Varnum’s Young Gun

    GRAND RAPIDS — Only five years out of law school, attorney Steven Buquicchio has already established himself as a veteran of sorts.

    He has played key roles in high-profile cases involving SEC enforcement action, fraud and commercial litigation. Some of these have made national headlines, with coverage from The Wall Street Journal to Sports Illustrated.

    Late last year, Michigan Lawyers Weekly named the Varnum Riddering Schmidt & Howlett LLP attorney one of five Up and Coming Leaders in the Law.

    “It feels like I’ve been practicing a lot longer than I have,” Buquicchio said. “Some of the cases I’ve worked on have been very sophisticated — you get a lot of experience on that basis.”

    Buquicchio cut his teeth at Stenger & Stenger, a small firm in Cascade specializing in creditors’ rights and SEC receivership. The firm’s namesake, Phil Stenger, was the first Cayman Islands liquidator, sent in by the SEC to root out assets from the $300 million Cash 4 Titles Ponzi scheme.

    There, Buquicchio was exposed to several SEC cases, including Cash 4 Titles, the $2 billion Beacon Hill hedge fund, and scams at Enterprise Solutions Inc. and Basic Affiliated Resources Inc.

    In recent years, the firm deployed the receivership experience of managing thousands of investors and claims into a sophisticated collections practice. Buquicchio, along with Stenger, are two of only five Michigan attorneys certified in creditors’ rights by the American Board of Certification.

    This niche is especially useful in the health care field.

    “Insurance companies are spending less and less on procedures and leaving patients with more of a bill to foot than in years past,” he said. “Providers are having to collect funds from patients who are of the philosophy that, ‘Hey, I have insurance. Insurance should have covered this and I’m not responsible for the rest.’

    “I’ve developed a forte in that type of collection practice.”

    Last year, Buquicchio left the 10-employee firm for the region’s largest, bringing his unique expertise to Varnum’s litigation and trial services group.

    Like his work at Stenger & Stenger, some of his cases at Varnum capture the public eye. As seen in recent media reports, a civil case he was spearheading against Grand Rapids businessman John Sims — specifically, his automated teller machine business — led to a criminal investigation and Sims’ eventual arrest.

    “Working at a larger firm is a better fit for me personality-wise — and entrepreneurial-wise,” Buquicchio said of his new employer. “Here, you’re literally practicing with the best of the best in the business. There is such great talent here; you get that osmosis effect sometimes — it raises your level of performance.”

    Also, a firm like Varnum allows greater opportunity for client development. Small firms are often specialized or “pigeon-holed” to a certain niche, he said. At a large firm, no matter what the concern, there is an attorney with that capability only a few steps away.

    “I’m a big believer in offering your clients as many services as you can,” Buquicchio said. “And that attorney down the hall will definitely place a high value on client satisfaction — that helps the whole big picture.”

    A native of the Queens borough of New York, Buquicchio came to West Michigan via the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing.

    “My law school buddy met his wife over the Internet of all places,” he explained. “After two years of dating, they got married, and he asked me to stand up in his wedding.”

    The bride’s sister, a West Michigan native, is now Buquicchio’s wife.

    “It sounds kind of hokey, but I really do love Grand Rapids,” he said. “It’s a great place to raise a family and establish roots for years to come.”

    Since coming to the area, Buquicchio has been an active member of the Grand Rapids Bar Association. He chairs its litigation section and is secretary of the diversity committee.    

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