies a divorce case?

When both parties have a sense of the finances of the household. It’s really tough when someone comes in, and I ask what their husband made last year, and they have no idea. If you are not the one who regularly pays the bills, keep a handle on what is going on.

How do you measure success in your practice?

If the parties strike a deal that basically works for their situation. Michigan divorce law says that marital assets should be divided in a fair and equitable manner. Also if there is a parenting plan that is in the best interest of the children: it’s not dad’s time with the kids, it’s the kids’ time with dad; it’s not mom’s time with the kids, it’s the kids’ time with mom.

What is your advice for people looking for a divorce attorney?

I tell people to find someone they are comfortable with. They should do consultations with three different lawyers. I find that their choices are not necessarily gender related.


Rachel Brochert RoeUp and Coming

Rachel Brochert Roe: Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge, Traverse City
The Brief: Wayne State University Law School, J.D., 1994
Practice Areas: Business Law, Employment Law (wrongful discharge, sexual harassment, discrimination, contract and severance negotiations, wage and hour claims, employee handbooks, and drafting and enforcing non-competition agreements).

You help businesses avoid workplace litigation.

I work with businesses to avoid problems by doing things right in the first place. Most business owners want to do the right thing, but they just need help understanding how. If a problem can’t be avoided, I work to represent them in court.

What trends do you see in workplace-centered lawsuits?

Improper payment of employees—paying them as independent contractors when they should be paid as hourly employees, for example.

What are the top four things every business should know about employment law?

  1. Make sure hiring practices are up to par. Most employers don’t realize that the employment application they buy from Staples, for example, may have illegal questions on it, or that there is information they could add to the application to protect their business.
  2. Make sure you have a written employee handbook that identifies the rights and responsibilities of employee and employer.
  3. Don’t terminate someone spur of the moment. Make sure you have documented the issues and can articulate a legitimate business reason for the decision.
  4. When hiring high-level employees, negotiate severance packages up front—it’s a lot cheaper than after they leave.

Dean RobbChampion of Civil Rights

Dean Robb: Dean Robb Law Firm, Suttons Bay
The Brief: Wayne State University, LL.B., 1949
Practice Areas: Civil Rights, Personal Injury, Discrimination, Employment Law.

You’ve had a long, rich career as an attorney. Tell me about your current focus.

Being a counselor to help people decide whether they have a winnable legal matter. If I can’t handle it, I steer them to someone who can. I’ve also been enjoying helping young people in minor criminal matters. Young people are our future. Sometimes if their problems are taken care of when they are young, the problems won’t follow them the rest of their lives.

You began your career in the early 1960’s as a civil rights lawyer.

That was a very exciting period. I was an organizer to get lawyers to go south and take civil rights cases.

Your seminal case, Liuzzo vs. United States, came out of the family of Viola Liuzzo, a white civil rights volunteer from Detroit, murdered by Klansmen in Alabama in 1965. A quarter-century later, it was revealed that the Klansman who shot her was an FBI informant. You sued the FBI for her family. Even though the judge awarded no money you feel that good came out of the trial.

The trial exposed the dirty role of the FBI informant, Gary Thomas Rowe, and the FBI cover-up. The trial, which was covered extensively by CNN and ABC’s 20/20 cast Luizzo, rightfully, as a hero in the Civil Rights movement.

And you count State of Michigan vs. Jeanette Smith in 1979 as your other seminal case?

Yes, it was the first time the battered wife syndrome had ever been used as a syndrome. Smith was acquitted of a charge of open murder.


Gretchen L. OlsenThe Competitor

Gretchen L. Olsen: Plunkett Cooney, Petoskey
The Brief: Detroit College of Law, J.D., 1984
Practice Areas: Civil Rights, Insurance Law, Medical Liability, Municipal Law, Professional Liability.

You have a true love of litigation.

I’m a pretty competitive person and that is what drew me to that area of practice. For the most part, I enjoy the battle. However, the practice of law is changing toward more efforts to settle cases prior to trial through mediations or arbitrations. Given the chance, I still like to try cases.

You represent business against individuals in most cases that you handle. Why are you drawn to the defense point of view?

On whole, I’m a conservative person and the defense side suits my personality. I go about my cases believing that most people do the right thing or at least try to. A good share of the time I see situations that simply could not be anticipated or avoided.

One of your seminal cases illustrates your point. In the case, the estate of a drowned man sued the city claiming that there was prevention of public safety to save him. Were there factors in that rescue that could not be anticipated?

Absolutely. The rescue team did everything they could to save him while putting their own lives at risk. Unfortunately, they were not able to get to him in time and he didn’t survive.

Tell me about your role as a defense lawyer in terms of medical malpractice suits.

These cases are complex—from the standpoint of learning about the medicine behind a procedure and figuring out how to explain it to lay people. I find it fascinating. Doctors, like lawyers, aren’t perfect. We all try to do the very best job we can.