~ Settlement Center ~ Dedication ceremony May 21 to highlight launch of new firm

By Tom Kirvan

Legal News

Their business is built on a "can do" premise. It revolves around finding "innovative approaches for claim resolution," invariably involving complex cases.

Jim Logan, founder of James E. Logan & Associates in Farmington Hills, has made a career out of settlement consulting and crafting structured settlements. The firm's corporate clients include Fortune 500 companies that demand fair and equitable resolution of disputes.

His daughter, Christine Logan, corporate secretary and treasurer of the firm, is like-minded. She has spent 22 years in the field of settlement consulting, seeking ways to "generate effective and fair resolutions for all parties."

Their goal, throughout the years, has been to assist those involved in personal injury claims and lawsuits with efforts to "resolve their disputes in a prompt and economical manner."

As such, the Logans have embraced an upbeat philosophy, continuing to "look for new opportunities" to assist their clientele, even in a down economy and at a time of retrenchment for most companies associated with the legal community.

"We have no patience for people who are naysayers," said Logan, speaking almost in unison with his daughter. "We prefer to look at ways of making it happen."

In this case, the result is American Settlement Centers, a company that will be launched this month in a gleaming facility that includes six conference rooms, two breakout rooms, and a full size private courtroom. Headquartered in The TriAtria Building, 32255 Northwestern Highway in Farmington Hills, ASC is a female-owned and -managed enterprise that specializes in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

The company's "crown jewel," according to Logan, will be showcased on Friday, May 21 when the dedication of the courtroom takes place during a special ceremony. It will be named in honor of the late Tom Trenta, an attorney who helped inspire the new venture. A host of legal dignitaries are scheduled to be on hand for the 2 p.m. ceremony, which will include remarks from Mike Schloff, immediate past president of the Oakland County Bar Association. Special guests will include Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway, Farmington Hills Mayor Jerry Ellis, and Judy Cunningham, corporation counsel for Oakland County. Trenta's wife, Patty, also will be present for the ceremony.

Trenta, who died in March of 2009 after a second battle with cancer, was a longtime friend and colleague of Logan. He enjoyed a distinguished legal career that began with the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office and ended as Vice President of Global Litigation for Kelly Services, a Fortune 500 company with offices around the world. A native of New Jersey and a Vietnam veteran of the U.S. Army, Trenta was widely regarded as a skilled trial lawyer with a keen legal mind. But even more so, he had a "big heart," said Logan.

As proof, Logan recalled a story when Trenta took on a case pro bono involving a woman injured at work (see related article). The plaintiff he represented was Logan's mother-in-law, an elderly woman of limited means. On the surface, it figured to be a quick and relatively easy case that would take up little of Trenta's valuable legal time. In reality, it was anything but, turning into a protracted legal battle that would stretch over four years before finally reaching a successful outcome for the plaintiff.

Trenta obviously "got more than he bargained for" when he agreed to accept the case, Logan indicated, but there was "never a doubt" that he would continue as her legal representative however long the dispute dragged on. In fact, the longer the case took, the more invested Trenta became in securing a rightful result, Logan said.

In 2005, when Logan began considering the possibility of launching the ASC venture, one of the first people he turned to for input was Trenta, who agreed to be general counsel at no charge. Trenta was quick to offer guidance and encouragement, helping instill confidence about the merit of such a business proposal, believing it would be an "important advancement to the legal community in Michigan," according to Logan.

"During our business travels, Christine and I began to think of the possibility of starting the company as we saw how other states approached the concept of ADR," Logan said. "We saw the potential of developing a business model here that would duplicate the best that we saw at other sites and improve on that by adding concierge services and processes that are unique to ASC."

Their vision for ASC included the creation of a "state-of-the-art environment" in which to operate, a construction task that has taken nearly five months to complete. Housed in 7,500 square feet of office space, the ASC facility includes a series of conference rooms that feature the latest in technology support, according to Logan. The conference rooms include wall-mounted High Definition TVs with cable television and computer capability, secure wireless Internet access, whiteboard technology for interactive audio/visual presentations, and video recording and conferencing.

At the heart of the ASC facility is a smartly appointed courtroom, complete with judge's chambers and a jury deliberation room. The Logans envision it as a site for private trials, arbitration hearings, moot court programs, and mock trials. It could even be a place where high school debate teams or future trial attorneys cut their teeth, Christine Logan said. Or, more to the point, a site to truly experience "your day in court."

"We see this potentially as a great educational resource for the community, one that we hope will be widely used by schools and various groups in the years ahead," she said. "It has so many possible uses for us to explore."

In offering ADR services, ASC will team with a number of retired judges and respected mediators as "neutrals," legal professionals with experience in settling disputes.

"We are committed to attracting the finest team of professionals available," said Logan, who spent 20 years with AAA of Michigan and 13 years with Kenneth H. Wells & Associates as a vice president before starting his own company. "We believe there is a growing demand for these advanced ADR services in Michigan. We intend to open similar centers in Wayne and Macomb counties to meet those needs, possibly in the next year or so."

A native of Detroit, Logan grew up in Lansing. He and his sister were raised by their mother, who worked "two and sometimes three jobs" to provide for her family after she was abandoned by her husband when Logan was less than a year old.

"She was a remarkable woman who kept us together as a family," Logan said of his mother, Alice, who died of complications from Parkinson's disease last year at age 91, just two days after Trenta passed away.

Logan is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, spending four years in the service, including a brief assignment in Vietnam at the onset of heightened U.S. involvement. He harbored thoughts of becoming a policeman after his career in the service, but opted for a chance to work as an adjuster with AAA instead.

"I didn't even know what an adjuster was, but I decided it would be a good place to work and learn about the insurance business," Logan said with a smile.

After a 20-year career with AAA, Logan joined Kenneth H. Wells & Associates, one of the premier structured settlement companies in the nation at the time. He spent 13 years with the firm as a vice president and settlement specialist before starting his own company.

His daughter, Christine, a 1991 graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in communications, wanted to come to work for him after serving an internship with Wells & Associates. He rebuffed her at first, preferring that she learn the ropes elsewhere without the additional pressure of parental scrutiny.

She persisted, enlisting the support of her former boss at Wells, hoping that he would go to bat for her in this all-important job hunt. He did, urging Logan to give her a 6-month trial period to prove her worth. She did, proving to be "a very smart hire for me," Logan said.

Now, more than a decade later, Logan is quick to credit his daughter for being instrumental in the growth of the company, marveling at her drive and dedication.

"It's a blessing to work with someone so sharp and energetic," Logan said. "She has incredible enthusiasm and commitment."

Active with the National Structured Settlements Trade Association, she serves on its education committee and its political action committee, helping lobby members of Congress on behalf of NSSTA. Locally, she serves on the board of the West Bloomfield Educational Foundation and Lighthouse PATH, an Oakland County organization dedicated to the cause of helping homeless women and their children. The mother of two school-aged children, Logan also is a graduate of the Leadership Oakland program.

"I derive a tremendous amount of satisfaction from being involved in the community and in volunteer work," she said. "It helps me strike a nice balance with my professional responsibilities."

Those are expected to grow in the months ahead as ASC is launched. She will serve as executive vice president of ASC in addition to her dual role with James E. Logan & Associates.

Logan's wife, Deborah, will serve as president and CEO of ASC. She currently is an executive in information management systems with AAA of Michigan. Nina Korkis has been appointed general counsel of ASC.

The ASC footprint, in the years ahead, will extend to other cities across the state, according to Logan.

"We see the strong possibility of locating similar centers in Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Traverse City after we expand into Wayne and Macomb counties," Logan said. "Our goal is to advance and promote ADR services across Michigan and beyond."

Published: Tue, May 18, 2010