Plachta, Murphy is second local firm to step up for entrepreneurs


by Cynthia Price
Legal News

It comes as no surprise to West Michigan attorneys that they practice in a community full of generous, philanthropically-minded professionals.

But now, Plachta, Murphy and Associates has stepped up to the plate to remind people throughout Michigan that giving back to the community is not solely the province of the large law firms.

Plachta, Murphy is only the second law firm to pledge a contribution of legal services to start-up businesses as part of the Pure Michigan Business Connect initiative of the Snyder administration, partnering with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

CEO Brian Plachta says that he was intrigued when he first heard of Business Connect, and inspired when he read that Varnum was the first in the state to step up to the plate.
With $500,000 of free legal services over the next four years, Plachta, Murphy is making a substantial contribution. Plachta says that they are doing so because they truly believe in Michigan residents helping each other out. “We want to walk alongside business owners,” Plachta says, “and ask,  how can we partner together to get you up and running?”

 That $500,000 represents 50 clients each year at $2500 per client. Plachta says that should be enough to take most businesses “from concept to design,” including guiding potential new business owners about what kind of business entity is most suitable; creating corporate documents and helping them get their Employee Identification Number; exploring tax filings with them; developing all the agreements, particularly if a multiple-shareholder model is sought; and making sure the minutes are in order, getting them through the initial meeting.

Existing businesses may qualify as well.

Plachta, Murphy and Associates attorneys have over 25 years of expertise helping businesses in just such ways. Plachta himself has been practicing law in Michigan since 1984, after attending Aquinas College, and receiving his J.D. degree from University of Detroit School of Law, graduating summa cum laude, where he was Assistant Editor-in-Chief of the Law Review.

Plachta’s professional affiliations include the West Michigan Estate Planning Council, the Catholic Lawyers Association, the Grand Rapids Business Owners Association, and the American Society of IRS Problem Solvers.  He gives back to his community through volunteering at, for example, The Dwelling Place and the Diocese of Grand Rapids. He is a certified elder law attorney.

Partner Michael Murphy is also certified, in his case by the Veterans Administration to help with veteran’s issues. He has practiced law since 1986.

The full-service law firm’s team is rounded out by attorney Bryan D. Reeder, who clerked for Hon. G. Patrick Hillary immediately before joining Plachta, Murphy; attorney Mary A. Owens, who is of counsel to the firm; Jeremy Johnson, Client Relations Director; Richard J. Cross, an expert on Social Security Administration regulations; and Kari Tames, an Enrolled Agent (empowered by the U.S. Department of Treasury to represent taxpayers) with Tax Resolution Specialists, Inc., a division of the Plachta, Murphy firm.
The firm has looked to fill niches that are not being met, and offers client education seminars through such entities as the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce. Plachta lectures widely about such topics as elder law.  
Brian Plachta says he is very excited about taking the law firm in a new direction, particularly as the Pure Michigan Business Connect project aligns well with his personal philosophy. “Let’s take personal responsibility to help each other — that’s what I hear Governor [Rick] Snyder saying.

“I’m excited about extending the Pure Michigan umbrella to the business community. We’re a business state, we need to help each other grow and expand.”

Among the criteria that allow a start-up business to qualify for free legal services is a commitment to stay in Michigan for at least five years. Others include demonstrating a legitimate need for the legal services, not having an attorney of record, and having a business plan in place, with all that entails.

“With the economic downturn some people are saying it’s not a smart idea to go into business for yourself,” says Plachta’s Jeremy Johnson, who was instrumental in setting up the firm’s connections to the program. “But now is a great time, especially with all this free assistance available.

Plachta emphasizes that people should not contact the law firm to request the free legal services. The firm’s attorneys are willing to share the Business Connect portal if they assess that a client appears to be in need. But it is ultimately up to the Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) Region 7 to decide who receives services.
To apply, businesses should fill out the form at, checking the box for small business legal assistance.  Those applications to go the state SBTDC office, where qualified applications are divided up and directed to one of the twelve regions of the SBTDC, based on the county where the business is located or intends to locate.

Kent, Muskegon, and Ottawa are Region 7, and Dante Villarreal is the regional director. The office’s Joanne Fowler will review the applications. She starts out with a phone conversation, after which “I triage where it needs to go,” according to Fowler.

Pure Michigan Business Connect is a $3 billion public-private initiative, administered by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

The toolkit available at includes assistance in obtaining financing and investment, state contract listings, real property acquisition assistance, help with innovative technologies, and much more.

For his part, Plachta is thrilled about the potential. “We in Michigan, particularly in Grand Rapids but throughout the state, we roll up our sleeves and help our neighbors out,” he says. “This will end up helping everybody in the state.”