'Rising Star': Attorney making name for himself in corporate law

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

The son of a first-generation immigrant entrepreneur and small business owner, attorney Justin Hanna was raised in the family businesses—providing him with a business-centric mindset he carries with him in everything he does.

While his business education began at a young age, Hanna earned his undergrad degree in business administration, cum laude, from Wayne State University, and remained a “Wayne Warrior” to earn both his J.D. and MBA.

He is now an attorney with the Mergers & Acquisitions and Emerging & Growth Business practice groups at Jaffe, Raitt, Heuer, & Weiss in Southfield, where he began working as a summer associate while in law school.

“I wanted to be a lawyer ever since I can remember, and have always excelled at using logical reasoning and analytical skills. Combined with my passion for business, pursuing a corporate law focus made a lot of sense,” he says. “I often tell people I learned more in business school than I did in law school. I like to think my MBA in finance allows me to better help my clients because I’m able to bring a more broad understanding to their businesses.”

A member of the Chaldean community, Hanna notes that he can count on one hand the number of Chaldean attorneys at large law firms, let alone those doing M&A work.

“As the community evolves and grows into more sophisticated, scalable businesses, they will in turn require more sophisticated counsel,” he says. “I view this as an opportunity to build a niche in my own practice as I add value to those businesses.”

Racking up such kudos as Super Lawyers “Rising Star,” Crain’s Detroit Business “20 in their Twenties,” and Michigan Lawyers Weekly “Up & Coming Lawyer,” Hanna has certainly succeeded in the world of law. In his first few years of practice, he has more than 30 deals under his belt with an aggregate value topping $2.7 billion; including four sizeable transactions with which he was intimately involved in the last year, ranging from $114 million to more than $1 billion in purchase price. 

“My experience at Jaffe has provided me the opportunity to work on a wide array of client legal matters of varying size and complexity and get my hands on all aspects of the transactions and work hand-in-hand with the management teams and principals on our side,” he explains. 

“At the same time, I’ve been able to take on and lead transactions as small as $1 million in size, including for many of my own clients. This wide range of flexibility and intimate level of involvement is one of the things that makes Jaffe a great place to practice and grow as an M&A attorney.”

Hanna enjoyed his studies at Wayne Law where—after successfully competing in a national competition—he founded the Jaffe Transactional Law Competition in 2015, a skill-based program in which teams draft and negotiate an agreement on behalf of a buyer or seller in a hypothetical M&A transaction. In 2018, Jaffe announced its continuing sponsorship of the competition. 

“Through its 50-plus year history, Jaffe has cut its teeth as a ‘deal shop’ through its strong M&A practice,” Hanna says.  “We recognize Wayne Law as one of the top sources of talent in the region, and are proud to support the growth and development of future M&A attorneys. This competition rapidly gained popularity and continues to be a mainstay for business-minded law students.”

At Wayne Law, where he made lifelong friends and met his future wife, Hanna served as president of Business & Entrepreneurship Law Society; served on the Executive Board of the Wayne State SBA Board of Governors; was executive lieutenant governor of the ABA Law Student Division for the 6th Circuit; and served on the PEBL advisory board.

Hanna strongly believes in giving back to the community and in making an impact. In 2017, after local Iraqis and Chaldeans were arrested by U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and threatened with immediate deportation back to Iraq, he led a team of 25 Jaffe attorneys and paralegals to provide hundreds of hours of pro bono immigration legal aid.

“Due to the urgency of the situation, my Jaffe colleagues and I recognized the immediate need to mobilize and moved quickly to file emergency motions, nearly all of which were successful,” he says. “Thankfully, we were even able to help at least one person get their green card restored. This is just one example of Jaffe’s commitment to community that I’m proud to be a part of.”

A native of Southfield who moved to West Bloomfield at the age of 10, Hanna now makes his home in Birmingham with his wife Nora Hanna, an attorney at Fieger Law, who serves on the board of directors for the Chaldean Community Foundation, and the Chaldean Cultural Center, and who helped start a nonprofit called CODE Legal Aid.

“She’s my biggest supporter and drives me to be a better person each and every day,” Hanna says.

With most of their family in the area, the couple enjoys life in the Motor City.

“Seeing Detroit’s growth has been exciting as a young professional, and even more so as a self-proclaimed foodie,” Hanna says.

A fan of NFL and college football, Hanna also enjoys playing golf, and working out at the gym.

“I also thoroughly enjoy traveling, as it allows us to step out of our bubble and exposes us to different cultures,” he says. “They say people gain more satisfaction from buying experiences than they do from buying tangible things.”

In December, Hanna was elected to a two-year term on the Board of Directors of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce that boasts more than 1,100 members.

Hanna, who may serve up to three consecutive terms, has served on the Political Action Committee (PAC) and as a chairperson for the Chaldean Young Professionals Network (CYPN). He will continue to lead the CYPN as a chair in 2020, remain involved in the PAC and will join the Civil Liberties Advocates (CLA) and membership committees as well. He also is involved on the Programs Committee for ACG (Association for Corporate Growth), and is on the Business Law Advisory Board for ICLE (Institute for Continuing Legal Education).

“We’re a close-knit community and the Chaldean Chamber is the premier organization supporting, connecting and advocating for businesses within the community,” he says. “Being the child of first-generation immigrants and the first college graduate in my family, I had to chart my own path through school and into my career. The Chamber supported me early on in my career, and I’d like to now be able to do the same for others.

“My involvement on the board and in the various committees allows me to be a resource for entrepreneurs and business owners looking to grow their businesses, to be a mentor for young professionals, and to continue giving back to the community as a whole.”

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