Miller Johnson's thriving M&A practice adds three new attorneys

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(l) - Erik Daly and Dustin Jackson enjoy Miler Johnson’s deck.  (r) - Anne Marie Carson

LEGAL NEWS PHOTO  BY CYNTHIA PRICE; PHOTO COURTESY OF MILLER JOHNSON

by Cynthia Price
Legal News

The three new attorneys hired for the Mergers and Acquisition team at Miller Johnson are from different backgrounds and have had diverse experiences, but they share a strong sense that the M&A practice at Miller Johnson is well-positioned for a solid future.

Dustin Jackson, who started out his career at Miller Johnson and is returning after a stint at another firm, says, “I’m excited to come back. There’s a lot of big law experience in Miller Johnson’s M&A practice and I think that makes us unique.”

Erik Daly agrees. “I think within the last 15 to 20 years, people already here have worked on making a change in the perception of Miller Johnson’s M&A presence. They’ve done some of that underneath the radar, and some of it has been outward facing. I think we’re here to keep that momentum going,” he says.

The third new hire is Anne Marie Carson, who has worked closely with Daly over the past several months.

All three seem to enjoy both the pressure of M&A work and the chance to collaborate with others who share their love of the work. “The nature of mergers and acquisitions almost requires that you work as a team,” says Jackson.

Carson comes up with a case in point. “Last year for my birthday Erik and I ended up on a closing, and I missed going out to celebrate with my husband. And I didn’t mind at all. It’s rare to find folks with whom you can be under pressure and still have fun going out to lunch or joking together.”

It is clear that the three, along with other members of the M&A group, bring humor and collegiality to the job. After Daly sings the praises of Miller Johnson’s Dustin Daniels, with whom he and Carson also worked at Barnes and Thornburg, Daly jokes, “That’s our strategy — just hire as many Dustins as possible. We can say we have the best Dustins in town.”

Though prior to starting at Miller Johnson on May 1 Daly and Carson had met only in passing, it is clear they are comfortable with each other and with the others on the team.

All three also have in common that they have “boomeranged” back to the West Michigan area.

Carson, who went to Grand Rapids City High School and spent her senior year studying in Brazil, attended Grand Valley State University because it offered a chance to continue study abroad. “I was a double major — international relations and French — with a minor in women and gender studies,” she says. She took off two years before attending law school, including one teaching English to young French students, which she calls “a formative experience.”

She took the LSAT for the second time while in Paris, and while she was deciding whether to attend University of Michigan or Georgetown University, her husband got a job in the Washington DC?area, making the decision for her.

After receiving her J.D. from Georgetown, Carson worked for the large firm of Fullbright and Jaworski, which has since merged and become even larger as Norton Rose Fullbright.

With her family still in West Michigan, Carson considered moving back to the area. She made contact with Daly through her sister, and joined him last August at Barnes and Thornburg, practicing M&A intensively, before making the move to Miller Johnson.

Daly  was a 2000 graduate of East Grand Rapids High School, but left Michigan to attend New York University, studying finance and economics. “I originally went to law school thinking I would do a joint JD and Ph.D., and go the academic route. I?went to Harvard Law School while my wife, who was actually my high school sweetheart, went to Boston University. But we both wanted to settle in the Midwest, so I worked at Jenner and Block in Chicago for five years,” he says.

“I had a great experience there, but I was originally interested in them because they had an excellent M&A team, and instead I wound up working   on the General Motors bankruptcy. So  after our son was born we were thinking about schools and all, and at the time my parents lived here — my dad has since passed away – and I joined Barnes and Thornburg.” After Dustin Daniels, whom Daly considers one of his mentors, left B & T for Miller Johnson, Daly too made the move.

Though Jackson had a somewhat different career path, he too left the West Michigan area for career reasons and has now returned.

Born in Chicago, Jackson was raised in Allegan and graduated from Allegan High School, also in the year 2000. He majored in computer information systems at Western Michigan University, graduating magna cum laude.

“I was a computer programmer at Auto Owners Insurance in Lansing. I really liked certain aspects of that job. It’s highly analytical which I think is very similar to drafting a purchase agreement. There’s a lot of crossover,” he says.

He was debating  continuing his education for either an MBA?or a law degree and the University of Michigan Law School won out.

After spending six years at Miller Johnson, Jackson left to work at Foley and Lardner in the Detroit area.

“We had a fairly good experience in Southeast Michigan,” he says, “but I don’t think it every really felt like home to us. So when [first of three children] Eliza was born, we wanted to move back here.”

Miller Johnson members had been reaching out to him, so he came back with new skills.

Dustin Daniels co-chairs the M&A practice with Max Barnes. Bob Wolford, Jeff Ammon, Brittany Harden, Chris Edgar, and another new associate, Loic Dimithe, are among the additional members of the practice group, and business is booming.

Daniels comments, “I think it’s really exciting to be able to have three people of that caliber join. I think they’re all exceptional attorneys and exceptional people. I?think a key piece in growing the M&A practice is having great people, and we have that.”

All the new members share in the excitement. “I really feel like right now we’re in the sweet spot,” Jackson says. “We have a lot of 30-somethings, and that positions our group well for the long run.”

Carson, who protested humorously that she is not yet 30, was in a serious bicycle accident shortly after starting at the firm, eventually entailing surgery. She has greatly appreciated the personal interest shown by Miller Johnson colleagues and management, but she is doing the proverbial chomping at the bit to get back to work.

 “Dustin [Jackson] hit the nail on the head,” she said. “We have tremendous capacity and there’s a really great collegiality. In DC we never talked about our personal life, and there’s a lot of support from folks here.
It’s a big deal,” she added.