Strategic outlook

The Neuman Anderson team includes (l-r) Leif Anderson, Ken Neuman, Steve McKenney, and Jennifer Grieco.

Photo by Robert Chase

Boutique firm has sights set on complex litigation

By Tom Kirvan
Legal News
The firm bills itself as “Strategic Litigation Partners.”
It’s an apt description for a Birmingham law firm that specializes in complex commercial litigation, although its managing partner believes “we’re really cancer surgeons for business clients.”

So says Ken Neuman, founder of Neuman Anderson, P.C. and a combination attorney/CPA who chooses his words carefully when describing his life’s work.

“As a commercial litigator, my role is to bring information to a level that everyone in the courtroom can understand,” Neuman says. “I like the complexity of sophisticated business, accounting and legal issues, and being able to simplify them for judges, juries, and arbitrators.”

It’s been his role for nearly 27 years, the last six as the head of a business boutique firm that also includes Jennifer Grieco, a past president of the Oakland County Bar Association, Leif Anderson, and Stephen McKenney.

Neuman, a product of Southfield High School, earned a degree in accounting from Michigan State University, launching his professional career with one of the then “Big Eight” accounting firms. It would serve as a stepping-stone on his pathway into law school at Wayne State University, where he obtained his juris doctor in 1986.

He spent the first 13 years of his legal career with Hyman Lippitt, a Birmingham firm that included noted trial lawyer Norman Lippitt, a former Oakland County Circuit Court judge, as one of its principal partners.

“I was blessed to work with and to learn from Norman, who is as fine a trial lawyer as there is in the state,” Neuman said. “He was my mentor, and with his support and guidance I tried a number of complex business cases during my first few years with the firm. It was then that I learned to love jury trials and the challenges they present.”

Neuman’s skill as a business litigator can be traced to his decision to “specialize” in the legal field, utilizing his accounting background to distinct advantage.

“By no means was it a picnic to become licensed as a CPA and as an attorney, all within an eight-year span, but I thought that it would help set me apart from other lawyers,” Neuman said. “I was working full time while I was going to law school at Wayne State, living at home with my parents. It wasn’t how I pictured life at that age, but it was the ‘reality’ until I finished my schooling and could set out on my own.”

His late father, Philip, was a physician and a Korean War veteran who imparted upon his son an “incredible work ethic” and a “desire to do good” in the community. His mother, Sally, who now lives in Utah, was of like mind while assisting her husband in his Royal Oak medical practice and helping raise the couple’s three children.

“I was their only son and a middle child, and I’ve always had a deep interest in helping the underdog,” said Neuman, who along with his wife, Lisa, have a 12-year-old son, Eli. “It was something that was ingrained in me from an early age and in many cases it has played out that way in court as we fight for the best interests of our clients.”

When he founded the firm in 2008, Neuman did so with a unique sense of timing.

“Almost immediately — and simultaneously with launching the firm, I co-chaired a mission to Israel with a black Baptist minister from Detroit,” Neuman related of his work with Pastor Glenn Plummer, founder of the African American Christian Television Network. “It was a show of solidarity between members of the African American community and the Jewish community, and it was truly a profound experience for all of us involved in the trip.”

Neuman said his late grandfather, an Orthodox Jew, may have “looked askance” at such a missionary trip, “particularly witnessing baptisms in the Jordan River,” but the desire for a better understanding of “different faiths and different ways of life” outweighed any personal misgivings.

Jennifer Grieco, one of the partners at Neuman Anderson, surely understands such commitment and belief. She made the “call to service” message a trademark of her year’s work as president of the Oakland County Bar Association in 2010-11, championing a mentor-match program that has paired veteran attorneys with newcomers to the legal profession.

Grieco, the daughter of a former Army officer, spent many of her formative years in Germany, graduating from high school there before returning to the States to attend college at the University of Toledo. She also earned her law degree from the University of Toledo and landed her first job with Sommers Schwartz, a Southfield firm where she worked for 10 years. During her time there, Grieco became active in the OCBA, the Women’s Bar Association — the Oakland County region of Women Lawyers Association of Michigan, and the Michigan Association for Justice, in which she served on the executive board for four years.

In 2007, she joined Maddin Hauser, principally handling professional liability defense work. In March of 2010, she became a partner with Neuman Anderson, shifting her legal focus to complex commercial litigation.
“I started my career at Sommers handling business litigation and am delighted to be working in this area again,” Grieco said. “I find it intellectually challenging to argue positions as both plaintiff and defendant, depending on who hired me, and really enjoy the increased opportunity for cases to actually go to trial or arbitration.”

Grieco and her husband, Chad, have a daughter, Meadow Rose, who is a preschooler. Thoughts of her family are never far from Grieco’s mind, especially in the wake of a tragic loss she suffered in 2008 when her beloved brother, Kevin, was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan while serving with a National Guard unit there. His story of dedication and sacrifice continues to inspire Grieco to this day.

“I look at my brother’s commitment to his work, to his family, and to his country, and I will always be mindful of the need to do more,” Grieco said.

Attorney Leif Anderson, whose name also appears on the firm’s letterhead, is a Western Michigan University alum and 1997 graduate of Wayne State Law School. Like Neuman and Grieco, he has been recognized as a “Michigan Super Lawyer” multiple times and specializes in litigation involving businesses, real estate and construction matters, and contract disputes.

Anderson, who is married and the father of a teen-age daughter, and Neuman recruited attorney Stephen McKenney to the firm in 2012, adding another experienced litigator with a strong legal pedigree.

A graduate of John Carroll University and Michigan State University College of Law, McKenney began his career as a law clerk for a U.S. District Court judge in Virginia. He has spent the past decade in private practice as a business litigator and last year was recognized by Super Lawyers magazine as one of the “Rising Stars” in the litigation field. He and his wife, also an attorney, have two school-age daughters.

As the firm has grown and established its legal footprint, Neuman admits that it has “taken six years to get the right mix of attorneys in place” to meet the needs of a business clientele.

 “Now, with the team that we have assembled, I’ll put our four attorneys up against any other (firm) in the state,” Neuman said. “That’s how proud of and confident I am in our abilities.”