Phillip D. Torrence
Partner, Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP
“If the tax benefits of dividends goes away, one way to think about it is that these corporations that typically pay healthy dividends are going to be sitting on a bunch more cash. And chances are they’re going to look at spending that money in other ways – including doing deals. I would not be terribly surprised if we end up seeing some of this stuff that may appear bad on its face actually spurring more deal activity. The medical device tax is going to cost big companies a lot of money. They’re going to be implementing some cost-cutting measures. But one result of that may very well be them being more aggressive on doing deals. We’re seeing private equity really active this year, and I think that will continue into next year. This just happens to be one of those perfect storms. Michigan is primed for a robust 2013 in M&A. I think there’s a fair number of high-tech companies and venture-backed companies that will, within the next year, reach a milestone that gives them great opportunity to be taken out by a strategic partner. I’m more optimistic for stuff here in Michigan than I have been in quite a few years. So much of our business has been out of state. The activity we’ve been seeing in our backyard is awfully encouraging.”
President, State Bar of Michigan
Attorney & Shareholder, Rhoades McKee
On a micro level, Rhoades McKee continues to explore targeted expansion. A down economy provides a larger candidate pool for openings, not only for new attorney positions, but among reputable and experienced attorneys who might want new opportunities. Rhoades McKee is looking to grow, and will likely add three or more attorneys new to the firm in 2013. On a macro level, the legal profession is displaying a working model of supply and demand. Over the last decade, jobs within the Michigan legal market have fallen more precipitously than those in the general labor market. Despite this, the Bar has averaged more than 1,100 new members annually. The result has been more attorneys seeking work from a smaller client base. With the record-low pass rates on the July Bar Exam and the expectation that we will see more and more Baby Boomer attorneys winding down their practices, I believe that 2013 will be the start of a new wave of better hiring numbers for law school graduates.
Managing Partner, Miller Johnson
Topping almost everyone’s list in 2013 is the need for direction and assistance in unscrambling the health care reform requirements mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which has a tremendous impact on businesses financially and strategically. We also know that regulation/compliance is a big legal concern. We will continue to provide innovative and cost-effective counsel in all of these areas. Miller Johnson will continue to strategically grow through the addition of new and lateral attorneys to strengthen core practice areas.
Managing Partner, Varnum
I think the economy appears to be on the mend as we approach 2013 because we are seeing more merger and acquisition events. More deals are occurring now than there were a year ago. The real estate development and commercial real estate practices here in the firm are rebounding, so to speak. It’s a reflection that our commercial real estate clients are doing better. Some of the work that we do that reflects a downturn in the economy is receding. We have a strong banking practice and it appears the positive side of that — at least the work that we do for the lenders for their lending volume — is increasing. I don’t think there’s any clear way to say that we are completely out of the woods. It’s still tentative, but our work is reflecting what the pundits are saying and what the world seems to be experiencing. We, through the recession, have been cautious about growth. We’ve never been a firm to be aggressive in growth in good times and we’ve been very cautious about retaining our talent during not so good times. With respect to 2013, we anticipate some market growth. The increasing expectations on the part of our clients has really placed a focus on client service and delivery and our talent needs to be geared toward assisting us in that regard. We’ll grow but I don’t think it will be aggressive growth.
Managing Partner, Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge
As our business is directly tied and affected by our economy, we are significantly aware of any economic changes and how they may affect our business. We are always looking for areas of increased activity in order to plan for any given year and always allocating our firm’s services in the areas of growth. I expect to see an increase in construction and health law related matters. I also expect mergers to be on the rise again in 2013. Also, because of demographics and our aging population, I expect to see an increase in estate planning and probate manners.
Managing Partner, Warner Norcross & Judd
I think the economy in Michigan is rebounding. Despite all the talk you hear about the new economy, the fact is that manufacturing — particularly the auto industry — is still the backbone of the Michigan economy. Auto sales have increased significantly over the past year. Warner Norcross represents more than two hundred auto suppliers, and most are in a situation where they are seeing increased demand for their components or services. Additionally, in the last few months, we have seen a significant uptick in activity in both business, real estate and trust and estates practices. It’s difficult to know if this will continue into the coming year or is because of uncertainty over upcoming changes in the tax laws. In general, it appears that there continues to be some modest improvement in our local economy. The unemployment rate in West Michigan is around 6 percent. I think it may be lost on some people that we’re actually doing better than a lot of other communities in our state and around the country.