Warner Norcross's Madelaine Lane stars in opera, her 'second love'



by Cynthia Price
Legal News

It is tempting to think, hearing that attorney Madelaine Lane recently starred in a New York opera, that  the Warner Norcross + Judd partner’s passion is singing and the law is just her day job.

Not so, Lane says. “I grew up really wanting to be a lawyer. We didn’t have any lawyers in my family, so there’s really no reason for that, but I would watch Matlock and Law and Order and I?knew that was what I
really wanted to do.

“I never event went to an opera until I was in college. I started taking voice lessons my sophomore year. And I had done some community theater growing up.”

 When she discovered her singing talent, Lane says, she did waver a little bit, but ultimately decided to continue pursuing her youthful dream and is overwhelmingly glad that she did.

“I absolutely love the law. I love my job and the people I work with. I’m so luck this is what I get to come to work and do every day,” she says.

What she does at Warner Norcross varies. She is a litigator who focuses on white collar criminal defense, and part of what she loves about her practice is appearing in court, representing corporations and individuals in such fields as higher education, automotive, health-care, finance, and agriculture industries, including representing witnesses and defendants in complex criminal cases.

Co-chair of the firm’s Regulatory and Compliance practice group, she also counsels her clients on how to comply across the board with regulations, conducting internal investigations and audits to find and correct problems. “We do pre-compliance where we counsel  clients on things you can do to avoid running afoul of the ever-changing regulatory landscape,” Lane say.

She works closely with Brian Lennon, who, she says, was her mentor as she joined Warner Norcross about ten years ago.

Lane spent one year at the Federal Defender’s Office after graduating with her J.D. magna cum laude from Wayne State University, where she was Order of the Coif and Assistant Editor and Senior Articles Editor for the Wayne Law Review. That in turn followed receiving her bachelor’s degree cum laude from College of the Holy Cross.

For her impressive work at Warner Norcross + Judd, Lane has earned many accolades.  She was named an Up & Coming Lawyer in 2016 and has been a Michigan Super Lawyers Rising Star, Criminal Defense: White Collar from 2011 to the present. She has twice been appointed to the Criminal Justice Act Panel for the Western District of Michigan. She writes on a variety of topics, everything from the responsible corporate officer doctrine to racial bias to the need to warn immigrant clients about the risk of removal in criminal cases. She also speaks and teaches about her areas of expertise; for example, she presented to the Grand Rapids Bar Association Paralegal Section on “Internal Investigations.”

Clearly, balancing her two loves requires skill. “Finding time for voice lessons in Holland and performing teaches me to really manage my time well,” Lane observes.

For example, for her most recent appearance as Donna Anna in the New York Lyric Opera production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Don Giovanni Feb. 3, Lane had to figure out how to handle intensive rehearsals. “I flew out two weeks ahead of time and worked remotely for the firm during the day,” she says. “It was really doable... We rehearsed pretty much every night from three to five hours, but for me it worked out perfectly. I essentially had an uninterrupted period to work during the day... but it was a concert version so there was no staging. If it were going to be fully staged, I might have to take vacation time.

“You might spend about six months learning the role, but if it’s one I’ve already sung, it takes a lot less time,” she adds.

Lane has appeared once before with the New York Lyric Opera; she stated, “I was incredibly honored to be invited back to the New York Lyric Opera for this production. Donna Anna is a complicated figure who spends much of the opera experiencing and processing the shock and pain of losing her father.  Bringing this complex woman to life is a wonderful opportunity.”

Lane also appeared last May at Carnegie Hall singing the Countess in Sull’aria, also known as Letter Duet, from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, a role she had also sung locally in four performances for the West Michigan Opera Project. She says she enjoys repeating a role. “Every time you sing it you learn something new about yourself and about the character,”?Lane says.

She has sung, and will continue to sing, for the West Michigan Opera Project, as well as for Opera Grand Rapids, the Kent Philharmonic Orchestra, and others. She has also sung nationally and even internationally, with a 2016 performance at the  Sankt Goar International Music Festival in the Rhineland, Germany.

In a fairly busy upcoming schedule, Lane will next perform  in a concert of Verdi’s Four Sacred Songs and Rossini’s Stabat Mater put on by Opera Grand Rapids on March 24 and 25. Because Verdi is her favorite operatic composer, she is very excited. The concert will be held at Christ Memorial Church in Holland. (For more information, visit ww.operagr.org/event/stabat-mater-four-sacred-songs/)

There are many parallels between the time she spends in court and her opera career, Lane feels. One is in the area of stage fright. “In the past, stage fright in my opera performances manifested in thinking that I’ve forgotten the words. My voice teacher told me, “They don’t pay you to sing, they pay you to stand in the wings waiting to go on,’ but once I get on stage I find I’m in my element,” she says. (It should be noted that she has never failed to remember the words.)

“That’s sort of transferable I think to trial work. The more you do it the easier it becomes. I’ve sometimes thought as I was waiting to do my final argument, well, this has to be so much easier than opera — at least I’m doing it in English,” she says with a laugh.

Learning each role is, for that and other reasons, quite complex. Lane credits her voice teacher, Nicholas Loren, with preparing her well.

She comments, “He’s just a fabulous voice teacher, whether it’s language skills, really technical things about my mouth position, or how to fully communicate the message. He had a wonderful international career, and to think he’s here in Holland - how luck are we? It was incredible, he was there when I sang at Carnegie Hall.

“Every time I go to his study, I leave smiling. And I see it’s the same for everybody – a young high schooler, a 90-year-old in a wheelchair. I think his mission is that people leave with smiles on their faces.”