Foster Swift's John Inhulsen is recipient of wide range of honors



By Cynthia Price
Legal News

It is hard to know where to start in explaining the many honors recently accorded to attorney John W. Inhulsen, a shareholder at Foster Swift Collins and Smith, working out of the firm’s Grand Rapids office.

One of the most important is also the most recent: Inhulsen was elected Monday night to chair the Kent County Republican Party.

After serving on the party’s Executive Committee and as Finance Chair, Inhulsen threw his hat in the ring to follow outgoing chair Chris Beckering, and won unanimously.

But that is just one of the pieces of good news the attorney has received lately. An important milestone in his service to the legal profession came in his recent appointment by the Michigan Supreme Court to the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board.

The Attorney Discipline Board is “the adjudicative arm of the Michigan Supreme Court for discharge of its exclusive constitutional responsibility to supervise and discipline Michigan attorneys.,” according to its website,

The discipline board attorneys, who serve on a volunteer basis, make up three-person panels who conduct actual hearings on lawyers who have been subject to a formal complaint requesting disciplinary proceedings. These trials are conducted under Subchapter 9.100 of the Michigan Court Rules. The board also reviews decisions of the three-person panels. The Michigan Supreme Court, of which the Attorney Discipline Board is a body, may hear appeals to board decisions.

“It’s challenging work,” says Inhulsen, “and it’s difficult to sit in a position where you’re reviewing the actions of your legal peers. But I also think it’s an important role and I take it very seriously.”

Other recognition could be considered more fun, such as being named for the second time to the Grand Rapids Business Journal 40 Under Forty. 

At the time of his first inclusion in 2013, Inhulsen commented, “It’s truly an honor to be part of this.” The gala 2014 celebration took place at the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre and was “packed – people were even up in the balcony,” he said. Speakers included Mayor George Heartwell and a multi-time winner of the 40 Under Forty award who talked about his life after forty.

“Grand Rapids is a dynamic and vibrant town with a growing younger generation of professionals, so a lot of people are deserving,” Inhulsen says. “What was interesting about it and why it’s special to me is that it’s more of a broad community and business-community award rather than a legal practice award. I work hard to be a supporting member of the community so it’s nice when people think nice things about you.”

Inhulsen, has, however, received a lot of accolades within the legal community as well. He is a 2014 Michigan Lawyer’s Weekly Up and Coming Lawyer, and after two years as a Rising Star, was named a Super Lawyer for the years 2013 and 2014.

He is also a member of the Finance Committee of the Grand Rapids Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan Practice Management Resource Center Advisory Committee, the Federal Bar Association and the G.R. Ford Chapter of the American Inns o Court.

“I have to be very careful to segment my activities,” Inhulsen explains. “My career and the practice of law, and the political stuff, and all the different boards I’m on, and even my family – I work hard to keep it clear which I’m representing.”

His community activities alone are massive. He serves as the chair of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society – “My grandmother passed away from leukemia,” he says, “and it’s an issue of getting the organization up and running here” – and as vice-chair of Broadway Grand Rapids, which Foster Swift supports as a firm.

He has just finished a stint as chair of the March of Dimes board, and is on the advisory board for Kuyper College Business Leadership Program; the junior professionals board of the Van Andel Institute; and the East Grand Rapids Public Schools Foundation.

He is also on the board of directors for the Michigan State University Alumni Club of West Michigan, not surprising because he attended MSU for both his undergraduate degree and law degree.

He met his wife in law school, and they have two sons: Charlie, 6, and Henry, 3. The family resides in East Grand Rapids, where Inhulsen has recently served as a spokesperson for the group opposing an exploratory study for designating parts of the city a historic district. 

“I feel like a large amount of taxpayer dollars would be spent on an area that doesn’t need changing, plus it would render property owners subject to the historical district regulations and strip them of their property rights – property rights are the foundation of this country,” he adds.

He was also formerly a cabinet member for the Helen DeVos Children's Hospital Foundation and for United Way of West Michigan.

Moreover, Inhulsen is very proud of his upbringing in Adrian and continues to serve on the Adrian Schools Educational Foundation board and support the Adrian Boys and Girls Club. He really cares about the small-town attitude of Adrian and says he “feels lucky” to have grown up there, where his father was a small business owner.

With all of this activity, it would seem that Inhulsen would have difficulty finding the time to work. On the contrary, he is a highly successful litigator and business/corporate attorney with a praiseworthy career philosophy.

“My strategy is to partner with my clients and put a team together within Foster Swift of specialists as the need arises, and scale the costs to what fits the client’s needs. I try to approach it from the mindset of small business owners; they don’t  need to have an IP attorney on retainer and they don’t need to have an employment lawyer always on call. it’s the same thing they would do with their doctors – they need one main lawyer. It’s my goal to be that lawyer.”

In fact, his success in getting a large jury verdict for one of his clients was recently the subject of a statewide Legal News article. Inhulsen led a team which also included Andrew Vredenburg and Joshua Richardson, resulting in a jury verdict awarding $5.15 million in a suit brought by a former Ionia County farm equipment dealer, McCormick International, against Manitou North America Inc. under the Michigan Farm and Utility Equipment Act and the Michigan Antitrust Reform Act. Post-trial motions challenging the proceedings were unsuccessful.

Noting that the broad array of attorneys in the various Foster Swift offices often allows him to save his clients transportation costs by having, for example, a Detroit office lawyer handle a trial in the Detroit area, Inhulsen comments, “This is the only place I’ve worked. It’s the only place I want to work.”

He adds, “The nice thing here is we do a good job of getting our younger attorneys involved in client relationships and in the practice early on.

“We have so many exceptional attorneys in so many different practice areas, but what I really value is the atmosphere that’s been created. At heart the firm is one of friendship and