Significant Milestone Once father-and-son law firm celebrates its '40th' anniversary

By Tom Kirvan

Legal News

The "Trott" in Trott Law stands for Robert, the firm's founder who took a decided leap of faith four decades ago.

On Ail 1, 1976, Trott could have been accused of doing something foolish, leaving a rock solid job as general counsel for a mortgage service company to open his own firm in a tiny 500-square-foot office in Birmingham. His hope was that a book of business would soon follow after "receiving assurances that several companies would send him foreclosure and bankruptcy files," according to his son, David.

But such assurances, akin to a promise that "the check is in the mail," were slow to materialize for Trott and his wife, Rose, who was designated to handle the firm's secretarial and administrative functions.

Agonizingly slow, in fact.

The mail, the younger Trott revealed, "contained no referrals, just solicitations" over the first two months.

"My father tells me he spent the first two months waiting for the mail each day, listening to Tiger baseball games, and writing a fictional story about a bank robbery," Trott wrote. "His office overlooked a bank, and he knew the exact time the armored trucks arrived each day."

By June, however, the firm's founder needed to set aside any plans to become a mystery writer - at least temporarily.

The June mail brought two files to pursue, neither of which portended better days ahead. In July, only one new file arrived, while August lived up to its description as the "dog days of summer" with no referrals received.

"I remember Labor Day weekend in 1976," related Trott. "My parents were very concerned and spent most of the weekend discussing how much longer they could continue the law firm. The firm had received only three files in five months. The consensus was to tough it out until the end of the year, but the overall feeling was that Robert A. Trott, P.C. was not doing very well."

Of course, Robert Trott, a Detroit College of Law grad who served in the U.S. Army during World War II, was part of the "Greatest Generation," men and women who grew up during the Great Depression and went on to serve their country during the war years. In other words, "giving up" was not part of his DNA, which meant that he had the moxie and the backbone to stick it out during tough times.

Come September, the firm's outlook had changed with the arrival of 10 referrals.

"By the end of 1976, the firm had received almost 100 new files and added an employee, Nancy," the younger Trott wrote in the company newsletter marking the silver anniversary of the firm in 2001.

Steady growth would continue over the next few years, setting the stage for the arrival in 1985 of a Duke University College of Law grad who would help usher in an era of dramatic change for the firm during the following two decades.

David Trott, of course, was that Duke Law alum who played a pivotal role in the ultimate success of the firm that in 1988 became the father-son combination known as Trott & Trott. Now a Republican Congressman for the 11th District in Michigan, Trott helped spearhead the firm's growth into a statewide operation that focuses on processing home foreclosures for banks and lending institutions.

In December 2014, as he prepared to run for Congress in the fall election, Trott sold his stake in the Farmington Hills based firm to partners Marcy Ford, Jeffrey Raff, and Jeff Weisserman.

As such, and based on the need to adhere to Congressional ethics rules, the name of the firm was changed later that year to Trott Law as the new management team officially took over.

By all appearances, it was a seamless transition, as the new owners continued charting a successful course for the firm, which now numbers some 235 employees in office space off Northwestern Highway that formerly served as headquarters for Compuware Corp.

Ford, who earned her bachelor and master degrees from Western Michigan University, joined Trott in 1993 after working as a student recruiter at Oakland University. A 1993 honors graduate of Wayne State University Law School, Ford began her career with the firm handling foreclosure files, evictions, litigation services, and related matters.

"In short, I was involved in just about everything except bankruptcy law," said Ford, who grew up in Middleville near Grand Rapids. "It was a great way to learn about virtually all aspects of the business."

Five years after joining the firm, Ford was named in charge of Trott's bankruptcy department. For Ford, now a managing partner, the promotion offered an opportunity to expand her legal horizons under the leadership of David Trott.

"I was the 25th employee of the firm, and Dave offered me the opportunity to grow and to problem solve as we navigated the challenges of rapid growth in our business," said Ford, married and the mother of three teen-age daughters. "He was an incredible leader who instilled confidence and loyalty in those who worked for the firm."

Like her former boss, Ford served as president of the USFN, formerly known as the U.S. Foreclosure Network, the "largest not-for-profit association of mortgage banking law firms and trustee companies in the nation." She was president from 2012-14, and previously served on the USFN board for eight years.

Trott Law Managing Partner Jeffrey Raff, who joined the firm in 1998, earned a degree in finance from Michigan State University in 1992 and received his juris doctor from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law four years later.

Raff began his legal career as a law clerk for a Livingston County judge before joining Trott, working in the litigation and title services groups en route to becoming a managing partner in 2012. Over the course of his career, Raff has been active in a number of industry organizations, including USFN, the Michigan Mortgage Lenders Association, and the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals.

"The management group had the vision to grow the firm, wisely and boldly investing in technology to advance our operation to meet the needs of clients," said Raff. "We invested in people and hardware, and had the knack for knowing when to keep going or when to pull back depending on business trends."

During his tenure with Trott, Raff has seen the firm outgrow two office facilities and evolve into "all facets of real estate finance legal work, including litigation, bankruptcy, eviction, REO and default servicing." The firm represents "mortgage bankers, banks, credit unions, mortgage servicers, regional property owners, investor groups, and individual entrepreneurs with mortgages" in Michigan.

"The strength of the firm over the years has been an ability to attract people with different talents and to mold them together," Raff said. "There is a culture of belief and loyalty here, which has helped us remain committed to our mission of providing the finest in client service."

Jeff Weisserman, a managing partner and general counsel for Trott Law, came to the firm in 2003 after spending 16 years with Jaffe Raitt Heuer & Weiss in Detroit. Trott & Trott was a Jaffe client and Weisserman's work caught the eye of David Trott, who made several attempts to lure him away before succeeding.

"I was very happy at Jaffe and enjoyed working with Trott & Trott as a client, but Dave was persistent and it was hard to say 'no' to an opportunity to co-manage and reshape the firm's litigation department," said Weisserman, a Michigan State alum who earned his law degree from Wayne State.

Weisserman has been heavily involved in legislative affairs related to the mortgage industry and in helping the firm adjust to regulatory compliance changes that have transformed mortgage servicing in the past five years.

"The fallout from the 2008 recession has brought system wide changes to the default servicing industry, and we have positioned ourselves to respond to those new compliance demands placed on all of us," said Weisserman, married and the father of four children. "We have invested heavily in making sure that we stay at the top of the curve in terms of compliance."

Now, as Trott Law embarks upon its next phase in business, Ford said the firm's future success will be tied in part to its past.

"We all realize the importance of not being stagnant, of being willing to embrace change while maintaining the core values of the company," said Ford. "We want to stay true to our roots, which will go a long way in ensuring that the firm is around for another 40 years."

Published: Wed, Jun 01, 2016

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