Onward and upward: Next-generation leader helps guide firm into new era

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The Collins’ family turned out in force for a Collins Einhorn outing to a 2013 Tigers game at Comerica Park. For Dan Collins, the photo hangs prominently in his law office, serving as a constant reminder of his late father Mort, along with his wife Veronica and their two daughters, Camrynn and Dylan, now ages 15 and 14, respectively.. 

Photo courtesy of Dan Collins

By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

While from an early age he appeared destined to follow in his father’s legal footsteps, attorney Dan Collins made a promise to steer clear of one daily habit practiced by the family patriarch.

Working each evening at the family kitchen table.

“I did not want my kitchen table to look like the one I knew growing up, lined with redrope folders and legal papers scattered everywhere,” Collins said, picturing his late father Mort working a second shift there each weeknight from 8-11 o’clock. “That was his nightly routine. He worked incredibly hard.”

The same can be said of his son, who in 2019 became president and co-manager of Collins Einhorn, the Southfield law firm founded 50 years ago by Mort Collins and his partner Brian Einhorn. The younger Collins is teaming with longtime colleague Theresa Asoklis in the co-managing shareholder roles, guiding a firm that has flourished over the years as it developed a reputation of excellence in defending professional liability, asbestos, personal injury, and auto cases.

Collins got an early taste of life at the firm when accompanying his dad to work on Saturdays as a kid, tagging along with his older brother Andy. 

“He’d tell us, ‘If you two don’t break anything, then we can all go to lunch when I’m finished,’” Collins recalled with a smile. “He knew how to motivate us.”

Such skill appears to be an inheritable trait, as Collins has gotten high marks for helping guide the firm during the uncharted waters of the pandemic. Clay Farrell, who joined the firm two years after its founding and eventually became one of the name partners, is among those who has been impressed and offers an interesting perspective on the new leader’s management style.

“I worked with Dan’s father, Mort, right out of law school and for many years prior to and after Dan joined the firm,” Farrell indicated. “Throughout that time, although Mort was the boss, he never acted like ‘The Boss.’ He always made you feel that you worked with him rather than for him. I believe that Dan has that same trait and demonstrates it in his management of the firm with Theresa.”

The remarks were echoed by longtime Collins Einhorn partner Mike Sullivan, who along with Neil McCallum co-managed the firm from 2009-19.

“The pandemic did not make their job any easier, yet the manner in which Theresa and Dan shepherded the firm through the last 18 months of COVID-19 demonstrated their commitment first of all to the safety and welfare of our staff, and to the needs of our clients,” said Sullivan, a past president of the Oakland County Bar Association. “We couldn’t be prouder of the way Collins Einhorn managed the pandemic, and the fact that we are still a strong firm today is testament to their leadership.”

A 1992 graduate of Michigan State University, Collins is the youngest of three children. His mother, Marilynn, passed away 20 years ago at age 62 after serving as an employment counselor for an agency that assisted middle-age workers who had been laid off.

“I was very proud of her for helping those over 50 who had lost their jobs and needed to find work,” said Collins of his mother. “She was very dedicated to the cause while also showing a lot of empathy for the people she was helping.”

Her father, Abe Schmier, was an attorney, serving as a general practitioner over the course of a long and distinguished legal career.

“He could do it all and did do it all,” Collins said of his grandfather, who died in 1988 at age 85. “He was a true character.”

The example he set also undoubtedly influenced the decision by Collins to attend law school, which he did at the former Detroit College of Law. After his first year at DCL, Collins clerked for noted appellate attorney Noreen Slank, who guided the clerkship program for the firm.

“She was the finest appellate attorney in Michigan, so I was very fortunate to work for someone of her intellect and reputation,” said Collins of Slank, a magna cum laude graduate of Wayne State Law School who retired in 2017.

Clerking also gave him an opportunity to see his father in action, particularly during a federal court case that left a lasting impression.

“In his closing argument, he spoke to the jury for an hour, speaking to them from the heart, eventually obtaining a no-cause verdict in a malpractice case,” Collins recalled. “It was truly something special for me to witness.”

While his father’s success in court was well documented, his proudest achievement may have come elsewhere, according to Collins.

“My dad took tremendous pride in not just the growth of the firm, but also knowing how many families were impacted by the creation of jobs,” Collins said. “On occasion, he would just look out from his office and marvel at how many people were able to raise families, buy houses, and send their kids to college because of their jobs at CEF (Collins Einhorn Farrell). It meant the world to him.”

Upon graduation from law school in 1996, Collins began making his own mark at the firm by joining the asbestos practice group headed by Clay Farrell.

“He told me not to lease a car because I was going to be spending a lot of time in Saginaw, taking depositions for cases involving workers at a GM Foundry Plant,” Collins indicated.

And, indeed he did, generally taking two depositions a day, five days a week, for the next six months.

“Little did I know that it would be the beginning of my career-long involvement in asbestos litigation,” Collins said. “I guess it was somewhat fitting that it would turn out that way since my dad was the defense attorney in the first asbestos case filed in 1975.”

Now, in his 25th year with the firm, Collins has carved out a national reputation for his experience in the field, serving as “Michigan and National Coordinating Counsel for a variety of defendants in asbestos litigation,” defending “equipment and product manufacturers, non-manufacturing sellers and premises owners” across the country.

Of course, for the past two years, Collins has needed to juggle his caseload with the added responsibilities of co-managing the firm with Asoklis, a 32-year veteran of Collins Einhorn. It’s a dual-role he feels a sense of duty to embrace.

“It’s really an honor to lead the firm with someone as sharp as Theresa,” said Collins. “I have the utmost respect for her and the strengths that she possesses.”

Asoklis responded in kind, saying that she “feels grateful to share” the managerial duties with Collins.

“About six months after I joined the firm, Mort gave me two of his four Lions tickets (for a game) at the Silverdome,” Asoklis recalled. “He and Dan went and I brought my dad – who like Mort was a huge Lions fan. So, that was the first time I met Dan. He was 19 or 20 and a freshman or sophomore in college. My dad was so impressed with Mort. He told all of his friends about meeting my ‘boss’ and what a great guy he was.

“It’s ironic that my career at Collins Einhorn began under Mort’s mentorship and that it will likely end with Dan and me leading the firm his dad started into the next 50 years of its law life,” Asoklis mused.

“The best part about managing the firm with Dan is that he and I are probably equally thankful for all of the many blessings Collins Einhorn has given us. Both of us – also quite ironic – met our future spouses through someone at the firm. Dan’s wife was my former secretary’s good friend. And my husband was college roommates with one of our former lawyers, Dan Fleming. So, Collins Einhorn gave us both wonderful careers, law partners who have become like family, and our spouses!”

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