Community Service Marks Warner Norcross’ 75th


    GRAND RAPIDS — Warner Norcross & Judd is celebrating its 75 years by handing out some presents of its own.

    The law firm is acknowledging its long history by donating items in increments of 75 to nearly 30 charities in the cities in which it has offices, including Grand Rapids, Holland, Muskegon and the Detroit area.

    One of the most recent donations was to Adeline’s Locks, a program of the West Grand Neighborhood Organization that aids the elderly.

    The program is named for Adeline Kuzma, an elderly resident of the neighborhood whose house was broken into twice by the same attacker. Before she died in 2002, she asked Nola Steketee, the neighborhood organization’s executive director, to help the elderly so they wouldn’t feel as if they were being driven from their homes by fear for their safety. In 2004, Steketee and Kuzma’s son, Frank Kuzma, initiated Adeline’s Locks. Program services range from arranging for help from other organizations to installing locks to enhance safety. Donations to the program go to material costs, and the installation and labor is done by volunteers.

    To celebrate its 75 years, Warner Norcross is donating 75 locks to the program. Steketee said she is thrilled with the donation, especially considering they have installed about 40 locks to date. “Now just think of how many more we could do,” she said.

    Warner Norcross & Judd is celebrating its anniversary in other ways, as well.

    The firm is sending out a copy of the original 1931 notice that announced the opening of the firm to its 5,000 clients, and there will be a luncheon celebration for the attorneys and staff at DeVos Place today. The firm also will be a permanent sponsor of the Ethnic Heritage Gallery at the Van Andel Museum Center, where a reception will take place for clients and community leaders at a later date.

    “It’s going to be a fun year for us,” said Doug Wagner, managing partner of the firm.

    The firm is also planning a video that will feature interviews with former partners and will include memorabilia from the firm’s history, which will be updated by Wagner, who also serves as the firm’s new historian. He hopes to have the updated history, which covers the firm’s last 20 years, completed in time for the company’s fall retreat.

    “I’ll be a better firm historian once we get it all done,” he said.

    Warner Norcross’ history parallels that of many of West Michigan’s major firms, including such companies as Old Kent Bank, Wolverine Shoe and Tanning Co., the Grand Hotel and Haworth Inc.

    “We’ve had some clients ever since the firm was founded,” Wagner said.

    Warner Norcross has seen many changes over the years. As the clients it represents have changed, the firm has evolved, as well. Some of the changes have been social, such as dropping the old tradition of secretaries serving tea to the attorneys in the afternoon and implementing a new tradition of accommodating nursing mothers with a “mother’s room.”

    Other changes have been growth-based with the addition of new locations and areas of focus. 

    “We’ve gone the full gamut,” Wagner said. 

    While the firm’s growth has been steady since the beginning, Wagner said the next step is further expansion into eastern Michigan, where Warner Norcross already has an office.

    “I expect we’re going to have fairly rapid growth in the Detroit area and eastern Michigan in general,” he said.

    In addition to geographic growth, Warner Norcross is also expanding its practice areas.

    “We want to respond to the needs of the clients who are making their way in the new economy here in Michigan,” Wagner said.

    New focuses on life sciences, biotechnology and automotive suppliers are emerging, as is an international practice focus. Wagner said the firm is encouraging attorneys to have knowledge of other languages, including Mandarin, German, Spanish, Japanese and Korean.

    “The world’s getting smaller and you have to be able to communicate well,” he said.

    Despite the growth and expansion, Wagner said there are no plans to leave Grand Rapids, where the firm’s offices in the Fifth Third Building are undergoing renovation. Construction is set to be finished by the end of the year.

    “We plan to be here for the foreseeable future.”    

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