Return to roots: Law firm relocates to downtown Detroit

By Steve Thorpe
Legal News

Attorneys John Hubbard, Mark Snitchler, Eric Parzianello and Gavin Fleming not only like going to work, they like looking at work. Or their workplace, anyway.

“Our new home has the most stunning lobby in the city,” Snitchler says proudly.

The firm of Hubbard Snitchler & Parzianello this month opened new offices in Chrysler House in downtown Detroit.

The vintage building on Griswold is now called Chrysler House in deference to the tenant who has leased the top two floors of the building since April. The former Dime Building is an architectural gem that hearkens back to the era when buildings were works of craftsmanship as well as functional structures.

Designed in the Neo-classical style by architect Daniel Burnham in 1910, the building was completed in 1912. It’s faced with white glazed brick with terra cotta trim and has a central “light court” that begins on the third floor, creating a U-shaped office plan on the upper floors.

“It’s great to be a part of a building with old-style architecture and a 100 year history,” Parzianello says.

In the century since the building opened, it’s had many owners and undergone multiple renovations. In 2002, $40 million was spent on a major facelift. Most recently, Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert bought the building in August 2011 and began a renovation that continues today.

Parzianello adds that location and amenities also played a role in their selection of the building.

“The attached parking and the buzz of energy created by the numerous tenants are also great features,” he says. “The location in the financial district neighborhood is fantastic. We’re close to dining,
entertainment, Comerica Park and Joe Louis. We’ve discovered many hidden gems around us already.”

The surrounding city center neighborhood was one of the factors that made the business decision to relocate a slam dunk.

“When we first decided to form our new firm and discussed where we would have our office, downtown Detroit is the first place we each were excited about and agreed on,” Parzianello says. “We have bought into the revitalization of Detroit and believe there is a tremendous energy and excitement here.”

“There is a buzz of energy downtown,” Snitchler adds. “It’s exciting to listen to music or eat at restaurants that were Detroit hot spots 60 years ago. People are staying downtown after work. Detroit is again becoming the vibrant big city my parents used to describe.”  

Three of the four already knew that Detroit had a lot to offer, having grown up in the city, been educated there or employed there. So, in a sense, it’s a homecoming for them.

“The ‘Return to Roots’ message in our Grand Opening invitation reflects that each of our lives were touched in some way by the city,” Parzianello says. “All of us were educated at least in part in the city and most of us worked downtown for parts of our career.”

Snitchler’s roots in the city go back even further than that.

“My parents were from Detroit,” he says. “I grew up in Detroit and went to the Detroit public schools. I attended college at Wayne State and then law school at the Detroit College of Law. Detroit has played a major role in my early life and is now home to my professional career.”

Fleming is the only one who doesn’t have deep Detroit roots, but the transplanted Englishman is from Liverpool, a very similar working class city best known for a singular export — The Beatles.
“My uncle was in a band with Julian Lennon!” he jokingly (and truthfully) boasts.

They all also agree that the move has a sound, business-based foundation in addition to “feeling right.”

“Aside from the personal connection to the city, our decision to relocate from Farmington Hills to Detroit was primarily business-based,” Parzianello says. “We’re betting on the city’s business comeback. We believe that we’re uniquely positioned to service small to medium sized businesses and entrepreneurs as well as larger corporations which are relocating to Detroit or expanding their operations in Detroit, while still serving our existing Oakland County and other clients.” 

The principals of the firm believe there are qualities that set them apart from the competition in addition to their hip new home.

“Law firms are changing. We were all ‘big firm’ attorneys, but the larger firms are imploding,” Hubbard says. “We want to stay small. It’s an opportunity for us and an opportunity for small businesses to use a high quality law firm, but with more efficient pricing. And being smaller, we can be more responsive. Our clients often become our friends.”

Fleming says that, in addition to a smaller, more agile, team, HS&P tries to provide a smooth, seamless experience for the client.

“There’s a lot to be said for not having the issue of being passed from one attorney to the next as you sometimes see at larger firms,” he says. “So often the ‘engagement’ partner brings the client in and then he gets passed to another attorney. With us, if you hire John, Eric, Mark or myself, that’s who works on your matter and who goes to court. It’s a much smaller, more personal setting that sets us apart from other firms.”

The partners believe that their new home has many benefits, including one that may come in handy in the next week for anyone lucky enough to secure a World Series ticket.

“Not many of my friends can walk from their office to watch a Tiger game,” Snitchler says.