Attorney relishes the challenge of corporate, courtroom practice

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Attorney Satyam Talati had no idea he wanted to be a litigator – until he actually started litigating.

“There’s something about coming up with a legal strategy, employing that strategy and executing it to a successful conclusion that’s very gratifying,” he says.
After launching his legal career at two large Detroit area firms, and learning from some of the region’s most prominent litigation lawyers, he founded Talati & Patel in Troy in 2009 with long time friend Jayesh Patel.

A big fan in boyhood of the TV series L.A. Law, Talati has found that practicing law can be every bit as exciting and challenging as the fictional version.
In one challenging case a mother and baby had been exposed to carbon monoxide from the stove in their apartment. Within a few days of taking the case, which was within days of the exposure, Talati demanded the landlord not move or alter the appliance. 

“Throughout the course of a year of settlement negotiations, we learned the stove was actually repaired before we had a chance to evaluate it– something called spoliation,” he says. “We resolved the case, but it was the first time in my career that I learned a party to litigation actually destroyed evidence and appeared to conceal it.”

Talati’s litigation portfolio includes corporate and shareholder disputes, premises liability actions, construction disputes, commercial and residential landlord-tenant matters, contract actions, and collections. 

While litigation was his first area of expertise, for the last eight years Talati has served as General Counsel for SRVR, a management company for international telecommunications providers. In that role, he gained valuable experience with corporate formation and management, employment matters, and providing full-
scale advice on business operations. 

“I never realized how much being a passionate litigator would prepare me for being a good corporate attorney,” he says. “Litigation requires you to be a quick thinker, meet deadlines, advocate well in different forums, and create a final document memorializing the resolution of a case. Each of those skills works perfectly in the corporate environment.”

In fact, Talati’s transition into the corporate arena has landed him in dBusiness Magazine ratings as a Top Corporate Counsel.  

“As the company’s only in-house lawyer, I’ve had to learn areas of law I didn’t think I would ever be exposed to, and find outside lawyers when issues were perhaps too specialized for me to handle alone,” he says. “I enjoy speaking with our executives regularly, and the level of confidence they have in my work always pushes me to do the best work possible.”

Not only is Talati skilled in a courtroom and providing business advice, he is renowned for his skill at easing clients’ nerves.

“Clients come to you and know nothing about what’s going to happen when they are a party to litigation,” he says. “I’ve found many lawyers can tell clients the process, but are not good at explaining it in a way that doesn’t make them nervous.”

Interested in law from boyhood, Talati found his strong math and analytical skills an excellent foundation for his legal career.

“The law is very logical,” he says. “You plug in a number of variables and come up with a conclusion – this is also true for transactional work, litigation, and really in any area of law. In a perfect world, the same or similar variables result in the same conclusion. But the world isn’t perfect in this regard, and you have inconsistent conclusions at times – which makes the practice of law unpredictable and challenging.”

Talati earned his undergrad degree in political economy from Michigan State University, where he appreciated the sense of community.

“I really felt that while I was different than a lot of my classmates, they wanted to learn about me, my culture and background,” he says. “I also enjoyed the type of education I received at James Madison College – which prepared me, I feel, better than any other program in the country could have for practicing law.”

Talati has always tried to practice law in a manner that helps those who cannot help themselves. Working at SRVR and running his practice with Patel is no different.   

In his practice with Patel, the two developed a mentoring program for rookie lawyers fresh out of law school that needed mentors to help launch their careers. 
“We thought if we took in smart lawyers that couldn’t find a job in a tough legal market, brought them into our firm as associates, and gave them some of the tools for their own success, there would be a financial benefit to the lawyer as well as our firm,” he explains. “In general, the program was a
success.”

The firm paid for the attorneys’ insurance, ICLE and legal research, and offered a suite of documents, motions, and briefs to help them formulate ideas and service their clients, as well as the firm’s clients. The associates kept a significant percent of their own billings, and learned about the practice of law in the process.

“There was no immediate financial gain for our firm, but that didn’t matter,” Talati says.  “The attorneys that worked for us went on to excellent jobs at large corporations, and we were more than happy to be a stop for them along the way – for us that was extremely gratifying.”

Whether a lawyer has been practicing for three weeks, three months or three decades, having a mentor is crucial, Talati notes. 

“Of course, the amount of reliance on the mentor is different depending on the experience level – but even I still have and need mentors.” 

In keeping with Talati’s theme of helping people that can’t always help themselves, at SRVR he developed an internal program that offers employees one hour of free legal advice per year.

“This program has really given the employees great comfort to know they have a lawyer right here that they can walk over to, or pick up the phone and call,” he says. “Whether for SRVR or my personal clients, I do my best to be available at all times 24/7. My thought has always been that people don’t like lawyers, and that’s okay, but when they are in a time of crisis, they’re going to need us. And I want to be the first person they think of when they are in a time of panic. So if a call comes in at any hour, even when I’m on vacation, I’ll take it. Five minutes for me to calm someone’s nerves and provide some guidance saves them hours of sleep deprivation and costly mistakes, and as I tell my clients, it’s my job to be nervous, so you don’t have to be.”   

As president of the South Asian Michigan Bar Association (SABA), Talati guides the organization in its participation in numerous events, including volunteering at Gleaners Community Food Bank, running a 5-km at the Detroit Zoo, tree planting in Detroit, and being a sponsor at the “Celebrating our Diverse Bar” event in Detroit, as well as hosting a monthly ‘Happy Hour’ gathering.

“Some of our biggest supporters are not South Asian, some are not even lawyers – instead, our group is incredibly inclusive,” he notes. “The main goal is to ensure the success of our members and community.” 

A native of Bodeli Gujarat in India, Talati came to the U.S. at the age of 3, where his family settled in Kansas; the family moved to Troy when he was 11. He now lives in Lake Orion with his wife Dippan, a human resources generalist at Chase Plastics in Clarkston, and their daughters, ages 7 and 5.

“I've either lived or worked in Southeast Michigan for over a quarter of a century and seen it develop in so many positive ways,” he says. “I'm honored to now work in a profession that contributes to its growth by helping businesses and the people that work for them.”