Hanley Gurwin

His advice to those considering divorce: “The most important decision you’ll make is the attorney [you] hire to help you through this difficult time. Get the best one you can afford. Unfortunately, too many people hire attorneys who don’t specialize in family law work. I counsel my clients. If I don’t think they should get divorced, I encourage them to seek professional counseling first — unless, of course, there’s physical abuse.”

Fifty-one years ago, Hanley Gurwin embarked on a distinguished legal career as a solo general practitioner. But four years later, upon facing seasoned attorney J. Leonard Hyman in a contested divorce case, his life would change forever.

Impressed with Gurwin’s tenacity and professionalism, Hyman hired the University of Michigan law grad and soon assigned him dozens of divorce clients referred by pastors of inner-city churches in Detroit.

Although equally adept at real-estate law, Gurwin soon carved out a reputation as one of the leading matrimonial lawyers in Michigan while representing high-income clients, media personalities, and professional athletes.

By 1973, he was the founder and chairman of the family law section of the state bar and soon began lecturing and writing about the ins and outs of divorce law. “I didn’t pick matrimonial law; it picked me,” says Gurwin, who since 1998 has served of counsel to Dickinson Wright in Bloomfield Hills.

“When I taught family law as a visiting professor at the University of Detroit (Mercy), I told my students that one day we would be opponents and to remember three things,” he says. “‘One, I taught you everything you know. Two, I didn’t teach you everything I know. And three, if you ever need help, call me.’”