Retrospective: Firm's senior counsel reflects on time working with governor

By Mike Scott
Legal News

It is a common perception that decisions are made more slowly in the government sector. Steven Liedel may not agree with such an assessment, however.

The Brighton resident is a senior counsel with Dykema after serving for eight years as deputy legal and counsel and then legal counsel to former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

During that time, he also was chair of the State Administrative Board, chief privacy officer for the State of Michigan, executive committee member of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and transition liaison to the incoming administration for current Gov. Rick Snyder.

In the role of legal counsel, Liedel said his day often moved at “100 miles per hour,” but it is a role that he appreciated and embraced given the level of public service he provided.

“At any time if the governor is taking legal action, it is wise to have a legal review of the document,” Liedel said. “There is always the element of the unforeseen because every day was different.”

The wide range of topics that Liedel would handle in that role included reviewing legislation that is signed or vetoed by the governor, researching and making recommendations on pardons and prisoner commutations, researching and recommending appointments to public office, particularly in the judicial branch and relations and compacts with other governmental entities, including Native American tribal governments around the state.

Liedel also handled many leases of state-owned property and the legal review of real estate transactions.

Much of this work was related to governmental organization, such as the exercise of gubernatorial authority to reorganize governmental entities through executive order, the merger of state departments, preparing possible governmental shutdowns, and more.

During his time in the governor’s office, Liedel was involved in the establishment of the Michigan Finance Authority as the centralized bonding authority for state government, and helped to plan the merger of several state departments.

He also was behind some of the governor’s efforts related to the Land Bank Fast Track Authority, the establishment of M-1 light rail development along Woodward Avenue in Detroit, creation of a regional authority to operate Cobo Hall, and drafting language creating film credits and incentives established in 2008.

“I do think that my background in private practice helped. You also often see (legal counsels) coming from the attorney general’s office with a broad range of experience in state government,” said Liedel, who has joined Dykema’s Regulated Industries Department.

The move comes a month after Dykema added former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox to the firm.

“Much of my work as legal counsel involved the administration of governmental departments but we certainly covered a wide range of issues,” Liedel said. “In many ways it is a generalist role.”

In recent years, Liedel also became more of an authority on such issues as bankruptcy, and was involved in working with Granholm and her staff during the most troubling days of the domestic automotive industry when both General Motors and Chrysler declared bankruptcy.

While much of the focus of Liedel’s work was on the legal aspects of issues impacting the government, there were also policy issues that he filled, specifically in such areas as judiciary, criminal justice policy, election law, campaign finance, and ethics requirements and more.

Yet even with all the responsibilities required of Liedel, he admits that working in private practice can be just as busy and even more stressful.

“There are times in private practice where things are more intense because you are working with a specific client,” Liedel said. “In that case there are timelines you have to meet and work toward.”

At Dykema, Liedel will advise clients on navigating the complex issues associated with government reorganization and restructuring, economic development and tax policy.

He also will provide counsel on legislative drafting, strategy and interpretation; elections, campaign finance and compliance; government contracts; government policy; public finance; administrative law; and casino gaming, among other areas.

“I’m essentially counseling clients on how to interact with governmental entities,” Liedel said.

He expects to be involved in identifying new ways that businesses can work with state governments in Michigan and across the country, and with state and federal agencies.

As state budgets around the U.S. continue to undergo significant cuts, overhauls and changes, Liedel anticipates that his experience in tax policy and state finances also will benefit clients.

He also figures to play a role in economic development planning, strategies, recruitment and retention and more.

“I would hope that I can work with clients who may want to move, relocate or expand in Michigan or perhaps in other areas of the country as we look to expand our practice,” Liedel said. “It’s a great opportunity.”

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