by Cynthia Price
Danielle Mason Anderson, who was named in February to the overall Miller Canfield five-person board of managing directors, is passionate about her work and her firm, but also about service to nonprofits that make up the Kalamazoo community.
“I think that as lawyers we’re extremely fortunate and serving on boards is an opportunity for me to give back to the community. I’m able to make a connection in a different way to people and organizations that I?might not be able to otherwise,” she says.
She has developed expertise in such service that she shared with other members of the Kalamazoo legal community on March 15, as part of a panel put together by the Kalamazoo County Bar Association.
KCBA Executive Director Jennifer Antisdale welcomed a group of about 25 to the Crosstown Courthouse, a building just outside of downtown Kalamazoo which, Antisdale noted, is easily accessible at least in part because it has its own parking.
Others on the panel included Craig Lubben of Miller Johnson and James “Chip” Falahee, the Senior Vice President, Legal & Legislative Affairs for Bronson Healthcare.
After Falahee talked about how to avoid some of the pitfalls of board membership, such as liability – advising to be sure that a board one is considering has Directors and Officers insurance – Lubben said, “You’re probably thinking, why in the world would I do this?” He gave a number of answers, including learning more about certain subjects (he mentioned classical music in his case) and about such practical matters as how to read a financial statement.
“The other thing you learn is how to work well with other people, interesting people who may be very different from you,” Lubben said. He added with a grin that you sometimes also run into fellow board members who need legal services.
Anderson’s main contribution was cautioning lawyers to understand that nonprofit boards run the spectrum of experiences: some are small and new and require a lot of commitment; some are large and very formal; some require a large financial commitment and others just a membership.
She cautioned that it can look bad for both the individual and the firm if attorneys agree to serve on boards where they cannot make the appropriate commitment. “Be sure you look at the minutes and ask questions about how much time will be involved, but if you’re committing, commit,” she said.
Anderson is the resident director of Miller Canfield’s office there. She noted that there are no geographical constraints about service on the managing directors team. (Miller Canfield has Michigan offices in Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing and Troy in addition to Kalamazoo; in Chicago, New York City, Cleveland and Cincinnati; and in countries as far flung as Poland, Mexico [affiliated], and China.)
At the time of Anderson’s election, Miller Canfield CEO Michael McGee said in a statement, “Danielle will make an exceptional addition to the firm's Managing Directors. Leading a large law firm that has diverse practice groups and offices in North America, Europe and Asia, is a daunting task. I am grateful to her and to her fellow Directors for providing such thoughtful leadership.
A Kalamazoo native, Anderson attended Michigan State University for her bachelor’s degree, but then went off to Boston’s Northeastern University School of Law for her juris doctor. She took and passed the Massachusetts bar exam, but decided that she wanted to return home to practice.
She spent four years or so at smaller firms, but then joined Miller Canfield in 2003, a choice she is very happy with.
“For me what’s great about Miller Canfield is the culture here. We care about the people who are our clients. We also care about fostering relationships within the firm in order to further folks’ careers, and about retaining and attracting talent.” she explains. “Especially as competitive as it is right now we need to determine what’s important to the generation that’s getting out of law school. Is it flexibility, is it geography, do folks want to be able to telecommute?
“It’s important to be able to stand apart. We have Mansfield Certification and we’re working really hard at diversity within the firm,” Anderson adds. The Mansfield Rule Certification is given by Diversity Lab; Miller Canfield is the only Michigan firm named in 2018, and one of only 27 in the country to earn the 2018 Mansfield Certified Plus designation. OutFront Kalamazoo also honored Miller Canfield this year for support of the LGBTQ community.
Anderson’s legal focus is on assisting clients in the areas of bankruptcy, restructuring and insolvency, representing financial institutions. She has a particular emphasis on commercial litigation and resolution of creditors’ rights disputes, including loan enforcements, and also does general litigation for corporate clients in the area of collection, loans, mortgages and defaults.
For her work she was named to the Michigan Lawyers Weekly Leaders in the Law class of 2019, as a Michigan Super Lawyer Rising Star in 2013, and one of the 2007 Business Leaders Under 40 by the Business Review among other honors.
Anderson’s professional service has extended from local (KCBA executive council member) to state (representative on the State Bar of Michigan board of commissioners and former chair of the Young Lawyers’ Section) to national (American Bar Association young lawyer division district representative).
It is worth noting that when she was involved with the state Young Lawyers Section, she was instrumental in changing the eligibility from under 35 and less than five years in practice to under 35 or less than five years in practice.
As far as Anderson’s nonprofit involvement, she serves on the board of Southwest Michigan First, the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, the Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home Foundation Board (which she currently chairs), and others past and present.
“I point myself toward my passion,” she says, “and as far as balance, maybe not so much. I love it, but as things change, and with my new firm responsibilities, I’m willing to recognize that sometimes bowing out is the best thing you can do for the nonprofit.”
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