Fast track: Business lawyer enjoys long distance running

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

A runner since his high school days, Nick Oertel is on a fast track in his legal career with the same grit and determination that saw him go from an injury plagued “walk on” with the Michigan State University Cross Country and Track and Field team to a full scholarship — a rare achievement in a non-revenue sport.

“Distance running is a good antidote to any life challenge, whether legal work or not — success is not immediate and hard work pays off,” he said.   

An attorney with Foster Swift in Lansing, Oertel is a member of the Business and Corporate Group, focusing his practice in the areas of Michigan non-property tax disputes, business entity selection, corporate transactions, and information technology.

“It’s never dull — I’m always faced with new challenges and learning new things and I also get the opportunity to work with businesses and entrepreneurs that have exciting businesses and ideas,” he said.

“I’ve always enjoyed problem solving and helping people. As a lawyer, I get to help clients fix problems and create solutions for their needs – that’s always exciting.”   

Oertel regularly works with clients in connection with private placements of securities.

“Oftentimes that involves companies in the start-up and growth phase, which is exciting because you get to help entrepreneurs create and grow their business,” he said. “It’s also an exciting time to be doing securities work because of the opportunities created by the new crowd-funding rules.”    

In 2010, Oertel won a summary judgment in the Michigan Tax Tribunal, involving an oil and gas servicing company that was audited and issued a $500,000 use tax assessment. Thanks to Oertel, the assessment was reduced to zero.

“Our success hinged upon really understanding our client’s business, which allowed us to convince the Michigan Tax Tribunal that the client’s activities were not subject to use tax,” he explained.   

In a similar — if smaller — case, he successfully represented a client at an informal conference in an officer liability sales tax dispute. In this case, his client’s sales tax assessment was reduced from $30,000 to zero.   

Oertel also assisted in a $20 million merger/consolidation of various insurance agencies; handled the registration of $20 million of securities; assisted a client in connection with private offering of equity securities under Regulation D totaling $2 million; assisted a Michigan manufacturer in connection with a multi-million dollar asset purchase; and helped a nonprofit organization reinstate its federal income tax exemption after it was revoked by the IRS.   

Oertel earned his juris doctor, summa cum laude, from MSU College of Law, after receiving his undergrad degree in accounting and finance from MSU, with high honors.

“I enjoyed everything about MSU and MSU Law,” he said.

Seven years in East Lansing also left him as an avid Spartan sports fan.   

A summer associate with Foster Swift in 2008, he joined the firm full time in 2009.

“I enjoy the collegial firm culture,” he said. “Also, I’m fortunate to work with experienced attorneys who are very willing to provide professional guidance and share practical knowledge and experience. That's really important for younger attorneys and is something that’s valued at Foster Swift.”   

Away from the office, Oertel relaxes by running, a sport he enjoyed at Goodrich High School, where he set school records in cross-country, track and wrestling.

“I was a good, but not great runner in high school — but, I loved competing and wanted to continue doing it,” he says.    

After battling several running injuries during his first two years at MSU, he got healthy, went from a walk-on with the cross country and track teams to full scholarship, and ran fast times, including 5-km in14:10 minutes.

In December 2005, he was named a Big Ten Sportsmanship honoree by league officials. Captain of the team in 2006, he was selected to the Big Ten Conference Academic All-Conference Team for the fall 2006 season, one of 55 MSU student-athletes to be so recognized.   

He has run several marathons, including a 2011 fifth place spot in the Grand Rapids Marathon. In the past few years, he started running “ultra-marathons,” and in 2012, he and his best friend ran Rim-to Rim-to-Rim at the Grand Canyon — running from the South to the North Rim and back to the South Rim in one day, a distance of about about 50 miles and encompassing a significant change in elevation.
Later this year, he plans to run 100 miles in under 24 hours.     

A native of Goodrich near Flint, Oertel and his wife and 1-year-old son make their home in Grand Blanc, also near Flint. He gives back to the community by serving on the Board for the Ronald McDonald House of Mid-Michigan, and for Highfields.

“I’ve been involved with both organizations for several years and they each do great things,” he says. “Each year, Ronald McDonald House provides lodging to hundreds of families with children in area hospitals. Highfields provides an array of counseling, intervention, and support services to children and families. I’m proud to assist both organizations.”

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