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Catherine Brainerd

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking as we used when we created them."

Albert Einstein

Catherine Brainerd Litigation Attorney

Key Service Areas

  • Human Resource and Employment Law
  • Probate Litigation
  • Real Estate Law

616.233.5199

legal assistant - Vickie Dawe

About Catherine

How do you help businesses and individuals?

My practice consists of assisting my clients (individuals, business owners, non-profit entities, insurance companies) with the harmonization of critical relationships, whether with their employees, competitors, vendors, neighbors, or family members. With forethought and preparation, these relationships can often be managed with minimal conflict. When that is not possible, I help my clients navigate disputes both in and out of the courthouse. I have represented my clients through all manner of conflict, but specialize in those involving employment, probate, and real estate. Though those three niche areas may appear to be distinct and dissimilar, I find there is much crossover. For example, my real estate experience is invaluable in many probate disputes, which frequently involve valuing and distributing real estate as the primary asset of an estate. Unlike many litigators, I also prepare and review many types of employment and real estate transactional documents, such as handbooks, policies & procedures, contracts, purchase agreements and leases. Skilled in both transactional and litigation matters, ultimately, I am a problem-solver, that is able to approach each legal issue with a cost-effective resolution.

What sets you apart from other lawyers in your practice field?

My career has taken twists and turns along the way, all of which have contributed to making me a stronger advisor and advocate for my clients. After graduation, I spent several years building a transactional business and real estate practice with a national law firm. I gained significant experience drafting a variety of documents, learning the ins and outs of negotiation and formation. Thereafter, I spent several years as the right-hand to the local Chief Judge. My time behind the bench gave me a unique perspective into how judges operate and how best to present a case to the Court, as well as a matchless opportunity to develop strong personal relationships with the local bench and bar. This transactional and Court work experience provided a distinctive skill set, enabling me to efficiently and effectively serve my clients and target the best possible solutions.

How do any of your community interests or activities facilitate how you represent your client?

As the mother of a transracial family, issues of diversity and inclusion are of the utmost importance to me, have informed and guided my personal and professional life for well over a decade. As chair of Rhoades McKee’s Diversity Committee, I have worked to diversify the firm itself in a multitude of ways, as well as promote diversity and inclusion in the West Michigan legal community. I have been involved with the Junior Achievement organization for many years, both as a volunteer and as part of a fundraising committee, in part because of the organization’s commitment to underserved youth. These experiences continue to open my eyes to how much I have yet to learn about the culture, history, and experiences of others, making me a more empathetic person. I find empathy invaluable in client relations. I cannot be an effective advocate for my clients if I do not sit back and truly listen to them, in order to understand not only their desired outcome, but also underlying reasons for the dispute, and to help identify opportunities to connect divergent viewpoints towards resolution.

Education

Wayne State University Law School, J.D., magna cum laude, 2006

Central Michigan University, B.S.B.A., summa cum laude, 2003

Q: Is it true that the client is always right?

A:

Though it may not be a very popular answer, the truth is clients are not always right. Although I am a tireless advocate, I believe my more important role is advisor and counselor. As such, it is my job to be honest with my clients, show them the risks in their position, and advise them as to appropriate next steps. I would be doing my clients a disservice to agree with them at all costs. Being a true advocate is putting your client in the best position possible and that sometimes involves hard conversations.

Associations

Women Lawyers Association of Michigan, Western Region, Board Member

Grand Rapids Bar Association, former Chair of the Labor & Employment Section

Grand Rapids Bar Association, Member of the Employment, Real Estate, Litigation, and Probate Sections

State Bar of Michigan, Member of Employment, Probate and Real Estate Sections

Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes, Member of Movie Fundraising Committee

Bar Admission

Michigan

U.S. Federal District Court, Western District of Michigan

Awards and Recognition

Best Lawyers of America® "One to Watch" in Labor and Employment Litigation, 2021

Grand Rapids Magazine, Top Lawyer in Labor and Employment Law

Wayne Law Review, Editor-in-Chief

Order of the Coif

Anthony Maiullo Scholar

Silver Key Certificate

Jason L. Honigman Scholarship Award

Centralis Scholar

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