'Stout' sponsor: Company takes pride in lending helping hand


By Linda Laderman
Legal News

Social responsibility is a core value at Stout Risius Ross (SRR), a financial advisory company in Southfield. While the firm assists attorneys on multiple issues, including mediation, intellectual property and bankruptcy, its employees also are invested in giving back to the communities they serve.

SRR opened its first office in 1991 with a handful of people who believed community involvement, in tandem with building relationships, was as critical as building the bottom line. 

“We experienced rapid growth and success by building the relationships around us,” said Glenn Sheets, managing director in SRR’s Dispute Advisory & Forensic Services Group.

Sheets credits SRR’s emphasis on the individual as an additional factor in the firm’s upward trajectory.

“We are made up of people, not machines, and while that may seem simple to implement it is harder than it looks,” Sheets said. “It’s not difficult to create a bureaucratic approach by fitting people into slots. Instead, we work around people, expanding our relationships into the community. It’s all inter-related.”

Today, with 350 employees, 12 offices, and a global presence, SRR and it people-centric mindset remains strong.

“There are communities all across the U.S. trying to get help,” Sheets said.

Locally, SRR supports the Oakland County Bar Association (OCBA) and its charitable affiliate the Oakland County Bar Foundation (OCBF.) This year, SRR joined the OCBF’s small circle of platinum sponsors, pledging $10,000 to the “Signature Event” May 1 at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills. The event is the primary fund-raiser for the OCBF.

According to OCBF President Eric Pelton, a partner with Kienbaum, Opperwall, Hardy, & Pelton in Birmingham, SRR’s gift helps OCBF fund many legal aid programs like the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law’s Immigration Clinic and Beaumont Hospital Legal Aid for Children and Families. In addition, through the OCBA, the OCBF supports the Youth Law Conference and Senior Law Day.

“SRR recognizes the need to ensure that legal services are made available to all members of the public, as well as the long-term benefits of educating the public about the honor and integrity of the legal profession,” Pelton said.

“More than just a sponsor,” is how Syeda Davidson, chairperson of the OCBA’s New Lawyers Committee and an associate at Burgess, Sharp & Golden in Clinton Township, characterizes SRR’s involvement.

“SRR is a visible presence at New Lawyers Committee events.  In addition to its generous contributions, SRR always sends at least a couple of representatives to talk with new lawyers and representatives from the charity for the year. Usually, Mick attends,” Davidson said.

Mick is Michael Kahaian, managing director in the Dispute Advisory & Forensic Services Group and National Practice Leader for the Computer Forensics and E-Discovery Practice in SRR’s Southfield office.

As a non-lawyer trustee for the OCBF and a member of the fund-raising committee, Kahaian embraces the opportunity to work with the local legal community.

“I am truly blessed to work with the finest lawyers in the community,” Kahaian said. “When it comes to helping others, these attorneys are selfless.”

In practice and theory, SRR has adopted the legal profession’s commitment to pro bono work.

“We encourage pro bono on every level,” said Kahaian.  “We know there are a lot of underdogs out there. We should all be thinking of that. By giving you can make such a big impact, one that is real and tangible.”

Sheets shares Kahaian’s dedication to pro bono work.

“SRR fosters a culture that promotes our people to share and participate in the communities that they find themselves a part of; whether philanthropic, business, or shared interests.  We see our people’s involvement in the community as important as providing professional services to our clients,” Sheets said.

“One of our community-driven initiatives is to offer paid time-off to our employees who participate in community activities.  Many times groups of individual employees at SRR will organize a community function and ‘take the day off’ to promote and support a particular organization,” Sheets said.  

To cultivate company participation SRR established a sabbatical program that factors in time for employees to participate in organized efforts to serve under-privileged or under-served communities.

“These and other activities support our communities through a greater sense of shared-interest and collaboration,” Sheets said. “The easy thing to do is write a check, the harder part is to have people volunteer their time on an individual or institutional basis.

“We look at things holistically because we spend a great deal of our time working in and with the legal community.” Sheets said. “Everyone will need legal representation during their lifetime.”