It's all about the team

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By Jo Mathis

Legal News

Being friends with your co-workers is nice.

At Simon & Geherin, PLLC., where attorneys work as a team on each case, it's essential.

Childhood pals Brian Montoye and Dan Geherin were in Little League together as kids, and played football together for Ypsilanti High School. So when Geherin needed an attorney to join his criminal defense boutique firm in Ann Arbor this summer, he knew Montoyne was a team player.

"We work as a group on all cases," said Geherin. "But that's hard to do if you don't like the people you're working with."

Although Montoye was happy running his own law firm in downtown Chelsea, he's even happier as an associate with Simon & Geherin, a job he's held since June.

"This gives me the opportunity to specialize in criminal defense, which is by far the area I'm most passionate about," he said, noting that in Chelsea, he didn't have enough criminal defense work to make it a fulltime job. "In my opinion, (Joe Simon and Geherin) are the best criminal defense lawyers around, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to work with them and learn from them."

Simon says Montoye is an excellent fit for the firm.

"Brian complements our team approach to cases," he said. "All of us come to the table with different backgrounds and experiences, but all with a passion for criminal defense. I believe this makes our end product very special."

Montoye, a 1990 graduate of Ypsilanti High School, majored in history at Eastern Michigan University while playing safety on its football team. Montoye then earned a master's degree in philosophy at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

"When it became time to decide if I wanted to do that for a living-which would require going on for a PhD-I decided that's not what I wanted to do," he said, sitting in his Main Street office across from Michigan Stadium.

Then it was back to Ann Arbor, where he became a land surveyor, a trade he learned from his father. Most of his work was tied to residential construction, and when that started drying up in 2006-07, it was clear he'd either have to move, or find something else to do.

"Law school was something I'd always thought about," he said. "So I decided it was a good time to go back to school."

He enrolled fulltime, year-round at the Lansing campus of Cooley Law School, graduating in 2010 after two years.

"It was tough; it was like a fulltime job," said Montoye, 41, who graduated cum laude.

He considers himself lucky to land his first job with attorneys Fink & Valvo in Ann Arbor when he met Jim Fink on the day he was sworn into the bar.

"It just so happened that he needed help at that time, and I'll always be grateful to him that he gave me my first chance," said Montoye, who worked on landlord-tenant, other civil, and misdemeanor criminal defense cases. "I realized I liked (law) a lot, and that my favorite part was in the courtroom. I like that you prepare as hard as you can, and still don't know exactly how it's going to go or what's going to happen. You have to think on your feet, and make quick decisions that best serve the client."

The hardest part of the job is working with clients who are at one of the lowest points in their lives, Montoye said.

"When an individual is in a position against the government, that's when they're at their most vulnerable and need advocacy and help," he said.

Still, he's learned how to leave the job behind when he goes to his Lima Township home on two acres, which he and his wife, Sheri, share with their three school-age children.

About a year after joining the bar, Montoye opening his own office in downtown Chelsea, where he focused on criminal defense and real estate work.

"I enjoyed it, and I wasn't looking for anything new, but this opportunity came up," he said.

Geherin explained that in 2007, he and Joe Simon wanted to create a criminal defense firm in which all attorneys work on all cases as a team.

"We thought, `Let's try to put all of our years experience together - I was a prosecutor, Joe was a public defender, Phil (Jacques) was a prosecutor," he said. "We put all our experience together and get four different opinions."

With the addition of Montoye, the boutique criminal defense firm expands to four attorneys.

Geherin said Montoye brings to the table a perspective of someone with a civil background and diverse experience outside law.

"Brian is a bright guy who can spot issues," Geherin said. "And has a lot more common sense than a lot of attorneys, to be honest with you. It's a good fit."

"We're all friends."

Published: Thu, Sep 12, 2013

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