"Rising Star" designation gives less seasoned lawyers their due


Warner Norcross and Judd Rising Stars, left to right: Jonathan Kok; Amanda Fielder; Michael Jones; Janet Ramsey; Jason Byrne, who was also just made a partner; Sarah Riley Howard; and Heidi Lyon. Not pictured are Charles Ash, Jr., and Matthew Nelson, both winners for the second year in a row. Two attorneys in Warner’s Detroit office,  Homayune A. Ghaussi and Sarah Lindsey, were also honored with the Rising Star designation.

By Cynthia Price
Legal News

In a field that seems to have more and more awards and high-status designations yearly, it is easy to overlook the contributions of younger, less experienced lawyers.

But those lawyers are the future of the profession, and such lists as “Rising Stars,” issued by Super Lawyers, recognize those contributions early on.

Only 2.5% of the attorneys in the state are included. Rising Star lawyers must be 40 or under, or have practiced for 10 years or less. Since 2008, the Super Lawyers research staff has investigated nominees, rating them on a point system. Such factors as geographic location, firm size, and practice area are considered in order to maintain a diverse list.

A nomination from outside the attorney’s own firm results in higher points than one from within the firm.

Though the east side of the state dominates the list, an impressive number of Grand Rapidians were included in 2010, representing a wide diversity of practice areas.

Warner Norcross and Judd led the pack, with nine designated from the Grand Rapids office.

Sarah Riley Howard commented, “I feel very honored. This is such a great legal community and to be recognized is really quite nice.”

Howard has worked at Warner Norcross since her cum laude graduation from University of Michigan Law School, and she has already been made a partner. She works in white collar criminal defense and counsels clients about compliance with the law. “I get to see a lot of really interesting legal issues, some of the loftiest questions there are about balancing the common good with the rights of the individual.”

She is most excited about helping coach a City High School mock trial team, to “engage local young people of diverse backgrounds, to encourage them to stay local when they strike out in the world.”

Her colleague Janet Ramsey, also a partner, is on the Rising Star list for the second year in a row. “It’s been a huge deal both times because it’s a always nice to be recognized when you’re working hard. I think it also motivates, in the sense that when you get that designation, you want to live up to it, you want to continue to earn it.”

She praises Warner Norcross for making lots of opportunities available to younger attorneys. She has just wrapped up a case representing Whirlpool tried in Chicago, where the jury decided for Whirlpool. She said in that trial she was “on her feet in the courtroom,” as part of the client service team, but she played a more behind-the-scenes role in a 2003-04 case where Taco Bell won the largest judgment in the history of the Western District of Michigan ($42 million).

Marcus Dolce of Price Heneveld Cooper DeWitt and Litton has also won the award for two years running. “I’m somewhat surprised to get it two years in a row, though the first time was much more surprising. It is an honor.”

Price Heneveld works exclusive in Intellectual Property, patents, and copyrights. Dolce has an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering, which governs the types of patent cases he handles. He also “coordinate[s] all of our patent filings outside of the country,” and works with clients from large corporations such as Eveready to “people who have tinkered around in their garages.”

According to Nathaniel Wolf of Mika Meyers Beckett and Jones, “I was surprised and flattered when I heard — it’s always an honor to be recognized by fellow attorneys.” Wolf specializes in immigration employment law; for example, he helps companies obtain work visas for potential foreign employees to keep everything legal.

But attorneys working for larger firms are not the only recipients of the Rising Star designation. Andrew Rassi of Schnelker, Rassi and McConnell, PLC, has received the designation for three years now. “It’s nice to have that honor,” Rassi says. “My two partners and I all have had the designation, and it’s nice in a younger firm for everyone to have it.”

Rassi has one specialty he says not a lot of other attorneys share, which is setting up national franchises for companies who feel they want to expand in that way. “We help them put the requirement documents together and get their franchise agreement together from a legal point of view.”

Michigan Lawyers Weekly has awarded Sarah E.D. Fazio of Miller Canfield’s Grand Rapids office as one of only 20 lawyers statewide to make its 2010 “Up and Coming Lawyers” list.

Other Grand Rapids attorneys receiving Rising Star status in 2010 include: from Varnum, Tim Monsma, Brett Rendeiro, Richard Samdal, Stephanie Setterington, and Bryan Walters;  from Law Weathers, David Caldon, Christopher Matthysse, Crystal Morgan, and Brandon Stewart; D. Wade McConnell of Schnelker, Rassi and McConnell; Maxwell Barnes of Miller Johnson; Eric R. Starck of Rhoades McKee; Steven Stawski, Smith Haughey Rice and Roegge; A. Todd Almassian of Keller and Almassian; Benjamin Hammond of Hilger Hammond; Hal Ostrow of Wheeler Upham; Aaron Wiseley of Holmes and Wiseley; and Scott Kraemer, Kuiper Orlebeke. For others from Warner Norcross and Judd.