'Head-on': Several close calls may define attorney's purpose in life


By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

“Head-on” is an adjective that will give most everyone the shudders, conjuring unpleasant thoughts about collisions,  clashes, or unwanted challenges.

Three days before Christmas, attorney Jack Buchanan came face-to-face with the term in a chilling car-truck encounter on an icy Michigan road, stirring memories of other close calls.

It began  when Buchanan went out on a shopping expedition. When he departed, the roads were dry and clear.

Less than an hour later, Old Man Winter began coating local roads with a mixture of snow and ice, quickly turning highways into skating rinks.

Suddenly, Buchanan’s short drive home became a white-knuckle affair, as he attempted to steer his way through treacherous road conditions. Within moments, his rear-wheel drive car failed to make the crest of a small hill, leaving him stuck in the right lane on a busy suburban road.

Then, as Buchanan awaited emergency assistance, a pickup truck came speeding over the hill from the other direction, sliding across the centerline. The  head-on collision crushed the entire front end of Buchanan’s car, setting off a series of airbags.

Miraculously, Buchanan escaped the crash without injury, exiting the vehicle before it eventually was engulfed in flames.

In every sense, Buchanan had just experienced his own Christmas “miracle,” prompting a flashback to another “head-on” he survived 50 years ago when diagnosed with an oftentimes fatal form of cancer.

A University of Michigan Law School alum, Buchanan was a young lawyer at the time with a wife and three children, staring down the medical barrel of an agonizing cancer collision that was expected to end his life within the span of a year.

But an experimental treatment program offered him a new lease on life – a life that would include seeing two of his children join him in the law firm he founded.

But one more close call involved an ill-fated Northwest Airlines flight bound for Phoenix on  August 16, 1987.

Buchanan was booked on that flight before his assistant found a flight from Grand Rapids, obviating the drive to Detroit. But then word came the flight originating from Grand Rapids would face a lengthy delay, making Northwest Airlines Flight 255 out of Detroit the most attractive option.

As Buchanan prepared to head to Detroit to board Flight 255, a Northwest ticket agent informed him the last seat had just been sold, forcing him to wait out the delay in Grand Rapids.

A few hours later,  news flashed Flight 255 had crashed shortly after takeoff, killing 154 of the 155 onboard, the sole survivor a 4-year-old girl.

For Buchanan, it was a mystifying example of fate affording him further opportunities to make a lasting difference.

In 1992, he founded Primerus, boutique law firms framed within the trademark phrase, “Good People Who Happen to Be Good Lawyers.” The organization has grown to include more than 170 law firms in some 40 countries, all bound together by a commitment to the “Six Pillars,”  embracing concepts of honesty, integrity, proficiency, and a desire to help others.

Last year, on its 30th anniversary, Buchanan helped launch the Primerus Foundation, a philanthropic endeavor designed to attract higher quality candidates to political office.

It figures to be another defining moment, connecting him to a growing network of “good people” all around the globe, each of whom can play a role in making the world a much better place.


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