New Mental Health Practice at Miller Johnson will rest in good hands


Neil J. Marchand (left) and Richard E. Hillary II are taking the lead in Miller Johnson’s new Mental Healh Practice. Hillary will serve as chair and Marchand as vice-chair.

by Cynthia Price
Legal News

“I’ve practiced in the area of mental health law for 20 years off and on,” says Miller Johnson’s Dick Hillary when discussing the firm’s newly created Mental Health?Law practice group. “It has always been a piece of my practice. Neil [Marchand] and I have worked closely together because our practice areas significantly overlap, and it occurred to us that we were already doing this work, just not as an organized practice group.

“So, starting a practice group within Miller Johnson creates a forum internally for collaboration which results in efficiencies and better client service,” he explained.

Adds Neil Marchand, “We’ve noticed, especially in the last five years, the media has been covering mental health more and we’ve noticed from referrals we’ve received that there’s this need for people to know where to go. We’ve seen new clients coming in who heard about us through another clinician. There are a number of different and sometimes conflicting obligations and the providers don’t know where to get help. We think this new practice group will help providers find us.” 
Hillary, who is the son and namesake of retired Public Defender Dick Hillary profiled in the Grand Rapids Legal News two weeks ago, will chair the group, and Marchand will be the vice-chair.

The practice is intended to focus on helping licensed professionals and mental and behavioral health providers to understand and meet obligations under the highly complex Mental Health Code as well as other laws which apply across the board to health care providers.

Said Hillary in a statement upon initiation of the practice, “Our attorneys fully understand the complex legal and ethical framework imposed on mental health providers and the tension between the Mental Health Code and other areas of the law. We aim to be a trusted resource to providers in complying with regulations as they serve and treat their clients.”

He expanded on that in an interview, saying, “Specifically, there’s a tension between the duty of confidentiality and the obligation to report, as one instance. Providers often need a trained legal professional to help them through that, because the penalties for making a mistake can be stiff.”

Other attorneys in the new practice group are Kathleen Hogan Aguilar, Angela Caulley, Jason Crow, Timothy Gutwald, Dustin Jackson, Kelley Stoppels, and Matt Vicari. “Many of our partners have also practiced in the area of mental health law off and on for most of their careers, though maybe in different areas than Neil and I do,” said Hillary.

The Mental Health Practice will exist within the framework of the broader Health Care Practice at Miller Johnson.

Hillary’s practice falls within health care but extends to other areas, as well as all phases of litigation.

Before joining Miller Johnson, Hillary clerked for Judge William Murphy of the Michigan Court of Appeals (a former Chief Judge of the COA). Hillary received his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and his J.D. from the University of Toledo.

Hillary has been active in the State Bar of Michigan, the Grand Rapids Bar Association – where he has served as a trustee and as a Litigation Section Chair – and the Federal Bar for the Western District of Michigan. He was a president of the local chapter of American Inns of Court, and has frequently been on the Hillman Advocacy faculty.

In addition, he is the current chair of the Legal Assistance Center board.

“ I would describe myself as a litigator and counselor primarily in the area of health care,” Hillary says. “Most of my litigation touches on some component of health care law. But almost all litigators counsel clients every day – ideally to keep them out of the litigation process.”

Marchand, who was just elected to membership at Miller Johnson in February, is also a litigator, who works closely with mental health care providers on licensing, development of policies and procedures, mandatory reporting, and all other aspects of compliance.

“I trained for litigation, partly because no one in my family is an attorney and based on my impressions I just thought, ‘What else do lawyers do?’ But I really like to be in litigation because of the problem-solving, the challenge.

“Not only have I gone through the Hillman Advocacy program for many years, Dick [Hillary] and Jon March run an internal version of Hillman, with a different  [fictional] trial. The firm has always focused on training and growing that way,” Marchand says.

Named a Rising Star in Insurance Coverage litigation every year since 2013, Marchand, a native of Romeo, Mich.,  came to the Grand Rapids area after attending The George Washington University for both his B.A., summa cum laude, and his J.D. with honors from the Law School, where he was a Thurgood Marshall Scholar.

In 2009-2010, before joining Miller Johnson, Marchand clerked for Judge Gordon Quist of the U.S. Court for the Western District of Michigan.

He is about to assume the presidency of the Rotary Club of Grand Rapids, has served on committees for Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park and on the executive committee for the American Inns of Court chapter, and has gone through the Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Grand Rapids.

Directly in line with the new Mental Health Practice, Marchand has just been appointed to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Recipient Rights Appeals Committee.

Says Marchand, whose wife is a psychologist, “For me doing this mental health work is a combination of the law and the personal. I love the complexity, and I love helping people solve problems so they can do what they do well.”

And Hillary comments, “The clients whom I have represented for many years provide the highest quality of mental health care and have the biggest hearts in doing so. As lawyers we all strive to represent clients we respect and can honestly say it’s a privilege to represent. In this area of the law with the clients I presently represent, it is definitely a privilege. And that’s what’s drawn me to providing legal services I daresay.”

“I see my wife and her friends and they’re not doing it for the money,” Marchand adds. “They’re doing it because this is their calling. To be able to serve people who are truly doing a selfless act, taking a job that’s stressful, that’s emotionally draining, and to be able to help remove one kind of burden from their shoulders, it’s just a nice feeling of fulfillment.”