Lawyers create new association


By Jim Stickford
Legal News

Several Grosse Pointe-based attorneys who enjoy having their own practices, but also want to have the resources of larger law firms, have joined forces to form the Grosse Pointe Bar Association.

Gary Wilson, who has a practice in Grosse Pointe Farms, along with his partner Randall Cain, came up with the idea of the association and recruited such attorneys as Jon Gandelot and Ted Everingham.

“What we’re trying to do is put together the best attorneys in Grosse Pointe within different specialties,” Wilson said. “This is a unique idea because most bar associations are open to anyone with a
checkbook. But membership in the Grosse Pointe Bar Association is by invitation only. The purpose is to represent the attorneys we feel best demonstrate the best qualities of their respective areas of expertise.”

Wilson said that in addition to legal skills, the invited attorneys must also have integrity and experience in their fields that are beyond reproach.

Managing an office in one of the five Grosse Pointe communities is another condition of membership in the association, Wilson said. As it turns out, all the members also happen to live in the Pointes.

Wilson said the best way to describe the organization is to call it a “referral service.” He and Cain are defense attorneys, but they have had clients who have needed advice in other areas of the law. With the association, they can now refer those clients to attorneys whose expertise they trust.

Part of what makes the association possible is the change in Detroit’s legal landscape, Wilson said.

In different times, being a Grosse Pointe attorney usually meant that you handled relatively simple matters such as real estate closings.

In the past, if someone needed legal advice on such topics as labor law, business law, environmental law, they had to go to a downtown Detroit firm.

But over the years, things changed. The downtown firms are still there, but many of the lawyers who practiced law with them branched out on their own, heading to places like Troy, Birmingham and Grosse Pointe.

One such attorney is Jon Gandelot. His area of expertise is estate planning.

He described himself as a former “downtown” lawyer who decided to become a full-time estate attorney.

“I decided to fish where the fish are,” Gandelot said. “I’ve always lived in the Pointes and I even served on the school board for 12 years. So living here and knowing a lot of people, it made sense to set up my office here. I found that if you were practicing law downtown, it was inconvenient for people to get there.”

For estate planning his clients want an attorney that is qualified and conveniently located, Gandelot said. So being close to his home is a benefit to both himself and his clients.

“I could have set up offices in Troy,” Gandelot said. “They have a lot of good estate planning offices there with a lot of good attorneys who practice that specialty. But I decided to stay in Grosse Pointe, where they have some good estate attorneys as well.”

Gandelot said he was happy to be asked to join the association. This allows the members to have “synergy.”

He said he often gets calls from someone who might need a defense lawyer or a corporate lawyer. Now he can refer these people to his fellow association members.

Ted Everingham was also a “downtown” attorney. He was a partner at the firm of Dykema Gossett. He left the firm in 1994.

“The firm was just too big for my tastes,” Everingham said. “I wanted to try something else. I had the idea of practicing alone and developing a network fellow lawyers who are experts in other fields.”

So when he was asked to join the association by Cain and Wilson, Everingham jumped at the chance.

As a practicing corporate attorney, he drew up the articles of incorporation. He said this is a formalization of his network.

As a corporate attorney, Everingham often needs advice in areas of labor and environmental law. Having colleagues in the association gives him the expertise available at bigger law firms, while allowing him to operate independently.

The Grosse Pointe Bar Association is a Michigan corporation, Everingham said. Right now they are small, with only six members. One of the questions, Wilson said, is how big will they get.

“We expect to get bigger, but there is a point where we could get too big,” Wilson said. “That’s something we want to avoid. But for now we’re just getting started. This is something new and we’re working to make sure it works out for all parties.”