Duet: Husband and wife litigation team launches new firm

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– Photo courtesy of Frank & Frank Law
 

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Jon and Jan Frank first met in 1966 as school kids at Leonhard Elementary School in Southfield. Decades later—and with 35 years of marriage under their belt—they practice together in their new law firm, Frank & Frank Law, in Bloomfield Hills, specializing in commercial litigation and real estate litigation.

“We dated in high school — even went to the prom together — and then lost touch until the summer of 1983 when we were both back in Southfield after our first year of law school. We were married the next summer,” Jan says.

“We’ve always wanted to start our own firm and the timing was finally right. We see a space in the market for a law firm that prioritizes the business and personal interests of our clients over the demands of the legal system. It’s a pleasure working with Jon because I respect his legal knowledge, his life wisdom and above all, his temperament.”

“Jan’s really excited about coming out of semi-retirement so now there’s some great energy about our practice,” Jon says. “We’ve always spent time talking about our cases, and I trust her instincts with legal arguments and people, and her editing.

“We want to solve our clients’ problems as efficiently as possible. We want our clients to feel like we guided them through a difficult process to a successful conclusion—however they might define it. We want them to feel they trust us enough to hire us again if they need to.”

The firm also offers alternative dispute resolution, and Jon is a trained mediator and a neutral arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association.

“Mediation allows clients to control their own outcomes,” he says. “Having a judge, jury, and arbitrator is a useful backstop when nothing else works, and I try cases regularly, but if both sides can imagine a reasonable solution, there’s probably a way to settle through mediation.”

Both of the Franks have impressive resumes and bring a vast amount of experience to the table. An alumna of the University of Michigan, Jan earned her law degree from Ohio State University.

“I was an avid reader, writer and I held strong opinions about nearly everything back in the day and I wasn’t afraid to express them,” she says. “I figured those were traits that translated to the law.”

In her younger days, Jan says, she was drawn to litigation by the prospect of problem solving and then analyzing the best way to “win.”

“Today, I’m influenced much more by what truly motivates my clients,” she says. “I enjoy trying to understand their real needs — the ones that lie below the surface of the litigation itself.

Understanding our clients’ needs, really listening to their stories, often allows us to get to a solution more quickly.”

Jan was a litigation associate at Irell & Manella in Los Angeles, where her work included trade secret work. In 1989, she and Jon moved back to Detroit. She practiced with Dykema Gossett until 1992, then was associated with other smaller firms, including Schier, Deneweth, & Parfitt, until 2000 after which she practiced law part-time with Jon.

“You know you’re a litigator when you’re conducting client interviews on the floor of a biomass facility in Medford, Oregon or becoming an expert in the semiconductor industry,” she says with a smile.

A graduate of Stanford University, with distinction, Jon went on to earn his juris doctor degree, cum laude, from the University of Michigan Law School. He was drawn to the law as early as his teens.

“I was a high school debater. I really liked the mix of rigorous analysis, public policy, communication skills, and winning,” he says. “Then I studied political science in college, with an emphasis on the role of the legal system.”

At Michigan Law, he particularly enjoyed participating in and then helping to run the moot court competition; teaching research and writing to first year students’ and getting to try his first case, in federal court, while in the Clinical Law Program.

“What drew me to litigation as a young lawyer were the same things I liked about debate — it never occurred to me to be anything other than a litigator,” he says. “I enjoy it now because of all those things, and also the satisfaction I get guiding clients through a difficult process.”

He practiced in Los Angeles at O’Melveny and Myers until 1989 when he and Jan came back to the Great Lakes State, after which he was a shareholder with Mason, Steinhardt, Jacobs, & Perlman, then a shareholder with Jackier Gould.

In 2006, Jon formed his own practice, enjoying Of Counsel relationships—the most recent with Maddin Hauser from May 2015 until May of this year.

He notes that hanging out his own shingle allowed him to focus on practicing law the way he liked and at his own pace, without any of the other issues related to being part of a larger organization.

“It probably wouldn’t have been possible earlier in my career, but advances in technology make it pretty easy to manage everything about a law practice without spending a huge amount of time doing it – and my library, file cabinets, and accounting department all fit on my phone,” he says.

Named a Michigan “Super Lawyer” every year since 2013, and honored with the highest Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory ratings, Jon has enjoyed some major successes over his career, including two that were particularly memorable.

“On behalf of a small software company, I got an injunction against a major automotive company that was using unlicensed software, forcing them to transition their whole accounting system. It was the biggest David vs. Goliath business case I’ve had,” he says.

“And one of my first cases was the biggest non-business David vs. Goliath case, and my first with Jan. During our first year of practice we worked pro bono for a Jewish prisoner to get him meals that were kosher for Passover — we put an Orthodox rabbi on the stand to explain the dietary laws of Passover to a Japanese-American federal judge.”

The Franks, who now make their home in Bloomfield Township, moved back to the Greater Detroit area to raise their three sons near extended families and in the community in which the couple spent their own formative years.

“We’ve been fortunate to raise our three boys close to all four of their grandparents, who are still active elders in their communities,” Jon says. “Working as a business litigator in Detroit allows me to have a sophisticated big-city practice that is still collegial because the lawyers that do what we do see each other all the time.”

The couple’s son Andrew, an alumnus of the University of Michigan Ross Business School, is a vice president at Trive Capital, a private equity firm in Dallas; and his wife Samantha is a registered nurse with the Baylor Medical Center. Charlie earned his B.S. from U-M, graduated from the university’s Medical School this past spring, and is now in an ophthalmology residency. Matthew recently wrapped up his freshman year at Stanford University where he is a goalkeeper on the soccer team and plans to major in political science.

In her leisure time, Jan enjoys reading and music.

“I’m a mediocre guitar player who loves to sing,” she says. “I recently took a mixology class to enhance my budding interest in creating interesting cocktails. And more than all that, I enjoy continuing to be engaged in the lives of my three sons, one daughter-in-law and one serious girlfriend.”

For the past dozen years, she has coached hundreds of high school students in competitive public speaking (forensics) at Andover High School and now Bloomfield Hills High School; and also is the owner of Let’s Talk LLC, offering public speaking consulting, and coaching.

“One of the highlights of my adult life is the years I’ve coached high school students to find their voice in a genre they love and to express themselves with confidence,” she says. “Let’s Talk is the offspring of my 12 years of high school coaching experience. I coach adults with all their public speaking needs from speech writing to delivery.”

One of Jon’s passions is tennis.

“I’ve played tennis since the age of seven and I plan to play as long as I can,” he says. “I also want to spend more time on photography, and I’ve written a few plays, two of which had staged readings with professional actors. Jan and I have also spent a lot more time traveling now that our nest is empty.”

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