Law firm sees ‘uptick’ across practices


Craig Mutch. Courtesy Miller Johnson

A law firm has seen an “uptick” across its primary business practices during the past six months, as it prepares to move and reach its strategic goals.

Craig Mutch, managing member at Miller Johnson in Grand Rapids, said the firm’s umbrella business and corporate, employment and labor and litigation practices are all experiencing an increase, thanks to a rebounding economy.

“For the last six months or so, we’ve seen an uptick in all of those areas,” Mutch said. “I think that is a general sign that the economy is improving.”

Mutch said the increase is also due to Miller Johnson’s hiring success. The firm focuses on hiring both new attorneys and experienced attorneys making a lateral move.

“We’ve been very fortunate to attract a number of lateral attorneys from other firms that have come in and hit the ground running,” Mutch said. “That has been good for us.”

In 2014, five or six attorneys joined Miller Johnson from other firms and two joined fresh out of law school after passing the bar exam.

“Destination” firm

Miller Johnson is on a very specific path.

The firm completed its most recent strategic plan in 2013, and in the year ahead, it will continue to work on ways to implement its goals.

“One of our goals is to be a destination law firm: a destination for clients, attorneys and for everybody else who works at the firm,” Mutch said.

“That’s been a good process for our firm, taking a look at where we are and where we are going to be.”

Tackling diversity and retirement

In 2015, Miller Johnson will continue to try to tackle two big issues facing the legal profession: surging retirements and a lack of diversity.

Miller Johnson is part of the local diversity effort known as the Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative and a national organization called the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, which are both working to find ways to attract more minorities and women to the profession.

There will be plenty of room for new faces in the near future too, as a large swath of attorneys hit retirement age.

Mutch said many of the attorneys who will leave Miller Johnson in the next few years are the same ones who helped build the firm when it started nearly 55 years ago.

“We are trying to figure out how that all works in today’s world — and how you continue to keep the talent they bring as they slow down and begin to exit the scene,” Mutch said. “I don’t know we’ve got that right yet or that anybody does. We are working our way through that, hopefully successfully.”

Arena Place move

Miller Johnson will also spend 2015 preparing to relocate from the Calder building to the Arena Place in downtown Grand Rapids in 2016.

Miller Johnson will take up four floors in Arena Place, floors eight through 11.

Mutch said reducing paperwork will be a big part of the process. The reduction will be done through a major digitizing initiative and also through changing the way attorneys at the firm do their work — basically, creating less hard-copy material from the outset.

“It’s a change for a lot of us in how we practice,” he said.

The reduction in paperwork will allow the firm to operate out of a smaller space. Mutch noted that the firm’s new offices will be smaller, and spaces will be used differently than in the past.

In addition to an updated design, the firm will receive technology upgrades and all new furniture as part of the move.

Mutch said right now, the firm is working hard to gather input from everyone to ensure the new space fits everyone’s needs.

West Michigan presence

Miller Johnson has clients from throughout Michigan, which its services from offices in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.

Mutch said there are no plans for adding offices anywhere else in the state.

He noted that with today’s technology, the firm hasn’t seen a need for additional locations.

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