By Sheila Pursglove
Kim Clayson is the president and a shareholder of Clayson, Schneider & Miller, PC. At the start of 2017, Clayson and fellow law firm associate Peter Schneider joined together to purchase the law practice of Schneider Miller, PC from former shareholders Kenneth Schneider and Timothy Miller, who have remained with the firm to support with the transition.
Clayson obtained her bachelor’s degree in international relations from James Madison College at Michigan State University and her J.D. from University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. Clayson has practiced in the field of bankruptcy and debtor creditor rights law since November 2006. She focuses much of her insolvency practice in individual and small business Chapter 11s as well as bankruptcy trustee and creditor services. During her tenure at Schneider Miller, she also created a small business legal practice serving a diverse number of business clients with interests ranging from real estate investment and construction services to high-end consumer product design. This small business practice has continued to grow and thrive.
Clayson and her husband, attorney Matthew Clayson (vice president and General Counsel, Detroit Trading Company), reside in Detroit, where they spent nine years renovating a historic Detroit home in Indian Village built by Stanford Tappan Crapo that completed its original construction in 1911. They have since moved to a Mies van der Rohe-designed townhome located in Lafayette Park, Detroit with their two young children. Clayson spent much of her childhood in Illinois; however her family’s roots are in Detroit – Clayson was born in Michigan and completed high school in Rochester Hills.
What would surprise people about your job? Among my friends and colleagues they know I do bankruptcy and insolvency work and call me a “bankruptcy lawyer” but my practice is much more diverse – I have built a robust portfolio of business clients who depend on my day-to-day legal services and business advice to maintain and build stronger businesses ranging from retail food service to real estate investment to consumer product design.
Why did you become a lawyer? I was driven to pursue law school to build my oral and written communications skills and to build strong critical thinking skills; it just so happened that I became a lawyer as a result. I continue to work as a lawyer because I enjoy managing a project, building a case or an argument or helping a client through a difficult matter and delivering an outcome that brings either personal career satisfaction to me or offers a client meaningful solutions at the end of a difficult period in their personal or business financial life.
What’s your favorite law-related TV show? “Damages” on FX. The bad behavior among the lawyers in the show is not exemplary of my personal experience with colleagues, but watching the professional performances in depositions and building a case was fun to watch.
Who are your law role models? I have had a close working relationship with a seasoned attorney who advises medical doctors and practices – she went out on her own at about the same time in her own career as I am today and she had young children like I do now. She shares encouraging words of support and confidence in me and in the possibilities I would open up for myself in gaining ownership of my firm. She has done a great job of building a sustainable law practice for herself, she has dedicated her time to community leadership and she has raised two fine young men with her husband, her sons are now adults building their own successful lives and she takes on the world with grace and joy. If my career, community and family life can look like hers over the next two decades, I will feel I’ve had a successful career and personal life.
If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would that be? A primary care doctor – I am very curious about what the doctor-patient interactions look like among a vast number of patients and in a setting where appointments are meant to last only 15 minutes and having to get the work done with a patient in the time crunch versus my legal experience in meetings being open ended and lasting as long as they need to last to get the job. I am curious to understand how doctors get it all done in a day.
What advice do you have for someone considering law school? Get as much free and scholarship money as you can, focus laser sharp on getting the top grades, get work experience clerking for a law firm and work closely with professors to know what you need to do to ace the tests, take law school as serious as will be expected of you as a lawyer taking a new client or a new case – you can only do it once, it is very expensive so you need to be the best so you have the best opportunities available when you launch your career.
What’s your proudest moment as a lawyer? Taking over a law practice and building a thriving small business with a very good business partner.
What do you do to relax? Travel abroad when I can and experience my own city like a tourist – especially at the DIA.
What would you say to your 16-year-old self? Your future will look a lot like you hoped it would and exceed your expectations.
Favorite local hangouts? Craft Work or Red Hook Coffee in West Village, Detroit; Motor City Brew Works and The Caucus Club (new); friends’ historic homes and lofts around and about Detroit.
Favorite websites? www.pinterest.com – I thrive on visual concepts to learn and build understanding so planning out our firm’s office design, researching legal topics or recalling my top recommendations for a city I traveled to can all be stored in perfectly compartmentalized boards with images that help my recall and memory.
Favorite app? I just downloaded Instacart and in one day it has revolutionized my work-life balance – having two young children and a spouse who works full time, squeezing in a quick shopping errand on the way to pick up kids from activities is often insurmountable, I just want to see my family at the end of a long day and maximizing family time is most important – we are out of coffee, bread and milk today and I just purchased these items from Whole Foods through the InstaCart app and they will be at my door when we all get home—Hurray!
Favorite music? Any music that is good. I love hip hop, garage rock, electronica, funk, Motown, opera, classical, accordion music and everything in between – if it’s done well and with passion, I will listen and enjoy!
What is your happiest childhood memory? Summers with my best friend, we’d bike up and down big rolling hills in our small town in the Fox River Valley of Illinois and pick up pop, snacks or candy near town and hoof it all the way back to one of our houses to cool off in the chilly air conditioning and watch MTV – that was my summer for age 12, 13 and 14 and life was never more fun!
What is your most treasured material possession? A simple brightly colored cotton scarf from Istanbul, Turkey – there are a few cities outside of Detroit that feel they could also be home, Istanbul is one. I love this scarf among all the Istanbul scarves I own (many) because it feels like a comfort from a home away from home, it’s good for wearing in all weather and the colors are vivid. When I wear it, I will always think of the sibling owned shop on the lower part of Istiklal Street (a pedestrian street/shopping district that models a river of humans on a daily basis). One part of the sibling team ran the shop and the other part worked in the countryside and handcrafted leather goods, small textiles and scarves. I always think of one of my most cherished cities when I wear the scarf.
What do you wish someone would invent? I won’t say because I may want to be the inventor.
What’s the most awe-inspiring place you’ve ever been? Skiing in the Swiss/French/Italian Alps under the Matterhorn – it’s a whole different world above the tree line – exhilarating, terrifying, beautiful, and calm.
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