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 Howard Wallach

Winning Strategy

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News
 
Howard Wallach cut his legal teeth in the criminal defense arena, working for well-known Detroit attorney Ivan Barris who handled high profile criminal defense work, personal injury work, business litigation and family law. 

“I got experience handling all types of litigation, and also learned how to practice family law, quickly realizing I enjoyed helping people work through those difficult times in their lives,” says Wallach, now a managing partner with Foley & Mansfield in Detroit and Grand Rapids. “I try to counsel people to focus on their goals and objectives rather than retaliation or retribution because it’s generally unproductive and very costly on a number of levels.”

One of his early cases involved a criminal appeal on behalf of the brother of an acquaintance, unjustly prosecuted in a small town. 

“The judge gave him an excessive sentence because he insisted on having his rights protected rather than pleading guilty,” Wallach explains. “He had an appointed lawyer who committed malpractice and I persuaded the Court of Appeals the conviction should be reversed, the prosecutor to dismiss the charges, and not try him again.” 

Wallach then sued the court appointed lawyer for malpractice and achieved a favorable settlement.  

After 20 years with a general practice firm, Wallach joined Foley & Mansfield in 2006. As he moved forward in his career, opportunities to handle commercial litigation expanded. 

“I realized I enjoyed working with business owners and entrepreneurs, helping them protect and expand the ventures they built,” he says.

Shortly after joining Foley & Mansfield, Wallach became actively involved in the firm’s nationwide mass tort and product liability practice. He has also become involved in the employment arena, where he recently obtained summary judgment on behalf of an employer wrongly accused of treating a woman employee differently from her male counterparts in a male-dominated work environment.  

“We’ve expanded our practice in that area over the years and I’ve assisted in establishing an administrative structure for the practice group, as well as handling these cases too,” he says. “Who says you can’t teach an old dog - or lawyer - new tricks?” 

Last October, Wallach - named Top Lawyer in Detroit by DBusiness Magazine for the second time — added another feather to his cap by being appointed a managing partner in the firm’s offices in Detroit and Grand Rapids. 

“I knew from the beginning I wanted to be a trial lawyer because I enjoy the effort to prepare for and try a case, as well as developing a winning strategy. Having to think quickly on your feet and make a persuasive argument is a challenge I will forever enjoy,” he notes. “But what I never envisioned was being the managing partner of a local office of a national law firm. I try to be extremely organized and whenever asked I always agreed to take on various administrative responsibilities. I
imagine my work product resulted in others believing I could handle this role effectively and I’ve tried to do my best since being appointed.”

Wallach was drawn to study law by the challenging and interesting issues, and protecting people’s rights had always been something that resonated with him. After earning an undergrad degree in criminal justice, cum laude, from Michigan State University, he earned his law degree, cum laude, from the University of Detroit (now University of Detroit-Mercy) School of Law. 

“I found law school to be very intellectually challenging and it helped me focus on the areas of practice I believed I would be interested in as an attorney,” he says. “Sometimes however, you never know where your path will lead.”

Despite his busy workload, Wallach also serves as chairperson of a hearing panel for the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board, which judges attorneys alleged to have committed acts of professional misconduct.

He is also currently serving his third one-year term as president of the Farmington Board of Education, and even helps construct sets for plays and musicals at several district schools, when time permits. 

“Public education is one of my passions — it’s the bedrock of our democracy,” he notes. “I’ve been on the board for 10 years so I guess that says something about my sanity. Seriously though, it’s been an amazing experience — I’ve become friends with some wonderful people who are truly dedicated to the improvement of the lives of children.”

The last several years have been very challenging because of the downturn in the economy and the reduction in revenue available to adequately fund public education in Michigan, he notes.  

“I look forward to our leaders in Lansing recognizing the importance of public education and doing what is necessary to properly fund it for all of our children.”

Wallach has previously served as president of the Jewish Community Council of Metropolitan Detroit and the Israel Cancer Association of Michigan, as well as a number of other community boards. He is an active member and past chair of the Michigan Regional Board of the Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913 to combat anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry and hate, and was honored by the organization at a Centennial Gala last fall. 

“The ADL is an amazing organization that touches people all over the world - a civil rights and human rights organization that works to protect the rights of all people,” he says. “Prejudice, bigotry and anti-Semitism are cancers that need to be eradicated from our environment. Fighting for justice, equality and equal rights is at the heart of why I became a lawyer so working with the ADL was a natural fit.” 

Born and raised in Detroit, with a move to Southfield in his middle school years, Wallach currently lives in Farmington Hills. He and his wife of 32 years have a daughter who is an actress in New York and a younger daughter in grad school to become a teacher.

An avid sports fan, Wallach follows all the Detroit professional teams and the MSU Spartans. 

“I like to say I bleed green and white,” he says. “I’m one of several diehard Spartan friends who have been fortunate enough to attend the Big Ten championship football and basketball games in recent years and regularly attend the Big Ten basketball tournament with my buddies in both Indianapolis and Chicago.”