Bodman opens Grand Rapids office with the help of attorney Floyd Gates


by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Floyd Gates is bullish on the future of Bodman PLC in the greater Grand Rapids area.

“West Michigan is thriving, as everyone knows — you can’t help but see all the new development going on.  I can’t say enough about what a perfect next move it was for Bodman to come here, and to develop an office that has real critical mass,” Gates says.

“We are aggressively expanding, in order to really build a full service West Michigan firm attached to the Bodman firm.”

With an official opening May 1, the Bodman Grand Rapids office is occupying a temporary space at the Calder Plaza Building as it looks for a more permanent home that will allow for that expansion. It is the fifth office the firm has opened around the state.

Bodman has a long and prestigious history in the state, beginning in 1929 when Wallace Middleton and Clifford Longley left the Ford Motor Company legal staff to form their own firm. They were later joined by Henry Bodman, who had been serving as general counsel to the Packard Motor Car Company.

Bodman is still well-known for its long-term relationship with Henry Ford himself, one of its first clients. When Edsel Ford formed Manufacturers National Bank, now known as Comerica Bank, in 1933, the Bodman firm represented him and continues to count Comerica as a client to this day. The Detroit Lions is another client which Bodman has represented since the beginning of its relationship in the 1950s.

The Detroit office of Bodman became the first major tenant in the Detroit Renaissance Center in 1976, and relocated to Ford Field in the early 2000s after helping with the legal end of that development.

For the most part, joining with other firms has resulted in the opening of Bodman’s other offices, including Ann Arbor in 1988 when the firm was renamed Bodman, Longley, and Dahling. Developing the former firm of Conboy, Fell, Stack, Lieder & Hanson in Cheboygan expanded the firm’s regulatory banking expertise.

 There is also a Bodman presence in Troy, and now the firm has started up in Grand Rapids.

“Grand Rapids presents a growth opportunity for Bodman as we have a number of clients with offices and operations in West Michigan. Our new Grand Rapids office will allow us to serve these clients with even better responsiveness and efficiency,” stated Bodman Chair Ralph E. McDowell.

“We are excited to have Floyd join us and help to establish our Grand Rapids office.  Floyd’s legal expertise, deep relationships in the local business community and varied experience make him a great fit for our firm,” McDowell added.

Gates comes to Bodman with a solid practice in representing and servicing financial institutions, including workouts and complex fraud schemes, as well as working in real estate and other sectors.

Born in Battle Creek and raised there and in Hastings, Gates explains, “After I graduated from Hastings Saxon, I took off to the military. I was in the Army reserves for a little over 12 years, both in the communications section of the army” — where he was attached to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA —  “as well as in the JAG Corps. I?was a law clerk to a JAG officer when I was going to Wayne State Law School.”

As an undergraduate at Michigan State University, Gates majored in political science, history and psychology and worked in the court system.

After graduation from Wayne Law, Gates went to a smaller firm in Kalamazoo and then joined Miller Canfield, moving in 2004 from its Kalamazoo office to Grand Rapids.

He and his wife have six children, among whom he counts one child who passed away. “My wife and I had a child that died with a congenital heart defect,” Gates says. “So I’ve had a personal passion for the American Heart Association and the March of Dimes. It was something we could do in her honor.” He hopes to continue serving those organizations, and says that he found Bodman’s commitment to community involvement very attractive.
He adds, “Bodman and I very much intend to entrench ourselves in the community.”

Gates has been in practice for nearly 19 years as he makes the move to Bodman, where he will be a member of its highly-rated Banking, Business, and Litigation and Alternative Dispute Resolution Practice Groups.

“My financial sector practice has kept growing, and I began seeing the need to develop a stronger bench. Bodman is a great fit and a perfect opportunity to continue providing services to the clients that I’ve worked with for years,” Gates says.

Bodman also has expertise in the health care industry, another good fit for West Michigan.

Gates and the firm have already hired an additional attorney for the Grand Rapids office. Darren Burmania also came from Miller Canfield and also represents national and regional financial institutions. In the course of his career, Burmania has had a solo practice, been part of Bratschie, Burmania, Gunn & Born PC, worked as in-house counsel, and served as a public policy specialist in the Michigan Senate.

“Darren and I have a relationship that goes back quite a few years,” Gates said. “We’ve even worked on opposite sides of one another, but I have a great deal of respect for Darren’s practice and am glad he wanted to join this force.”

Gates says there are as many as four other attorneys under discussion of joining Bodman, and there are plans to have the office grow to 25 or 30 depending on who might become available. “It’s a great deep legal community we have over here in West Michigan. There’s a ton of talented lawyers who would fit nicely within this platform,” Gates says.

He adds, “Bodman is an old firm and that was very important to me, but despite the age Bodman has evolved through the years and is not an old-acting firm. We recognize that if you’re going to grow a firm, you want to be focused on diversity. And you need to be nimble enough to figure out how people fit in.”


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