Car fancier: Lawyer draws on experience in automotive engineering


 By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

Attorney Seth Drucker’s background in automotive engineering—and familiarity with industry lingo—is a boon with automotive, manufacturing, and technical clients. 

“I’m often asked to translate for other attorneys and consultants who see the products only as ‘plastic stuff’ or ‘metal stuff,’” he explains. “There are many important distinctions among various types of products, and my clients appreciate my understanding of their industry and products. I also understand – or can pick up quickly – the technology at issue, which helps me interface with engineering, marketing and technical personnel when needed.”

A shareholder in Foster Swift’s Farmington Hills office, Drucker is a member of the Business & Corporate and Commercial Litigation Practice Groups, and focuses his practice on representing manufacturing and technology companies, including automotive suppliers and OEMs, in transactional and litigation matters. He also represents secured and unsecured creditors and commercial landlords in restructuring matters.

“My practice focuses on commercial law, which is much broader than straight commercial litigation,” he explains. “While litigation is a significant portion of my practice, the litigation is usually derivative of commercial and restructuring matters I’m involved in. The majority of my work revolves around helping clients procure or sells goods and services, or, if they already have contracts in place, preserving the flow of those goods or services, so as not to disrupt their businesses and that of their customers. I enjoy it because it often involves finding creative solutions to problems and balancing the needs of all of the constituents involved, ideally before any of the parties runs to the courthouse.”

Passionate about cars from a young age, Drucker enjoyed working on them as a teen-ager.  

“I grew up in the Motor City and the car culture was everywhere. I studied engineering so I could move beyond fixing and tuning vehicles to working on the actual design process.”

After earning his undergrad degree in electrical engineering from Michigan State University, he worked as an automotive engineer for over a decade for United Technologies Automotive, Ford, and General Motors. As a powertrain development summer intern at Ford – where he also met his wife – he worked on the then-new ‘96 Mustang Cobra.

While earning his MBA from Wayne State University, where he took several business law classes, Drucker worked at GM in powertrain development for full-sized trucks and vans. Moving to a new position in vehicle dynamics at GM that entailed less travel, allowed him to take a few law school classes to test the waters – and finding the waters to his liking, he left GM shortly afterwards to study law full time.  

“Leaving GM was a difficult decision, and I miss being involved in vehicle development, but it was the right time to make a move,” he says.

Drucker received his juris doctor from the University of Michigan Law School. 

“I enjoyed being surrounded by such a diverse and intelligent group of people,” he says. “U-M also offered a wide range of classes that allowed me to explore unique areas of the law.”  

Juggling law studies with marriage and parenthood didn’t leave time to take advantage of many social aspects of law school, but he did join its bowling league on team “Dirt Knapp,” with fellow classmates Tina Junten, Sarah Williams, and James Knapp.

During the automotive upheaval of a few years ago, Drucker worked on almost all the major automotive bankruptcies. 

“The cases were relentless, one after the other,” he says. “Despite the outward appearance that all the cases were the same, there were marked distinctions between them, each presenting challenging issues we had to resolve.”

At about the same time as the auto companies were imploding, there were a significant number of retail bankruptcy cases working their way through the courts, including Circuit City, Borders Books, Boscov’s, and Steve & Barry’s. Drucker represented several commercial landlords in these cases and had success in securing payment of pre- and post-petition rent from the bankruptcy tenants.  

“The cases were interesting because under the 2005 amendments to the bankruptcy code, the debtors had very little time to attempt to reorganize – 210 days – resulting is some pretty frantic negotiations of lease amendments and modifications,” he explains. “Many of the debtors did not survive because of the inability to come to terms with all of their landlords quickly, which is unfortunate.”

Named a DBusiness Top Lawyer and Super Lawyers Rising Star, Drucker joined Foster Swift in March, after serving as a partner at another large Detroit law firm. 

“Foster is a great firm with excellent attorneys I can rely on as a resource to me and my clients,” he says. “It has the critical mass necessary to handle complex cases for large enterprises, but is also nimble enough to assist family owned businesses and other smaller entities and individuals. I also enjoy the collegial attitude within the firm and premium the firm places on its attorney wellbeing and quality of life, something that’s hard to find in large firms.”

A member of the State Bar of Michigan, American Bar Association, American Bankruptcy Institute, MSU Alumni Association, and Society of Automotive Engineers, Drucker serves as 2014 Chair of the MSU Eli Broad Executive Forum of Detroit that puts on an annual business forum with the help of the MSU colleges of engineering and business, bringing together Detroit area alumni to discuss topics of interest to business leaders. The 2012 and 2013 keynote speakers were Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and GM CEO Mary Barra, respectively. 

“We’ll be announcing our 2014 keynote speaker next month and have a very exciting event planned for the fall,” Drucker says.

Throughout his career, Drucker has participated in the LADA criminal record expungement program. 

“Without the expungement, people who may have gotten into a bad spot years earlier, who have not been in trouble with the law since, find it difficult or impossible to find a job or apply for a promotion,” he explains. “It’s been very rewarding work.”

A life-long resident of Michigan, Drucker and his wife Jean make their home in Canton Township with their three children. 

“Watching the resurgence of downtown Detroit over the last 10 years has been amazing, and has really improved the quality of life for the whole area,” he says.  “There are so many more entertainment and dining options in Detroit and the metro area now that it’s hard to get out and see and try them all.”

Drucker still enjoys tinkering on cars, including a ‘99 Camaro dating from his GM days; and a Jeep Wrangler he takes to West Michigan’s Silver Lake Dunes a couple times of year with his children  – “Usually breaking something along the way that gives me an excuse to get back out in the garage,” he says. “I also spend an inordinate amount of time in ice rinks watching my boys play hockey.”

When it comes to sports, the MSU and U-M grad is clear where his loyalties lie. 

“Both U-M and MSU are great academic institutions, and few states can boast two – let alone three or four – world class universities, but when it comes to game day, I’m a Spartan!”



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