Dozeman reflects on becoming Warner Norcross and Judd managing partner


from Wayne Law sources

Remember that wise-cracking Chihuahua that starred in Taco Bell ads in the late 1990s?

Wayne State University Law School 1983 alumnus Douglas Dozeman is the attorney who won a substantial verdict forcing the fast food giant to pay his clients, Joe Shields and Tom Rinks of Grand Rapids, for creating that dog in the first place.

Initially, the men were not paid for their famous canine character that spouted “Yo quiero Taco Bell” on TV screens across the nation.

Earlier this year, Dozeman was named managing partner for Warner Norcross and Judd, which means he is spending less time in the courtroom these days. But the Grand Rapids resident considers the Chihuahua case, which began in 1998, as one of the most noteworthy he’s ever tried.

“After a five-year legal battle through the federal courts, a Grand Rapids jury awarded my clients $30.1 million in compensation for the misappropriation of their Chihuahua character for its three-year, $500 million national ad campaign,” Dozeman said. “The case was significant to me and to my career. There was huge amount of gratification involved to help two ‘regular guys’ take on a Goliath and win.

“It was a life-changing event for the dog’s creators, who had been working with Taco Bell to license their cool, confident and edgy dog – only to have their work stolen and passed off by another agency, who received the industry’s top honors for its ad campaign.”

Dozeman, who was quoted in dozens of media outlets after the firm’s huge legal win, didn’t become quite as famous as the Chihuahua, but he is pleased to expand his horizons as managing partner for Warner Norcross, where he’s been employed since graduating magna cum laude from Wayne Law.

“Serving as managing partner has shifted my focus from thinking very narrowly about a particular client or legal matter or our practice group to thinking more broadly about the firm as a whole,” he said. “With more than 230 attorneys in eight offices across the state, Warner Norcross is one of the largest law firms in Michigan. Serving in this role is more than a full-time job. I thoroughly enjoy my new role, which is challenging and exciting.

“One of my favorite things about serving as managing partner is the ability to talk with more of our attorneys and staff on a regular basis. I enjoy the opportunity to travel to our other offices, to find out about and support other practice groups, which my previous role as a litigator did not often allow me to do. We have seen steady growth over the last decade … and we continue to see tremendous growth opportunities.

“This is an exciting inflection point for Warner Norcross, and I appreciate the confidence of my partners to help shape our direction in the coming years,” he added.

Douglas Dozeman majored in political science as an undergraduate at Calvin College and had an eye toward litigation from the start of law school.

“Choosing a practice area was easy,” Dozeman said. “Litigation was all I ever wanted to do – and, in fact, I can’t imagine working in another area of law. Litigation is endlessly fascinating to me. You keep learning about new industries, products or processes with every case you litigate. I developed a focus in intellectual property litigation early on – and quite by accident – as Warner Norcross brought on patent attorney Chuck Burpee to help the firm launch an IP practice.

“He and his growing team quickly needed someone to do litigation. I got involved in some of the early cases and have been gratified to help the firm grow its technology and intellectual property practice to become one of the largest in the state.”

Dozeman has been awarded many times throughout his career, including being named every year since 2007 on as one of the Top 100 Michigan Super Lawyers and being named as a fellow by the American College of Trial Lawyers. He has been designated a Top Litigator in Michigan by Benchmark Litigation more than once, including as a?Litigation Star in 2013.

He was also named the 2012 Legal Professional of the Year by the local NALS organization.

As noted in a Jan. 2014 article in Grand Rapids Legal News, Dozeman served as president of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

Dozeman answered the following “7 questions” by Wayne State University as part of its series of interviews with distinguished alumni:

Q: What law school experiences stand out in your mind as most memorable?

Working on the Wayne Law Review was a very enjoyable aspect of my time in law school. I made some of my best friends on the law review and still remember our offices in the basement, complete with a dartboard and refrigerator, which were both conducive to our writing.

Q: What advice can you offer beginning law students interested in litigation, business and intellectual property law?

To be a good litigator, you need to be intellectually curious. It’s important to know the relevant law, but it’s equally important to understand the context of the cases you are litigating. You need to know about the particular industry, what makes it tick and how it operates, to put the particular legal issue into context. You need to get beyond the four corners of the patent, the contract or whatever you’re litigating over and understand the context and why it’s important. Unless you are able to do that, you will miss things.

Q: What was your very first job?

My first job was working on the family farm. My first paying job outside the farm was stocking shelves at a grocery store. Between that job and graduating from law school, I probably worked at every minimum wage job you can think of. When I got my first summer clerk job at $500 a week, I thought somebody must have made a mistake.

Q: What are some of your favorite books and movies?

When it comes to reading, I prefer biographies and historical fiction. When it comes to movies, I like a little bit of everything, ranging from It’s a Wonderful Life to Pulp Fiction.

Q: What accomplishments or honors are you most proud of and why?

I was very honored to have been selected for the American College of Trial Lawyers. It was gratifying to be acknowledged by my peers in the legal profession as a trial lawyer rather than just a litigator. I was also very honored to have been selected as managing partner by my partners at Warner Norcross. I appreciate their confidence in my ability to lead the firm and to help guide our continued growth.

Q: Who are some of your role models or inspirations and why?

I have been fortunate to have many wonderful mentors and role models among the litigators I have worked with over the years at Warner Norcross, from Tom McNamara to Bill Holmes to Hal Sawyer, just to name a few. Each of them brought something different to the table, and it was interesting to watch them operate. Tom had a flamboyant style and over-the-top charm that allowed him to hold a room spellbound. He was an exceptional storyteller. By contrast, Bill was quiet, but incredibly methodical and whip smart. He could dissect a case into its component pieces and build a compelling case. Hal knew how to take a complicated set of facts and find the one that everything hinged on. The truly great thing about being a trial lawyer at Warner Norcross was the opportunity to work with a whole range of people with different styles and approaches. I was able to take a bit from each of them.

Q: If not law, what profession might engage your energy an interest?

I can’t imagine being anything but a lawyer. I haven’t given an alternative career much consideration, but I would likely have gotten involved in politics in one way or another.