By Sheila Pursglove
Danielle Spehar’s first job, at 16, was in a real estate office — where the energy created as potential deals came together heightened her interest for this industry. A later career in property management eventually led her into the law and to her current position as a shareholder and co-head of the Real Estate Practice Group at Maddin, Hauser, Wartell, Roth & Heller in Southfield.
Spehar — who focuses on commercial real estate transactions, corporate, and business law — has particular expertise in the acquisition, financing, and sale of multi-family housing developments, including HUD financing. She also has extensive experience in commercial leasing and the acquisition, sale, and development of shopping centers, commercial, industrial, and office buildings.
Formal practice groups — a relatively new concept for Maddin Hauser — focus on training, development of expertise, and following trends and emerging issues in the specific area of practice.
“This permits us to be prepared to take on matters as our clients’ needs arise and evolve,” Spehar explains. “For example, in the most recent slowdown — dare I say ‘recession’ — the number of traditional acquisitions significantly diminished as customary financing dried up and the number of troubled projects increased. We educated ourselves and became well versed in areas such as purchasing notes secured by mortgages on real property; acquiring properties from banks and receivers; the foreclosure process; and the operations of receivers and receiverships.”
Practitioners in this area have found an interesting evolution over the last 5 years or so, she notes.
“It became necessary to very quickly learn new areas such as buying notes secured by commercial mortgages, buying real property from lenders that had accepted deeds in lieu or after foreclosure, and buying from receivers to acquire properties.”
A member of the Real Property Section and the Commercial Real Estate Development and Ownership Committee of the State Bar of Michigan as well as the American Bar Association, Spehar earned undergrad and master’s degrees in business administration from Central Michigan University and Wayne State University, respectively, both summa cum laude.
“My initial interest was in management — however, I quickly learned after graduation that the folks that understood the numbers controlled the business world,” she says. “I returned to get my MBA and focused exclusively on finance and accounting.”
The real estate arena of the late 1980s was a difficult time for an inexperienced commercial salesperson — and so Spehar found her niche in property management, combining the business and real estate components she enjoyed with a steady source of income.
She turned her sights to the law as a way to approach transactions from yet another angle while offering clients her practical experience in the industry and her business acumen. It was yet another area where she excelled, earning her J.D., magna cum laude, from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.
“Law is well suited to my manner of analytical thinking and my personal skill set,” she says. “Like athletics, it’s competitive and requires continuing practice to improve.”
Spehar is also a long-time member of Maddin Hauser’s recruiting committee — a group comprising firm members with varying levels of experience, for a good mix of perspectives.
“It’s interesting after 15 years of practice to see the young talent coming into the profession from the other side of the table,” she says. “From my perspective, law students coming out now have a tendency to be very well educated — many have more than one advanced degree — and perhaps may be a bit more experienced in life matters such as travel and knowledge of worldwide events. However, they often are less experienced in terms of actual work experience than my law school contemporaries were when we entered the practice. It’s difficult to evaluate whether their experience or that of me and my contemporaries better prepares a person for
the practice of law — it’s simply different.”
A Livonia native, Spehar and her husband, Jeff, now live in Northville. Their older son, Connor, is a student at the University of Michigan and a member of the Michigan Marching Band. Eight-year-old Aidan enjoys tae kwon do, soccer, and violin. When possible, Spehar volunteers at Aidan’s school, Plymouth Christian Academy, and works with young children at church.
A fan of competitive sports — including football, hockey, soccer, and lacrosse, Spehar started playing competitive soccer around age 8, following in the footsteps of her brother, and instantly fell in love with the physical and competitive aspects of the game. She went on to play club soccer at CMU and varsity soccer at Siena Heights College; and continues to play, principally in the Great Lakes Women’s Soccer League in the Over 30A division, for the Centurions.
Her strong desire to win carries over into other aspects of Spehar’s life.
“I’m notorious for my competitiveness,” she says. “It’s really just how I’m internally hard-wired. I will compete with myself or others — even if they aren’t aware we’re competing — as a means of motivating myself to improve my performance whether it’s personally or professionally.”