Nine new attorneys start at Miller Johnson, expansion to continue


by Cynthia Price
Legal News

An explosion of attorneys has occurred at Miller Johnson over the summer, and the nine new hires have a wide spectrum of strengths and backgrounds.

One, Caitlin C. Farrell, studied painting and was on her way to an arts administration career when she changed course after studying abroad in Italy. One, Jeremy Scherlinck, played professional minor league hockey. And one has written a non-fiction book about a violent courtroom escape and its aftermath; Shoran Reid Williams also brings 25 years of broadly-ranging experience to the firm.

Scherlinck joins Miller Johnson’s M&A Department, along with Farrell. Other new attorneys include Jonathan Andersh, who practices in real estate; Brett Liefbroer, who joins the Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation group; Chris Hoffmann, who represents and counsels employers in labor and employment matters;  and three recent graduates: Chad Antuma, Chelsea Austin, and Mark Greidanus.

The impetus behind the expansion is interesting. Bob Wolford, one of two managing members, says it stemmed from keeping track of per-attorney hours worked, which Miller Johnson started doing ten years ago or so. As the numbers kept rising, management realized it meant hiring more lawyers to keep everyone working optimally.

“It’s great, because it means there’s a lot of opportunity. Client demand has driven bringing these new attorneys in,” Wolford said.

“You worry about trying to maintain the quality and culture, but these people all really fit,” he added. “And when you’ve been able to attract this kind of talent, it makes you feel more comfortable about the rapid pace of growth.”

Farrell, who worked in large law firms in Washington, D.C., and Chicago, says when she decided for personal reasons to come to West Michigan, “Miller Johnson checked all of the boxes for me – in terms of culture, collegiality, sophistication of work... What was super refreshing is that they seemed equal parts excited about my professional experience but also about who I am as a person.”

And Williams comments, “Miller Johnson offers a great structure, a great platform, but also I think will allow me to be me. I’m not a cookie cutter lawyer; I walk to the beat of my own drum, and I think they’ll be comfortable with that.”

Williams, who moved to Atlanta after receiving her J.D. from Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and her Bachelor of Public Administration from Miami University in Ohio, relocated to West Michigan when her husband Tim  joined Meijer Inc. He is now the company’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.

The two shared a practice in Atlanta, and Williams taught personal injury and pre-litigation classes at Florida Coastal School of Law. She also wrote her “extremely emotionally taxing” non-fiction book, Waking the Sleeping Demon: 26 Hours of Terror in Atlanta, detailing from the prosecutor’s point of view the escape of Brian Nichols, which resulted in four murders.

Right before starting at Miller Johnson, Williams did an extensive research project on the cannabis industry and in particular about hemp businesses.

Farrell received her J.D. with honors from George Washington University Law School and her B.A. summa cum laude from DePaul University. It was at DePaul that she studied abroad at the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea in Rome. There she realized that arts administration was not ideal for her, veered toward an interest in policy, then turned to transportation law partly as a result of interning at the Federal Aviation Administration.

At Miller Johnson, she will still draw on the expertise in maritime, aviation, and rail law gained at her previous firms in D.C. and Chicago, but her counsel, including international transactions and commercial lending, will also extend to other industries.

In her personal life, she continues to draw and paint in oils.

Chris Hoffmann also worked in the Chicago market, doing labor and employment law at a firm for seven years after attending Chicago-Kent School of Law (and graduating with highest honors) and the University of Illinois, and after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps.

He and his wife moved here so they could be closer to some of her family as they began a family of their own. His second daughter was born just last week. “We love West Michigan, and Grand Rapids is a great legal market to be in too,” he says.

Jonathon Andersh earned his J.D. summa cum laude from Michigan State University College of Law, and completed a two-year litigation-focused certificate program through the Trial Practice Institute; he has significant experience working with developers and builders.

Brett Liefbroer, who has also been a tax analyst, will focus primarily on the health and welfare area of employee benefits.

And Jeremy Scherlinck practiced at a large law firm in Detroit, advising on and closing over 60 acquisition/sale transactions in a variety of industries, with transaction sizes ranging from a few hundred thousand to over 600 million dollars.

Of the three recently-graduated associates, Chad Antuma, who clerked with the Federal Public Defender’s Office and the ACLU, will start his litigation work with the healthcare reimbursement practice group;  Chelsea Austin will practice in business corporate and assist businesses with continuing operation and strategies for growth, after having been a research assistant at Michigan State University’s Community and Economic Development department; and Mark Greidanus will work in real estate, using his experiences as a clerk for the Indiana Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Litigation, and for 17th Circuit Court Judge T.J. Ackert.

Miller Johnson is still seeking two more attorneys, one additional in employee benefits and one in trusts and estates.