Representing cities, townships and other governmental agencies and authorities is both challenging and rewarding. When one thinks of the hundreds of services that a community provides to its citizens, the range of subjects requiring legal knowledge (land use and planning, public safety, utilities, finance, labor and employment law, criminal prosecutions and ordinance enforcement, special litigation, etc.) is staggering. That knowledge only comes from years of experience, in our case over 30 years of working with municipalities and governmental authorities big and small. But having that substantive knowledge is only a part of what’s needed to effectively represent a community. The municipal lawyer must get to know the individual character of the community, the makeup of its residents, financial challenges, the key issues of greatest importance and even working knowledge of the local political scene. Once the lawyer has that legal knowledge and sense of the local community, then the lawyer needs to blend in those people skills critical to effective representation. For example, how to work with elected and appointed officials, boards, commissions and individual citizens who bring their concerns to the city council or township board meetings, how to gain their trust and their respect, how to develop that fine objective balance between competing interests, and how to call it like you see it.
Have we been successful at it? One could say so, as we have been recognized by our peers with the highest professional rating including Best Lawyers in America since 2011, Michigan Super Lawyers designation in the practice area of government/city/municipality every year since 2007, AV-Preeminent rating by Martindale-Hubbell, and by the fact that our lawyers have continued to represent many of the same communities for decades. These communities must feel that in some small way we have helped them become better places to live, work and raise their families.
Areas of Expertise:
Land Use Planning
We have represented communities in all stages of development from those completely built out to others in transition from rural to new phases of commercial and residential growth. In doing so, we have maintained the integrity of master plans, developed novel ordinance approaches to encourage responsible smart growth (which ordinances have withstood litigation challenges), negotiated creative agreements, PRDs, and site plan amendments with developers to protect the community, and solved problems related to unfinished residential projects resulting from the downturn in the economy.
Water and Waste Water Utilities
We have created and represented multi-community alliances and authorities in negotiations and litigation with state regulatory agencies concerning Federal Clean Water Act issues. These activities have included permit and administrative consent order negotiations, litigating constitutional challenges to state regulatory schemes, and implementing and negotiating federal court consent decrees, construction contracts, insurance coverages, and provider service agreements. We are experienced in drafting elements of watershed management plans, cost allocation formulas and corrective action plans.
As general corporation counsel for cities and townships, we have provided the full range of legal representation including contract negotiations with vendors of products and services necessary for a community’s operation, such as construction projects, equipment acquisition, inter-governmental agreements, Internet technology and communications, landfill host community agreements, tax abatements, employment contracts, and arbitrations arising out of labor contracts. In addition, we are regularly called upon to provide advice and guidance on Freedom of Information and Open Meetings Act issues.