Sova and Kelly move to Jenison, will continue to expand geographic reach


Attorneys Kara Sova and Michael Kelly stand by the prominent sign announcing their location in newly renovated offices in Jenison.


by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Attorney Mike Kelly may have been in practice for over 50 years, but that is no indication that he is set in his ways.

He and partner Kara Sova have just moved to a beautifully appointed new space in Jenison, hoping to build on their already-large base of clients outside Kent County.

Kelly, who was headed for court in Ludington Thursday, comments, “My intention is to continue to vigorously represent clients using the skills I’ve honed over the last 50 plus years.”

It was misreported in the August 11 Grand Rapids Legal News that Kelly had retired, but perhaps that impression derived from Kelly’s having taken some time in Florida  last year after back surgery he had long put off.

Of course, that should not be construed as meaning that he was not working, according to Sova. “He’s really never not working. He was constantly consulting with me on the phone, over email... I even got calls from the hospital,” she says, smiling.

The two have an interesting working relationship. They share files and workload, and although Sova now spends more time in court than Kelly does, they work as a team in the pursuit of the best possible outcome for their clients.

Given their history, that is not surprising. Sova spent the first ten of their twenty years together as the legal assistant for Kelly’s business on Fulton in downtown Grand Rapids, after completing a degree in legal studies at Grand Valley State University.

In the mid-2000s, Thomas M. Cooley Law School (now Western Michigan University-Cooley Law School) opened its Grand Rapids campus. “I’ll never forget that day that Mike called me into his office. I thought I’d really messed something up,” she says, laughing. “He told me, ‘I think you’re overqualified for your job. You’re going to have to go to law school or I’ll fire you.’  I was already interested, so I worked part-time briefly,” Sova says.

Though she wound up taking most of her classes in Lansing, Sova received her Michigan Bar membership in 2007, and has continued working with Kelly ever since.

She has become so good at what she does that, in 2013, she was named a Top 40 Litigation Lawyer Under 40 in the State of Michigan by the American Society of Legal Advocates.

Sova specializes in criminal defense, drunk driving defense, driver’s license restoration, personal injury and wrongful death, and landlord/tenant issues.

Because Mike Kelly is so well-known as an expert in DUI defense issues, many think that the firm is limited to that and related practice areas, but the team also does medical malpractice, workers’ compensation, business organization, real estate law and wills and trusts. (They do not do family law nor bankruptcies.)

Kelly has been around long enough to remember when the majority of lawyers had that scope. “I tell people we’re still a true general practice firm. It’s hard to find,” he says.

He also remembers a time when there were only about 300 lawyers in the Grand Rapids Bar, and “unless they were someone who had a specialty where they never left the office, you knew everybody.”

He continues, “We were a smaller group, but we were also all crammed into that little courthouse on Fridays, and,” he smiles,” we all went to the same watering holes after work.”

Kelly still chairs the Seniors Section of the Grand Rapids Bar.

Formerly an assistant city attorney for the Ordinance Enforcement Division of the City of Grand Rapids, Kelly went to Aquinas College and the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law after graduation from Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School.

The Seniors Section is just one of many activities Kelly has undertaken to forward the legal profession. He is the former president of the American Inns of Court,  Gerald R. Ford Chapter and of the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee of the State Bar. He is still a member of the American Association for Justice, the Kent County Criminal Defense Bar Association, and has been a member of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians Tribal Court since 2011. He is an Advocate of the National College of Advocacy

Kelly’s expertise in drunk driving defense has made him a sought-after presenter, and he was a valued faculty member for the Institute for Continuing Legal Education for years. After a while, he found that the intensive preparation work for ICLE seminars – “You don’t want to look stupid in front of your colleagues,” he says with a chuckle – took too much time away from helping his clients.

The firm website furthers the goal of educating clients, however. It is clear that both Kelly and Sova are dedicated to their clients above all.

“We have potential clients come in and admit they’re going to talk to other attorneys, and compare,” Sova says. “When they come back I always ask them, ‘What brought you back?’ And they say, ‘You treated me like a person.’”

As far as the new office space, both Kelly and Sova, who lives in nearby Byron Center, could not be more pleased. Initially concerned about the commute, Kelly notes it only takes him about six minutes longer than it used to. The office is very close to the exit off of I-196, and in a bustling but not usually congested area.

“The bottom line is, if people know you and the type of work you do, they’re going to seek you out in the future,” Kelly says. “And wherever you are, they’ll find you.”