Ralph E. McDowell to Succeed Larry R. Shulman as Chairman of Bodman LLP


DETROIT, Nov. 19, 2009 – Detroit-based law firm Bodman LLP has announced that Ralph E. McDowell will succeed Larry R. Shulman as chairman of the firm’s executive management committee on January 1, 2010.

Shulman, 56, will have served as chairman of Bodman for 10 years. He will remain a partner with the firm and will continue his full-time law practice as a member of Bodman’s Banking Law group.

McDowell, 48, has been involved in firm management for years, serving on Bodman’s Executive Committee and chairing the Associate Recruiting and Development Committees.

“We believe the time to make this change is right, with Bodman in a position of stability and strength,” Shulman said. “Ralph’s knowledge of the firm and leadership skills will ensure a smooth transition, and the firm will benefit from the fresh perspective he will bring to meeting new challenges.”

McDowell has spent his entire legal career with Bodman. A graduate of Kalamazoo College and the University of Detroit Law School, McDowell joined the firm as a summer associate in 1985. He returned as an associate attorney following his graduation from law school in 1986 and has been with Bodman continuously since that time, becoming a partner in 1992.  McDowell focuses his legal practice in debtor-creditor rights and commercial bankruptcy work, representing clients in the financial services and automotive industries, among others.

Under Shulman’s leadership, Bodman has experienced steady growth. When he took over as chairman, the firm had 112 lawyers; today there are more than 140. While most of the growth has been internal, Bodman’s stability and reputation for client service have also attracted experienced lateral partners from other local firms in recent years, leading to the expansion of its health care, labor and employment, tax, and corporate practices, among others.

“Our growth philosophy has been to enhance our core strengths and expand practices our clients need the most,” McDowell said. “I don’t expect that philosophy to change.”

“For example, we haven’t seen the need to open offices in other states to serve our clients better. We serve many clients on a national or international basis, with the work done here in Michigan. That gives us a cost advantage over firms of similar capability in many major markets.”

During Shulman’s tenure as chairman, Bodman has also grown its reputation for client service – reflected in the recognition the firm and its partners have received from internationally recognized rating services –  and relocated its headquarters to  signature, state of the art offices at Detroit’s Ford Field.

Strong leadership, smooth leadership transitions and sound management practices are Bodman hallmarks. McDowell will become only the third chairman to lead Bodman since the firm established the position in 1975. Shulman was preceded by the late Richard D. Rohr, who served as chairman for 25 years.

Bodman’s stability and strong leadership over the years have done more than just contribute to the firm’s bottom line, McDowell noted.

“Strong and stable leadership have allowed the partners to focus their energies on serving clients, not on dealing with internal problems,” he said.

That stability has also allowed Bodman’s chairmen to maintain full-time law practices while guiding the firm’s business affairs, which is unusual for a business law firm of its size. During his tenure as chairman, Shulman not only maintained his full-time practice but achieved recognition as Michigan’s leading banking lawyer. The prestigious journal Chambers USA has named Shulman a “star performer” in banking law, the only lawyer in Michigan to be so recognized. He also perennially appears in The Best Lawyers in America and Michigan Super Lawyers, the latter publication also naming him as one of Michigan’s Top 100 attorneys. In 2008, The Best Lawyers in America named him the Detroit Banking Lawyer of the Year.

McDowell, who also intends to continue to practice law full time while chairman, has been honored by various publications as one of Michigan’s leading bankruptcy specialists, including Chambers USA, The Best Lawyers in America and Michigan Super Lawyers, which also named him one of the state’s top 100 attorneys

As chairman, McDowell will lead Bodman’s Office of the Executive which manages the firm’s day to day business affairs. Other members currently include partners David M. Hempstead, Robert J. Diehl, Jr., Susan M. Kornfield, and David P. Larsen.

“One of the most challenging aspects of taking on this role is succeeding Larry Shulman,” said McDowell. “Larry has done a phenomenal job of guiding the firm through some of the toughest economic times that we and our clients have faced. I’ll benefit greatly from taking over with the firm and the partnership in sound shape and from having Larry remain a big part of this firm for many years to come.”

Bodman is one of Michigan’s leading business law firms with 142 lawyers and four offices.  Bodman has a diverse client base that includes individuals and businesses in a variety of industries, with emphasis on financial services, automotive, real estate and construction, high tech, manufacturing, health care, and other sectors. Chambers USA ranks Bodman as Michigan ’s leading banking and financial services law firm and as one of the state’s top firms for corporate/M&A, employment, real estate and commercial litigation. Bodman is one of only five law firms in Michigan to achieve the highest possible ranking for commercial litigation services from the prestigious journal Benchmark Litigation.