Wayne Law alumnus is managing partner for Warner Norcross

Remember that wise-cracking Chihuahua that starred in Taco Bell ads in the late 1990s?

Wayne State University Law School 1983 alumnus Douglas Dozeman is the attorney who won a substantial verdict forcing the fast food giant to pay his clients, Joe Shields and Tom Rinks of Grand Rapids, for creating that dog in the first place.

Initially, the men weren’t paid for their famous canine character that spouted “Yo quiero Taco Bell” on TV screens across the nation.

Earlier this year, Dozeman was named managing partner for Warner Norcross & Judd, which means he’s spending less time in the courtroom these days. But the Grand Rapids resident considers the Chihuahua case, which began in 1998, as one of the most noteworthy he’s ever tried.

“After a five-year legal battle through the federal courts, a Grand Rapids jury awarded my clients $30.1 million in compensation for the misappropriation of their Chihuahua character for its three-year, $500 million national ad campaign,” Dozeman said. “The case was significant to me and to my career. There was huge amount of gratification involved to help two ‘regular guys’ take on a Goliath and win. It was a life-changing event for the dog’s creators, who had been working with Taco Bell to license their cool, confident and edgy dog – only to have their work stolen and passed off by another agency, who received the industry’s top honors for its ad campaign.”

Dozeman, who was quoted in dozens of media outlets after the firm’s huge legal win, didn’t become quite as famous as the Chihuahua, but he is pleased to expand his horizons as managing partner for Warner Norcross, where he’s been employed since graduating magna cum laude from Wayne Law.

“Serving as managing partner has shifted my focus from thinking very narrowly about a particular client or legal matter or our practice group to thinking more broadly about the firm as a whole,” he said. “With more than 230 attorneys in eight offices across the state, Warner Norcross is one of the largest law firms in Michigan. Serving in this role is more than a full-time job. I thoroughly enjoy my new role, which is challenging and exciting.

“One of my favorite things about serving as managing partner is the ability to talk with more of our attorneys and staff on a regular basis. I enjoy the opportunity to travel to our other offices, to find out about and support other practice groups, which my previous role as a litigator did not often allow me to do. We have seen steady growth over the last decade … and we continue to see tremendous growth opportunities. This is an exciting inflection point for Warner Norcross, and I appreciate the confidence of my partners to help shape our direction in the coming years.”

He majored in political science as an undergraduate at Calvin College and had an eye toward litigation from the start of law school.

“Choosing a practice area was easy,” Dozeman said. “Litigation was all I ever wanted to do – and, in fact, I can’t imagine working in another area of law. Litigation is endlessly fascinating to me. You keep learning about new industries, products or processes with every case you litigate. I developed a focus in intellectual property litigation early on – and quite by accident – as Warner Norcross brought on patent attorney Chuck Burpee to help the firm launch an IP practice.

“He and his growing team quickly needed someone to do litigation. I got involved in some of the early cases and have been gratified to help the firm grow its technology and intellectual property practice to become one of the largest in the state.”

Dozeman has been awarded many times throughout his career, including being named every year since 2007 on as one of the Top 100 Michigan Super Lawyers and being named as a fellow by the American College of Trial Lawyers.