Jennifer Grieco, attorney and shareholder at Altior Law, shares insight into a day-in-the-life of an attorney and her favorite restaurants in Metro Detroit.
By Cassie Kunze
Photos courtesy Jennifer Grieco
1. Tell us a little about yourself and your professional background?
I am a business litigator and have been practicing law for over 20 years. I was a shareholder of a large plaintiff litigation firm and a shareholder at a defense law firm before joining Ken Neuman at what is now known as Altior Law, P.C. I’ve been an active bar association member since I was a young lawyer, having chaired the Oakland County Bar Association New Lawyers Council, serving as president of the Women’s Bar Association of Oakland County, president of the Oakland County Bar Association and, currently, president of the State Bar of Michigan. I am only the 7th woman to serve in this role in the State Bar’s 84-year history.
2. How did you get started in the industry?
I started in the commercial litigation department at Sommers Schwartz in Southfield and have practiced in various areas of the law before focusing on business litigation and mold/construction claims.
3. What is your favorite thing about your job?
I get so much satisfaction helping a client obtain closure from a difficult situation. Sometimes that results in a victory, but more commonly that results from a settlement that can allow them to move on from the stress of litigation whether as an individual or as a business that no longer wants the distraction from its business purpose. I enjoy being counselor and adviser as well as advocate and helping our clients strategize the best solution to a problem, which is not always in litigation.
4. Can you share some of your career highlights or moments you are most proud of thus far?
Helping to create the Oakland County Bar Association Pro Bono Mentor Match program pairing more senior lawyers with new lawyers to coach them and advise them with a pro bono case. The program was created during the recession when new lawyers were hanging up their own shingles and needed experience and those in poverty desperately needed help with their legal problems. The program was a “win-win” for all involved.
Having a federal judge overturn a section of a city of Detroit ordinance as unconstitutional. The offending ordinance allowed animal control officers to go onto citizens’ property and even into their homes to seize dogs that were in violation of the dog ordinance, including for not having a $15 dog license. Many of those dogs seized under this ordinance provision became ill or died either at the Detroit Animal Shelter or after returning home because of the deplorable conditions in the shelter. In addition to having the unconstitutional ordinance overturned, the litigation helped to bring attention to the conditions in the shelter and resulted in a change in leadership in the Detroit Animal Control as well as a change in the location of the shelter. This was a positive change for citizens and dog owners in the city of Detroit.
Obtaining almost $1 million judgment in a personal injury mold litigation case for an individual against a negligent apartment complex.
5. What does a typical day look like for you?
This year, as president of the State Bar — there is no typical day. I can be traveling to a county bar association meeting anywhere in the state or to an ABA meeting across the country. Other days, I’m in court advocating for my clients or serving as an arbitrator or mediator. I also write monthly president’s pages for the Michigan Bar Journal, and it seems like I just finish writing an article and must start working on the next one.
6.What is something most people don’t know about you?
As a military brat, I was born in Frankfurt, Germany and graduated from high school in Heidelberg, Germany (which was West Germany at the time). We lived across the country in between, with some assignments as short as 11 months. You learn to adapt to situations when you are constantly in a new environment as a kid.
7. What do you find most challenging about working as an attorney?
It’s tough to take a break from the practice of law or my cases. There’s always work to be done, and I find myself thinking about my cases and clients all the time such that it disrupts my sleep. You are an attorney 24/7 and, with technology, available for clients and opposing counsel all the time which makes work-life balance tough. Opposing counsel can also be challenging. We could definitely use more civility in the world and in the practice of law, and that’s been a focus of the State Bar of Michigan this year.
8. If you weren’t an attorney, what would you be?
If I wasn’t a lawyer, I’d be an archeologist. I love the idea of uncovering the history and the stories of past societies and civilizations as well as the focus, determination and patience that is required to perform the job.
9. How do you find balance between work and your personal life?
I struggle with this, especially this year. But I have a 9-year-old daughter and spending time with her at this age is special. I try to always have a good book handy in case I have a few minutes to escape.
10. What was your first job growing up?
I was living in Heidelberg, Germany where my father was stationed. and I clerked at 15 for a military office — making copies, etc.
11. What’s currently on your playlist?
I don’t have a playlist, but I have a few favorite stations on SiriusXM: Grateful Dead Channel, Jam On, Lithium and XM Fly.
12. Your favorite TV show when you were a kid?
I loved watching the “scary” movies shown on Saturday mornings.
13. Two things you can’t live without?
I cannot get far without my phone and my phone charger.
14. Dream vacation destination?
Almost anywhere in Europe. I’m scheduled to hit one of my bucket list destinations next year: Prague. The Amalfi Coast and Tuscany are on that list as well.
15. Your current favorite local spots for breakfast, lunch and dinner?
I live in Pleasant Ridge so love Whistle Stop Diner for breakfast and Otus Supply in Ferndale for dinner. Since our office is in Birmingham, lunch at Market North End is my favorite.
16. Your favorite place to shop locally in Metro Detroit?
I prefer local stores and boutiques, so I like to shop in downtown Birmingham or Berkley. It is also exciting to see the new boutiques that are opening in downtown Detroit, and I try to support them every time I have the opportunity.
17. Your go-to for a good cup of coffee?
I’m still a Starbucks fan — venti sugar-free vanilla latte.
18. Favorite thing to do on a weekend in Metro Detroit?
In the summer, I love to check out Eastern Market and the spots around the Market or hit a Detroit Tigers game.
19. What do you love about Detroit?
I love the diversity of Detroit and the spirit. Having lived here now for 22 years, it has been wonderful to see the resurgence of downtown and feel the pride that the citizens in Metro Detroit have about the city. We all benefit from the revitalization.
20. Favorite quote or words to live by?
I used to be all about “work hard, play hard,” but I’m working on being more mindful as I get older and working on that life balance. So “if you want to be happy, be.”