Honigman goes where the talent is, taps Larsen to start up Grand Rapids office



by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Both new Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn attorney Tracy Larsen and Honigman Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer David Foltyn agree: Honigman is a firm that places a high value on world-class lawyers.

Says Larsen, “Honigman always views expansion through the prism of talent acquisition.”

And Foltyn confirms, “All of our geographic expansion is talent-acquisition-oriented. So, we are in Chicago because there’s a significant amount of talent here for our core areas, and we now have a substantial amount of life science litigators. In Kalamazoo, it was the same thing with Phil Torrence. Grand Rapids has always been attractive to us because it has a lot of really, really talented lawyers.”

In hiring Larsen to co-chair the firm’s Mergers and Acquisitions practice and serve as managing partner of the developing Grand Rapids office, Honigman feels it has acquired the very best.

“We think he’s really one of the top M&A lawyers in the Midwest, the top among a lot of great ones,” Foltyn says.

In fact, he adds, if he and Honigman could have convinced Larsen to leave Barnes and Thornburg, where he practiced from 2003 to 2016 and was managing partner, five years ago, the Grand Rapids office would already have opened.

“We’ve had conversations with him many times over the years. Tracy’s a loyal guy, but eventually he changed his mind. He likes our strategy, likes the way we’re going,” Foltyn says.

And Larsen comments, “What really drew me were two things: first, Honigman’s dominant position in this market in the state of Michigan in the areas that are important to my Michigan-based clients.  They have a top rating in virtually every substantive area as ranked by Chambers USA— in Mergers and Acquisitions and Corporate Equity. They’re the only firm in the state to receive a Tier One ranking in M&A as far as I’m aware.

“But number 2, they have a significant depth of resources. They’re really invested in the future and have some incredibly talented young people who provide a deep bench strength to support my practice.”

Larsen, who has been the subject of a Grand Rapids Legal News profile in the past for his work with a nonprofit, also served as Chair of the Corporate Department at Warner Norcross and Judd from 1991 to 2003, after becoming an associate there out of law school.

He graduated summa cum laude from Hope College with a B.A. in Economics, including Phi Beta Kappa honors. He followed that up with a distinguished career at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, where he was editor of the Indiana Law Journal, Order of the Coif, Order of the Barristers, and graduated magna cum laude.

With a very active practice, Larsen represents businesses in M&A, joint ventures, take-over defense, corporate finance transactions and restructurings, corporate governance and federal securities law, including helping major foreign business in U.S. acquisition strategies and U.S.-based corporations in cross-border transactions. His counsel has helped business with deals totaling tens of billions in trade value.

Larsen’s many professional contributions have included speaking widely on corporate law topics and serving as the chair of the Business Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan, where he was immediately followed by Foltyn.

“He’s a great guy and an extremely well-known corporate lawyer in his own right, in addition to being CEO,” Larsen comments.

Foltyn counsels both publicly and privately held businesses, including large and small companies, private equity and financial service firms, on such matters as corporate governance and  compliance with the law, M&A, divestitures, public offerings, and private placements of securities and debt.

"He was elected in 2008 as only the fourth CEO in Honigman’s history.

"The firm began when Russian immigrant Jason Honigman joined Milton (Jack) Miller, a Baltimore native, in 1948. Alan Schwartz joined the Detroit firm in 1952, and Irwin Cohn in 1961. The website says of them, “While they were known for their legal intellect, it was their understanding of their clients’ industries and business goals that made their advice more than simply an adherence to the law.”

One of Honigman’s leading charges has not changed since the beginning; they have always been dedicated to recruiting the top law school graduates and experienced lawyers.

Foltyn led the 2015 acquisition of a Chicago boutique litigation firm, integrating its lawyers so that Honigman now has over 300 legal professionals at its Ann Arbor, Bloomfield Hills, Chicago, Detroit, Kalamazoo, and Lansing offices.

That makes it Michigan’s largest law firm, according to Crain’s Detroit Business, with Dickinson Wright and Warner Norcross ranked second and third respectively.

In Grand Rapids, Foltyn says, Honigman has no plans to replicate their Chicago strategy. “We do want to do some hiring, and we have some people in mind, but nothing is certain. It’s not going to be big groups or whole law firms. We do have some people we’re interested in and who are strategic to our plans. We think they’d be a great fit for us and we’d be a great fit for them in terms of a platform for their talents,” he says.

“Michigan loses a fair amount of top talent to the big cities, but maybe five to eight years out of school, maybe there’s a child and it’s getting harder to live in Los Angeles. We like to think that if they want to come back to Michigan, we’re the choice.

“We think Grand Rapids is really going to fit into that scheme. You can have a wonderful life in Grand Rapids. You can live really, really well.”

Larsen says, “We have not yet sat down and plotted an exact lateral strategy. We’re opening the office to build it, but there are a lot of factors that depends on right now. I’m confident we’ll expand here as we add lawyers with specific customer skill sets.”

The firm is in the last phases of negotiating for an actual office space, which will be downtown. Foltyn observes, “We’re very excited about the space we hope to get. But we can’t say more until everything is signed,” Foltyn comments.

Larsen looks forward to the challenge of managing the office along with continuing to grow his practice. “Honigman is just an absolute M&A powerhouse, and they have a lot of other strengths too — they’re significant in Intellectual Property and are a large national private equity firm. And they offer a very favorable value proposition in terms of rates and costs. I’m sure West Michigan clients will find it very competitive,” he says.

“I’ve had the privilege to get to know the people at Honigman over the years, and I’m really pleased to be part of the team,” Larsen adds.