Aaron Lindstrom moves from Michigan Solicitor General to Barnes & Thornburg


by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Aaron Lindstrom, who left the position of Solicitor General for the State of Michigan when the new Attorney General took over on January 1st, has landed at Barnes & Thornburg as his new legal home.

“I chose Barnes & Thornburg because I wanted to work at a sophisticated firm in Grand Rapids that would have a national reach, so that I could have an active appellate practice. I like the fact that there is such a broad range of cases the firm is handling, with interesting appellate issues,” Lindstrom says.

Regarding Barnes & Thornburg’s take on the transition, the chair of its Litigation Department, D. Randall Brown, stated, “Aaron advises on complex appeals and is known for delivering arguments with precision and strength. He’s an outstanding addition to our team of litigators representing clients involved in high-stakes matters in courts across the country.”

 “As the state’s chief appellate lawyer, Aaron earned the reputation as a leader in appellate advocacy and has demonstrated impressive focus and skills in the courtroom,” added Grand Rapids Managing Partner Robert Stead in a statement. “He has an unwavering service mindset; the combination of his credentials and deep knowledge and experience in the public and private sectors will be invaluable to our clients.”

A state’s Solicitor General works very closely with the Attorney General, so when Dana Nessel took over for former Attorney General Bill Schuette, Lindstrom stepped aside. “I think the attorney general should get to pick her own solicitor,” he said.

Only two weeks into her tenure, AG?Nessel did so, by appointing Fadwa A. Hammoud, a former lead attorney in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and a 2018 member of Harvard Business School’s Young American Leaders Program, who is also the first Muslim Arab-American Solicitor General in the country.

Lindstrom, who grew up in the Jackson area, wanted to remain in Grand Rapids because he considers it a good place to settle down and raise a family – he and his wife have four children. “It’s nice to see how this area is thriving,” he says.

He originally left Michigan because he was appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, which he says was a “great experience.” Much-honored there, Lindstrom received his B.S. in Computer Science in 1996, and then spent the next five years in the U.S. Army, at Fort Carson, Colorado.

“I was fortunate there as well. I was an armor officer. I was also the commander of a headquarters troop back in Colorado when part of the unit went to Bosnia,” Lindstrom says. He attained the rank of captain, and later in his service had some experiences that turned him toward going into the law.

At the University of Chicago Law School, he had many opportunities open up for him. He clerked for the Hon. Jeffrey S. Sutton of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, was editor of the Chicago Journal of International Law and served as a national symposium board editor of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy.

Before being tapped as the Michigan Solicitor General  when John Bursch left to return to Warner Norcross + Judd at the end of 2013, Lindstrom worked at the D.C.?office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, an AmLaw 20 firm.

Barnes &?Thornburg also counts Washington D.C. as one of its 14 office locations. With over 600 attorneys and legal professionals, it is one of the largest law firms in the country, and is an AmLaw 100 firm, ranked 85th in the nation in 2018.

Lindstrom will be of counsel in B & T’s Litigation Department. His years of experience in appellate and other complex litigation matters will allow him to advise other litigators on such matters as how to prepare arguments, narrow down issues, and preserve issues.

“Because I’m kind of a generalist as to subject matter, I can focus in on how to handle the appellate side of complex issues, and figure out what an appellate lawyer can do to translate for the judge,” he says.

Lindstrom has represented clients in complex litigation at all levels of the state and federal courts, including in 13 U.S. Supreme Court cases. He has presented oral argument at SCOTUS twice, 15 times before the Michigan Supreme Court, and three times en banc before the U.S. Sixth Circuit, among other courts.

“In appellate situations, you’re going to have to figure out what the court of your argument is, and you have to understand your theory of the case very, very well. Rehearsals are important because sometimes you realize that answering a certain question may lead you down different rabbit trails. So you need to figure out which is the shortest and best answer to a justice’s question that doesn’t do that,” he says.

Lindstrom has been the counsel of record on over 90 US. Supreme Court briefs. Third-party studies of SCOTUS?advocates have recognized him for his success in persuading the Court to grant cert, his win rate when representing amicus curiae, and for the quality of his writing. He has won both national and state distinguished brief awards.

“Coming up with good briefs is mainly about writing things clearly and getting the key issues right,” Lindstrom says. “A good brief should make the reader feel like they’re really smart because they understood it all, it shouldn’t make the reader think that the person who wrote it is really smart.”

A love of such writing was one of the factors that initially drew him to appellate work, which he says was solidified during his clerkship. “Appellate work focuses on the legal issues, and it involves research and writing, so I?always did kind of hope I could go this route,” he says.

“As a senior at West Point, I took a law class in constitutional and military law, and I enjoyed it. We took an oath to support and defend the Constitution, so I wanted to learn more about it,” he says.

A high point for Lindstrom during his Solicitor General career was arguing on behalf of a coalition of states in Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency, which was argued in 2015. The question at issue was whether the EPA was unreasonable to refuse to consider costs in determining whether it was appropriate to regulate electric utility steam generating units, and the Supreme Court sided with Michigan in its opinion that the EPA was, indeed, unreasonable.

“I was arguing on behalf of Michigan but also 20-some other states; the other side had about 16 states and the U.S. Solicitor General. Among other things, I?got to argue before Justice Scalia in the last year of his time at the court,” Lindstrom says.

Lindstrom, who has been invited to speak at many law schools and has conducted annual brief-writing trainings at the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, says he feels like he still has a great deal of his career ahead of him, and his Solicitor General experience will stand him in good stead.

“It gave me broad experience across a wide variety of areas of the law and in a variety of courts,” Lindstrom says.  “Working on hundreds of cases in any given year gave me insight into how limited the time is for judges to consider cases, and how important it is to explain things simply and quickly.”

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