Clark Hill invites the greater community to benefit from its 125th year celebration



by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Grand Rapids office Managing Member Ingrid Jensen thinks Clark Hill’s current Thrive 125 celebration is completely consistent with the firm’s caring culture.

Rather than throw a lavish party to commemorate its 125 years of existence, Clark Hill has created a volunteer program where every Clark Hill attorney and staff member is “encouraged and challenged,” in Jensen’s words, to give 125 minutes to a community organization.

The purpose is “to demonstrate  commitment to catalyzing communities for growth and prosperity.”

“Anyone in the office can say, ‘I’m going to the soup kitchen for 2 hours and five minutes,’ and take paid on-the-clock time during this year of our birthday,” Jensen says. “That helps build our internal culture of giving back when it’s top to bottom and side to side.”

The Grand Rapids office, which was established in 2004, is one of many the firm maintains. There are locations in Arizona, Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington DC, and West Virginia.

In 1996, Clark Hill was formed by a merger where Clark, Griffin, and Klein joined Shaw and Cady with lead partner Sherwin Hill — the largest merger in Michigan law firm history. Both of the firms traced their beginnings to Detroit in 1890; both grew as Detroit grew and prospered in the first decades of the 20th century.

A 2013 merger with Pennsylvania’s Thorp Reed and Armstrong brought Clark Hill into the national market.

But, emphasizes Jensen, the Grand Rapids office is composed of attorneys (21 currently) who are from the area and were firmly rooted in Grand Rapids/West Michigan as they came into the firm.

“This is a pretty tight community,” says Jensen, a real estate and development attorney, “and business people like to use Grand Rapids firms. But Clark Hill people are local too, and we also have 300 attorneys we can go to who work internationally and have expertise in every area.”

Jensen, herself a Grand Rapids native who went to East Grand Rapids High School before attending Albion College and Wayne State University School of Law, said she was drawn to Clark Hill due to that very culture which produced Thrive 125.

“At Clark Hill clients are first, but family is also very important — so we work hard, but we like the balance. The whole Thrive 125 program is based on the idea that we live and work in the communities in which we have our offices. We want to stay involved, since we are already involved, and make sure everyone at Clark Hill gives back.” Jensen says.

She adds that Thrive 125 is also consistent with the ongoing Clark Hill Cares program, which the firm’s website describes as a “pro-social community involvement effort.” Since 2009, attorneys and other professionals firm-wide have contributed a day in June to charitable activities. The Grand Rapids office volunteers at Feeding America West Michigan.

Sherri Bowden, shown in the photo below, was awarded the firm’s “To Infinity and Beyond” award as part of Clark Hill Cares in May of this year. There is more information on the Facebook page,

Clark Hill participants post what they have been up to on a web page, Since the beginning of the 125th anniversary year in March, a wide variety of contributions to help Grand Rapids organizations thrive have been posted, including:

—Attorney Grant Pecor has donned his scuba gear and helped clean the tanks (as well as feed) the penguins at John Ball Park Zoo. (Jensen comments, “I’m sure people are thinkling, ‘What kind of penguin is he?’”)

—Attorney John Schneider chairs the Board of Directors for Blandford Nature Center and assisted at its Sugarbush Maple Festival, as well as participating in a phone bank to raise funds for the Grand Rapids Symphony;

—After making a medical mission trip to Cuba, attorney Marshall Grate gave a lecture on the country’s health situation at the Women's City Club; 

—Joni Velthouse, also shown at right, has created baby hats for infants at Mercy Health Hospital and made prayer shawls and blankets for Hannah’s Hope ministries;

—Jeff Van Winkle has helped rebuild and improve a section of the North Country Trail.