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Miller Johnson’s Investment in Kalamazoo Goes Back Four Decades

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Miller Johnson has called downtown Kalamazoo ‘home’ for 40 years.

Since 1979, the law firm has been a part of the planning, development, and growth of Southwest Michigan. Often, Miller Johnson has had its people and clients directly involved in the progress. So with four decades of experience under its belt, the firm considers not just its office, but its Kalamazoo ‘home,’ a wonderful workplace.

“Kalamazoo is rich with cultural pride, economic development, and the spirit of civic leadership,” said Craig Lubben, Managing Member of Miller Johnson. “For our firm to have the trust of many of the leaders and influencers in this community is a privilege. Our number one priority for our clients is to simplify the challenges they face, not complicate them. We use our experience and talent to develop practical solutions. We hire problem solvers and not just scholars. We don’t cite case law; we solve problems.”

It’s that service and robust client base that have allowed the firm to thrive. Healthcare and pharmaceutical device manufacturing have been industry staples in the region for decades. Miller Johnson has provided employment and labor counsel, litigation representation, and corporate legal services for many employers that many in the community rely on for their own care needs. The firm has partnered with technology and agribusiness leaders on workforce issues such as immigration and employee benefits. Individuals and families have benefited from the renowned estate planning and family law practices of the full-service firm. The problem-solving skills of the firm have been utilized from the boardrooms to the beaches and courtrooms to living rooms.

“The development has stretched from South Haven to Coldwater,” said Matt Van Dyk, a real estate attorney and Administrative Member of the Kalamazoo office. “Significant strides in economic, industrial, and educational opportunities through the work we do is what clients seek. Being able to understand and partner with our clients is the difference maker for them.”

Dynamics affect any relationship within every home and workplace. Miller Johnson’s foundation is as strong now as it was when the firm opened its office in the Kalamazoo Building in 1979. Though the strength of the firm would be tested along the way, including moves to the Cornerstone Building, Rose Street Market Building, and now the Radisson Plaza Hotel, it would take more conflict than any client, court, or even Mother Nature could create to find something they couldn’t handle. These are attorneys.

“We’ve had our share of opportunities and challenges,” said Lubben. “The devastating tornado in 1980 affected families, friends, and our firm. It’s something anyone who experienced that day remembers to this day. The same can be said for many events over the years. We practice preparedness in understanding our clients’ needs. Though some things you can’t ever totally prepare for, responsiveness and communication go a long way. Those are hallmark standards at Miller Johnson. It’s part of our culture.”

Ultimately a law firm’s culture is its people. Miller Johnson wouldn’t have 40 years to celebrate in Kalamazoo if it weren’t for the right group in the right place.
“Our mission is to achieve outstanding results and provide superior service by, in part, attracting, developing and retaining exceptional people who have a passion for life,” said Lubben. “There are no better examples of that than the individuals who work in and call Kalamazoo their home.”

Lubben himself has worked in the Kalamazoo office since 1986. Deb Koppers, a Legal Administrative Assistant, has worked at the firm since its Kalamazoo office inception in 1979. David Buday, an Employment & Labor attorney, since 1989. Tami Carl, a Legal Administrative Assistant, since 1991. The list goes on and on. Julie Sullivan, Dan Perk, Sarah Willey, John Koryto, Rebecca Strauss. These are all names deeply committed to their clients and the Kalamazoo community. New additions, including Teresa Rajala, Blake Padget, Chris Rork, and Michelle Quigley, represent the future of the firm and continuing the legacy of connecting.

“We are intentional in our involvement in the community,” said Willey, an Employment & Labor Attorney and member on the firm’s Management Committee. “Our support and involvement in everything, from running 5Ks and marathons to supporting performances and art exhibits, have a meaningful place in the enrichment of this town. Beyond exceptional legal service, we value and promote diversity of thought, background, and culture.”

The firm continues to enhance its “Down to Earth, Down to Business” persona through leadership on more than 50 boards over the years, including the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo, Family & Children Services, the YWCA of Kalamazoo, many school districts, and legal aid associations. One of the biggest days of the year for the firm is MLK Day, when the office comes together to celebrate a Day of Service by providing volunteer support at various organizations in memory and honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Since 2009, Miller Johnson has recognized an individual in the firm for their personal effort in the community. The “Cummiskey Spirit of Service” Award is the highest-regarded honor in the firm. Lubben, Carl, and recently retired estate planning attorney Cathy Metzler have all been recipients of the accolade and directed grants on their behalf to local nonprofits.

“Giving back to the communities we serve is our responsibility,” said Willey. “We live and work next to our clients and their families so putting our investment into Kalamazoo has produced a winning partnership for us for 40 years.”

For Miller Johnson, and for the community it serves, ‘home’ in Kalamazoo has worked wonderfully.

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