Springstead & Bartish Among Best Criminal Defense Attorneys in Grand Rapids and the State of Michigan
(Photo: Front Row (L-R): Charles “Chip” Chamberlain, Larry Willey, Jeffrey J. O’Hara; Back Row (L-R) Mike R. Bartish, Gary K. Springstead, and J. Terrance Dillon (not pictured: James Brady))
Seven Grand Rapids area criminal defense attorneys have earned the prestigious designation of “Super Lawyer” for criminal law in 2014. The Super Lawyer award is bestowed on less than 5% of all practicing attorneys in the state.
To earn this designation, Super Lawyers must: (1) be formally nominated by their peers; (2) be selected from a pool of nominees based on their professional accomplishments, competence, or other honors or distinctions; (3) be chosen from this larger pool of candidates based on a “blue ribbon review” of all attorneys on a scaled score of 1 to 10 and then compared to other candidates in their respective practice areas based on a variety of other factors; (4) and, lastly, be among those with the highest point totals in their practice area.
All but one boast prior experience building and prosecuting cases for the federal government. Attorney Jeffrey O’Hara, who is currently running for Judge in the 63rd District Court and hoping to fill the vacancy created by Judge Steven Servaas’ retirement, has spent his entire career in private practice is the only “Super Lawyer” for criminal law in Grand Rapids who has not worked for the government. Though he has built a respected and successful private practice, Mr. O’Hara is hoping that November’s judicial election will give him an opportunity to use his substantial experience in private practice to serve the public.
The other six Grand Rapids Super Lawyers for criminal law have used their experience building and prosecuting cases for the federal government to build successful criminal defense practices in state and federal court in West Michigan.
Attorney Gary Springstead, of Springstead Bartish & Borgula Law, who is 41 years old and one of the youngest “Super Lawyers,” credits his success to his former role building cases for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) as a Special Agent. “Working violent crimes, white collar crimes, and terrorism investigations in Washington, D.C. made me really appreciate the importance of paying attention to detail. Any investigation you work as an F.B.I. Agent might be scrutinized by some of the best defense lawyers in the U.S., federal prosecutors, the public, the press, or even Congress. You better get it right. Not only do you have to protect the public, but there won’t be any shortage of people to let you know if you screw up. Having helped build cases for the F.B.I. definitely helps me know how to take them apart as a criminal defense attorney.”
Attorney Springstead’s partner, Michael Bartish, is, at 41 years of age, also one of the younger “Super Lawyers” to have earned the distinction of being one of the best criminal defense attorneys in Grand Rapids and the state. Mr. Bartish began his career as a Judge Advocate General (J.A.G.) attorney prosecuting cases in the United States Army. He served on active duty for five years. Following his active-duty service, Mr. Bartish transitioned to private practice in Grand Rapids, yet continues to serve in the National Guard as a Lieutenant Colonel and Chief Legal Advisor. In 2011, he and Mr. Springstead formed Springstead Bartish & Borgula Law, a Grand Rapids law firm dedicated almost exclusively to criminal defense.
One of the most senior “Super Lawyers,” Attorney Larry Willey of Willey Chamberlain spent the formative years of his career in Washington, D.C. at the U.S. Attorney’s Office before leaving to work for one of the most renowned criminal defense law firms in the country, Williams & Connolly. Willey also worked for the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section and the Securities and Exchange Commission (S.E.C.) prior to founding Willey & Chamberlain, widely recognized as one of the premier criminal defense firms in West Michigan. Mr. Willey is commonly regarded as the “Dean” of the criminal defense bar because of the respect he has earned defending high-profile and complex criminal cases in Grand Rapids for more than four decades.
Willey’s law partner for the last 27 years and fellow “Super Lawyer” in 2014, Charles “Chip” Chamberlain, began his career at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Grand Rapids on the heels of a clerkship with the Hon. Wendell A. Miles, U.S. District Court Judge for the Western District of Michigan in Grand Rapids. Following his clerkship, Chamberlain spent four years at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan, prosecuting violations of federal law, the same type of cases he defends now on a regular basis. Chamberlain is well respected by his fellow attorneys in the Grand Rapids, having served as president of the Grand Rapids Bar Association in 2010.
Attorney J. Terrance Dillon of McShain & Bowie, another “Super Lawyer” in 2014, has been a stalwart among the white collar criminal defense bar for the last 36 years, trying more than 100 cases before a jury. He was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Grand Rapids for four years before turning to private practice.
Dillon’s former boss at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Attorney James Brady, has also selected as a “Super Lawyer” this year. He previously served as the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan from 1977-1981. Brady currently chairs Dykema Gossett’s national White Collar Criminal Defense and Internal Investigations practice area. Brady has also lectured for the National Trial Lawyers Association and the University of Michigan Law School.
Asked about being included among the denizens of the Grand Rapids criminal defense bar, Attorney Bartish said, “Frankly, it is an honor just to be mentioned with these other attorneys, to whom I’ve looked for guidance and tried to emulate in so many ways. People trust these attorneys with their lives for a reason—because they are among the best at what they do.”
 Does not include the other category of “Rising Star.”
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