Milestone recognized: Firm celebrates 35 years in local legal community

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On June 1, 1979, Pepper Hamilton LLP branched out into a new legal market, opening an office in Detroit with just one attorney and five staff members. Over the last 35 years, the office has grown to become an integral part of the Detroit-area legal community, and an important office for the firm, handling matters for some of Pepper’s largest clients.

Pepper celebrated its 35th anniversary in Detroit with a special “Brews and BBQ” reception on Wednesday, Oct. 22, featuring Michigan microbrews and Slows Bar-B-Q. More than 70 clients, Pepper alumni, and friends of the firm joined in the celebration.

Pepper was one of the first tenants of the Renaissance Center, now the world headquarters of General Motors, when it opened the Detroit office in 1979. The office focused primarily on labor and employment matters, and gradually added practice areas over the years, including corporate and securities, venture capital and small business matters, energy and environment, litigation, public finance, real estate and tax. After more than 30 years in downtown Detroit, Pepper’s office moved to Southfield in 2011.

Partner Michael B. Staebler joined the firm in 1981. At the time, he was the only venture capital lawyer in Michigan. Staebler made Pepper’s Detroit office a leader in the practice of Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) law, grew the firm’s venture capital and private equity fund practices, and earned a national reputation for SBIC work. Pepper has represented one-third of all funds that have been granted SBIC licenses in the last 20 years.

The Detroit office made a big leap into a new practice area in 1989 when it acquired the bankruptcy firm Hertzberg, Jacob, & Weingarten. Firm founder Stuart Hertzberg’s son, partner Robert S. Hertzberg now co-chairs Pepper’s national Bankruptcy and Reorganization Practice Group. Pepper continues to contribute to rebuilding Michigan as Hertzberg is working on the city of Detroit’s Chapter 9 bankruptcy case with partner Deborah Kovsky-Apap.

Detroit Office Partner in Charge Thomas P. Wilczak, who co-heads the firm’s Environment and Energy Practice Group, said of the celebration, “It was a great evening. We truly enjoyed celebrating our many accomplishments with our clients, attorneys and consultants who helped make them possible. We look forward to continued success in the years to come.”

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