Firm celebrates attorney's 60-plus year career


 Among those attending the celebration were (front, l-r) Robert Battista, Bill Saxton, Carey DeWitt, John Hancock, James Rosenfeld, Louis Theros and Craig Schwartz;?(back) Judge Kurtis Wilder, Daniel Tukel, Scott Patterson, Mark Nelson and Gary Klotz.

Leader, visionary, mentor and gifted writer best describe attorney William M. Saxton, counsel, a director emeritus and former chairman and CEO of Butzel Long, said Justin G. Klimko, president and managing shareholder.

The firm celebrated Saxton’s countless achievements during a career spanning more than 60 years at a reception on November 5. Klimko presided over the event and shared highlights regarding Saxton’s incredible career and presented him with a plaque recognizing his service to the firm and the practice of law.

Saxton remarked on the importance of the firm in his life and reminisced about a few interesting events that occurred during his career. He reflected on the expectations of young lawyers when he joined the firm and emphasized the cooperation and support of his colleagues over the years. Saxton also shared his enjoyment of going to work every day. 

In addition, Saxton acknowledged special guests and others who were in attendance and praised his wife, Helen, for the critical role she played in his success. Members of his family in attendance included his wife and children Dawn Abrahamson and Tim Livingston.

A number of Butzel Long alumni were in attendance, including Robert J. Battista,  former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, D.C.;  Court of Appeals Judge Kurtis T. Wilder; District Court Magistrate Judge Laurie J. Michelson; and U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Walter Shapero.

Other special guests in attendance included District Court Judge Julian Abele Cook, Jr. and District Court Judge Patrick J. Duggan.

Saxton, who joined Butzel Long in 1952, is a litigator, negotiator and counselor. He enjoys national preeminence as an expert in the labor and employment law field.  

He started at Butzel Long when the two named partners, Leo Butzel and Tom Long were still practicing with the firm. Leo Butzel joined the firm in 1896 while Tom Long joined in 1909. Saxton was an instrumental figure in the growth of Butzel Long in the 1970s and 1980s, in both size and prominence. Saxton was managing partner from 1974 through 1981. In 1982, Butzel Long went from being a partnership to a professional corporation, at which time, Saxton went from being a managing partner to a member of the board of directors. 

From 1982 to 1988, Saxton was a vice president and a director. In 1989, he was president and a director. In 1990, he was chairman and CEO and a director. In 1991 to 1993, he was CEO and a director. From 1994 to 1996, Saxton was a vice president and a director. From 1997 to 2002, Saxton was director emeritus of Butzel Long.

“Bill was the cornerstone in building the labor and employment practice at Butzel Long into the most recognized in the region,” said Dana Wothe, the firm’s chief operating officer. 

Saxton’s career achievements are significant. He has been elected a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a Fellow Emeritus of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, a Life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, a Life Fellow of the Michigan Bar Foundation and a member of the American Law Institute.  

In 1996, Saxton was awarded the Nathan B. Goodnow Award by the Detroit Bar Association in recognition of a career that exemplifies the highest standard of the legal profession and significantly impacted the law and life of the community. 

Then in 1998, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the State Bar of Michigan Labor and Employment Law Section in recognition of his “long established commitment to excellence, highest ethical principles and major contributions to the practice of labor and employment law.”  

One of Saxton’s most significant honors was when he received the State Bar of Michigan’s Champion of Justice Award in 2003 for integrity and adherence to the highest principles and traditions of the legal profession and professional accomplishments.  

Moreover, Saxton is highly regarded for his role in the landmark Milliken v. Bradley cross-town busing case in the 1960s. Notably, the State Bar of Michigan has a plaque that memorializes Legal Milestones. As of 2011, Saxton is included for the Milliken v. Bradley case. There are currently 38 milestones.

Saxton is a Life Member of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Judicial Conference. He was director of the Detroit Bar Association from 1975-1979 and has been a member of the Attorney Discipline Board Hearing Panel since 1972.

Saxton is a past trustee of the Detroit Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts and past president and trustee of the Historical Society for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.  

He has authored several legal articles and been a guest lecturer at The University of Michigan Law School, University of Detroit Law School, University of Indiana Law School, Wayne State University Law School, Michigan State University, National Academy of Arbitrators, American Arbitration Association, Institute for Continuing Legal Education, Federal Bar Association, State Bar of Michigan, Industrial Relations Association of Detroit and The Michigan Municipal League.  

Saxton is a Master of the Bench Emeritus of the American Inn of Court.  He was the recipient of Michigan Road Builders “Distinguished Award” in 1987.  Saxton has been listed in The Best Lawyers In America, in the business litigation and in the labor and employment discrimination law categories. He’s also listed in Who’s Who In American Law and Who’s Who In America. Saxton is a graduate of The University of Michigan (B.A., 1949; J.D., 1952).

“For years, Bill has made time to take young associates and interns to meet various judges in the Eastern District of Michigan,” added Wothe. “He continues to keep current on decisions and changes in the legal profession and often provides timely information to the firm’s litigators and labor and employment attorneys. 

“He also has a reputation as an excellent writer,” he said. “Bill’s counsel is still sought today by many in the profession, including area judges,”