Team Building: Area family law firm adds familiar name to practice


By Tom Kirvan

Legal News

Even with a national reputation as a family law attorney, Richard Victor no longer possesses the corner office in his Bloomfield Hills firm.

That prime office space now belongs to his younger son, who recently returned to his roots in Michigan to join the Victor and Victor firm that now counts three family members on the legal letterhead.

Ronald Victor, fresh from a four-year stay as a transactional attorney with one of the top firms in New York City, made the move to his home state in April, reversing a trend that has drained Michigan of some of its finest young legal talent.

His father, who has gained acclaim for championing children's rights in divorce and custody cases, was more than happy to move down the hallway to different office quarters, especially since it meant fulfilling a professional dream.

"Becoming partners with my two sons in this firm is truly something that I've fantasized about for years," said Victor, whose older son, Daniel, has been a key member of the firm for the past 9 years and is now its managing partner. "I've learned that you never say never in life, but I wasn't sure that it was ever going to happen. Now that it has, I couldn't be happier. As a father, it doesn't get any better than this professionally."

The statement speaks volumes about the values of a man who has been widely honored for his work in the field of matrimonial law, where he has appeared on various national television talk shows, co-authored books and programs on vital legal topics, and has been saluted by the State Bar of Michigan with the "Champion of Justice Award."

In short, he is delighted to shift the spotlight to his sons -- and with good legal reason.

"They are both excellent attorneys with unique gifts and strengths that complement each other," Victor said. "They also have been best friends since childhood, so I know that Danny is just as excited as I am to have Ronnie join the firm. They are both committed to serving the long term interests of our clients and doing what we can to preserve and build family relationships even in times of divorce."

A 2002 alumnus of the University of Michigan, Ronald spent a year studying at Oxford University in England en route to graduating from U-M. He earned his law degree from Emory University in Atlanta, where he was editor of the international law review. His first job was with Honigman, Miller, Schwartz and Cohn in Detroit before he was lured to New York to practice with the firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges.

His work there, which was lined with 14-hour days in high stakes legal matters, focused on complex commercial transactions that oftentimes crossed international borders.

"Ron, with his corporate law background, will bring a really unique perspective to our practice here," said Daniel Victor. "He will add a certain panache to the firm with his calm, cool, and deliberate business approach to family law matters. He will be able to look at issues from a different angle based on his experience in transactional law."

His business experience came in handy shortly after joining the family firm, as he assisted his father and brother at a custody trial involving a former Major League player with All-Star credentials. It will be one of many such cases where the various legal talents of the three partners will come into play, according to the founder of the firm.

"We will always measure ourselves on how much help we have provided for the family," Richard Victor said. "Our goal is to bring families together for the long term benefit of their children. We do our best to keep our clients out of court, but sometimes it is unavoidable. In those cases, we still will do everything in our power to promote a sense of harmony even in a time of discord. I see Ronnie as really being able to help us promote that to an even greater extent in the years ahead."

A former law clerk for Oakland County Circuit Court Judges Joan Young, John McDonald and Daniel P. O'Brien, Ronald said the possibility of joining Victor and Victor was "always in the back of my head," even though he found the New York legal experience "challenging and exhilarating." Thoughts of returning to Michigan turned serious a year ago when he joined his father and brother for a trip along the historic Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

"We made that trip in celebration of my father's 60th birthday and I was really struck with how much the two of them had bonded -- as friends and as partners," Ronald said. "That was something that I wanted to be a part of -- with my father and my brother."

As a side benefit, he no longer needs to answer to a billing committee and instead can focus on a "more hands-on" approach to the law.

"There were business transactions that I worked on in New York where I never actually met the clients," he said. "I dealt with them any number of times over the phone, by e-mail, by fax, but never face to face. That won't ever be the case here. Having more of a personal stake in the outcome is something that I'm really going to value."

His 34-year-old brother has appreciated that fact since joining the firm after serving as a clerk to Conrad Mallett Jr., former chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. A graduate of Vermont Law School and an alumnus of Michigan State University, Daniel has carved out an impressive legal reputation of his own, frequently speaking at state and local levels on custody matters, visitation issues, and spousal and child support. He also has taught at MSU College of Law, and has successfully argued cases before the Michigan Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court.

"It will be great to be able to pick the brains of my brother and my father," said Ronald, whose father co-founded the widely emulated SMILE (Start Making It Livable for Everyone) program in Oakland County with Judge Edward Sosnick. "They are highly respected authorities in the field of family law."

Like his father, he also will bring a musical talent to the firm. A gifted guitarist, Ronald and several law school colleagues formed a rock band at Emory, quickly creating a local following that mushroomed by the time graduation rolled around. The band, "Who's Confused?", earned its name from a question oft-asked by one of their favorite law school professors. Several members of the band -- including Victor -- eventually were reunited in New York, once again developing a popular following that would propel them to perform at various night clubs and musical hot spots in the Big Apple.

His return to Michigan also will bring him closer to his girlfriend, Heather Olson, an attorney with Miller Canfield in Troy. The two met during a bar review class and they have been racking up frequent flyer miles during their four-year long distance relationship.

"I think I have reached Gold Medallion status in air travel," Victor said with a smile.

Published: Fri, Jun 10, 2011