Profile in Brief: For the People Lawyer switches sides for greater 'fulfillment'

By Jeanine Matlow

Legal News

A shift in Heather J. Atnip's career landed her where she seemingly is meant to be.

"Throughout law school, I worked for a large insurance company," explains Atnip, a partner in Romanzi Atnip in Waterford and an honors graduate from Oakland University and Wayne State University Law School. "Although I adored the individuals that I worked with, I just didn't feel the personal satisfaction that I desired.

"There's a big difference between what constitutes a victory on each side," says Atnip, who now focuses on catastrophic first party and third party cases. "A victory on the injured plaintiff side means that my client will have medical benefits and a higher quality of life for the rest of their life, whereas a big victory on the defense side results in someone not getting any benefits. I chose the side of the individual because I believe that everyone deserves someone who will fight on their behalf."

Such a belief spills over into her life outside the office, where Atnip manages to make time for an important cause.

"Carnival of Care is something that I feel very strongly about. It's a one-day event held every year for individuals who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. Various members from the medical community, support groups, etc., gather together and each organization creates a carnival-like game at their booth with prizes and everything."

"People who have suffered traumatic brain injuries then get to play carnival games, win prizes, have their pictures taken in photo booths, get their face painted, eat cotton candy, etc., all at no expense to them or their caretakers. It takes a lot of fundraising and effort throughout the community to put on such a large event. I love just seeing the smiles."

Atnip has made a lasting impression on Deborah Johnson, president and owner of Care Forward in Southfield, which heads up the Carnival Care event.

"She has this magical combination of heart and smarts," Johnson says of Atnip, who was a major sponsor of the event last year. "She's brilliant and she handles her clients at a very heartfelt level, helping them through the legal aspects in a time of crisis when they're absolutely vulnerable and lost. She combines the two to give them incredible services. And she has a great sense of humor."

Johnson adds: "We rely on her a lot for legal support. When you need somebody who cares and has the legal knowledge, Heather's the one."

A 32-year-old mother of two (Brenden, 12, and Brooke, 8), Atnip takes the time to get to know her clients and their families.

"I personally believe that jurors always side with the truth and I believe that in order for me to convey the truth over all of the defense tactics, I have to actually know it," Atnip says.

Besides, she says she can't become familiar with her clients' struggles firsthand by sitting on the sidelines.

Atnip's work and home life are intertwined. Though her workload often follows her home, she communicates with her children during the day.

"My clients understand that since I make myself completely accessible to them after 'regular business hours,' then likewise I have to be accessible to my children during business hours," she says.

Having her husband as one of her associates is a big plus.

"He likes to say, 'I'm the boss at home and the boss at work,'" Atnip says. "His humor and self-confidence allows for us to have a working environment that most couples could not tolerate for very long. His help with the children is also priceless."

Published: Wed, Oct 5, 2011

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