Solo: Ann Arbor attorney hangs out his own shingle

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

With a police officer for a father, Andrew Babnik found that the rule of law was the foundation for everything in his formative years.

“I was that 12-year-old who would rather watch ‘Law and Order’ and read than watch cartoons,” Babnik says with a smile. The magna cum laude alumnus of the University of Miami School of Law recently opened Babnik Law, PLLC, in Ann Arbor, specializing in estate planning, probate, real estate, family law, and civil litigation. Working for himself was always Babnik’s goal.

“I’m very independent—sometimes stubborn—and getting to be my own shot-caller is the ultimate motivation,” he says. “I can help my clients in my own way, without being forced to fit a case into a large firm’s fee structure or worry about billable hours.

“My clients can reach me day and night and I welcome that experience as it makes me more than just their lawyer, I truly can become an extension of their support network. I strive to be more than a lawyer for my clients, I strive to be their counselor, resource, and support.”

Licensed in Michigan, Florida, New York, and New Jersey, Babnik not only assists law firms in southeast Michigan, he has clients all over the country. Modern technology is a godsend for his widespread legal practice.
“I’m able to meet clients at their home, my numerous satellite offices in Michigan and Florida, via web conference like Skype or GoToMeeting, and everything in between,” he says. 

“Today's society is so mobile and hectic, a good lawyer needs to cater to those clients needs,” adds Babnik. “I often find my phone rings more after normal business hours, and being totally accessible through e-mail, my phone, and website is what clients want and truly need. Not to mention a great deal of Michiganders own a place or vacation in Florida, so having a local resource who has the experience and knowledge to handle cases both at home and away makes taking all those bar exams worth it.”

People are surprised to learn that family law and estate planning are more closely related then first appears, Babnik notes.

“Both revolve around people planning for their future and correcting past mistakes,” he says. “I get to develop a very intimate relationship with my clients, many of whom become close family friends. These areas truly let me be a counselor-at-law, providing guidance and direction both legally and practically.”     

According to Babnik, the most common errors are either failing to do an estate plan or thinking an online form will suffice.

“Estate planning can get very complicated when done incorrectly,” he says. “So many people don’t realize that simply having a will does not avoid probate—in fact, a will guarantees probate if the proper planning around the will is left incomplete.

“If a person owns even a single piece of real property, without proper estate planning, they almost guarantee an expensive and lengthy probate process. The upfront cost of estate planning is minimal, especially compared to the costs of probate in the future.”

Family law always provides interesting cases, Babnik added.

“Commonly the result of a narcissistic soon-to-be-ex, who refuses to see the reality of the situation.

“And my ‘snowbird’ clients are usually shocked to know that without estate planning, their loved ones could be in probate in multiple states at the same time.”   

Numerous local firms use Babnik—a member of the bar associations in Detroit and Washtenaw and Oakland counties—to assist existing clients with Florida needs.

“A Michigan attorney who attempts to draft a Florida estate plan or deed is actually committing the illegal practice of law, something the State of Florida takes very seriously. It’s considered a criminal offense that could carry a fine, jail time, or disciplinary action from your local bar,” he explains.

“Working side-by-side with the great legal minds in Washtenaw, Wayne, Macomb, Livingston, Genesee, and Oakland counties is one of the best parts of my Florida license. I’ve developed great relationships with local lawyers, dispelling the rumors all lawyers are simply sharks trying to eat each other—it’s actually a wonderful community that supports and promotes one another.”

Before coming to Michigan, Babnik lived and worked in Miami for a decade, spearheading the family law and condominium law departments at Jorge E. Otero and Associates.

In Florida, he also shared his knowledge and experience with other attorneys as a member of Law Lines.

“As anyone who teaches will tell you, you often learn more than you give when working with others,” he says. “Anyone who claims to be an expert in everything truly knows nothing. I’ve tried to take a piece from every attorney I’ve worked for, with, and against, and feel it’s only made me a better practitioner as a result.”

After moving to the Great Lakes State, Babnik worked for Kelly & Kelly, P.C. in Northville, before hanging out his own shingle. He also found time to help with the “Rouge River Rescue” and “Northville Stands with Detroit” clean up projects.    

A native of Putnam Valley, N.Y., a small rural community about 45 minutes north of New York City, Babnik now makes his home in Saline with his wife, Krista, and baby daughter, Eliana. He is a member of the BNI-Ann Arbor West Chapter as well as the SUNY Albany mentoring program.

A Division I college lacrosse goalie while in undergrad at the State University of New York at Albany, and also a member of the club hockey team, Babnik continues to play in a local men's league hockey in Ann Arbor.

“Hockey has always been my passion,” he says. “My greatest joy in the past months was finding that my daughter loves to see me play and watch games with me, which may be a product of just the fast motion and lights—fast on TV, dad has lost a step since playing junior hockey—but I tell myself I’ve raised a true hockey junkie like her dad.”

He shares his passion for sports, coaching the Saline High School lacrosse team.

“Coaching may be one of my favorite activities, as the passion and love for the game young athletes portray is unmatched and inspiring,” he says.

Babnik believes his lifelong involvement in sports provided the basis for his work ethic as an adult.

“I was taught early that if you think you’ve achieved the peak of your talent, you’ve surely plateaued. There’s always someone more talented out there, but hard work and determination will beat talent alone every time,” he says. “Balancing being a multiple-sport athlete since middle school, while maintaining high grades was a requirement my parents set from day one, and that time management and focus is what I believe makes me successful today.”

Babnik attributes his success to the support of his wife, parents, and family.

“My practice is growing each day and I owe all of that to them, their support, and the values they’ve instilled in me,” he says.

 

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