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150 Years of Legal Innovation

Since 1874, Kerr Russell has set the standard for innovation in the legal landscape.

Today, our attorneys are frequently recognized as the first to understand and absorb the latest court decisions and legal developments. Our lawyers are active in the Detroit Bar Association, the Michigan State Bar Business Law Section, and the Federal Bar Association. Our clients range from emerging startups to multinational businesses, and our attorneys operate in virtually every major area of the law.

Over the last 150 years, the legal field has advanced significantly. However, our commitment to delivering cutting-edge counsel and a superb client experience has remained steadfast.

 

OUR STORYWe are proud of our history and the perspective it brings to our practice. Like our founder, James T. Keena, we see the opportunity inherent in change. Our strength lies in crafting forward-thinking legal strategies that meet the challenges of the moment.

1874

James. T. Keena

Kerr Russell traces its origins to 1874; the year young attorney James T. Keena entered the practice of law in Detroit.

1876

Keena and his colleague Luther S. Trowbridge branched out to found Trowbridge & Keena — the earliest iteration of the firm that would become Kerr Russell. Trowbridge & Keena’s early clients included some of America’s most successful industrialists and financiers. Among them was Henry Ford, whom the firm represented in acquiring land for the Ford Rouge Plant.

1879

Detroit acquires Belle Isle and establishes it as a city park.

1901

The Detroit Tigers baseball team is formed and joins the American League.

1906

Keena’s hard work and connections led to a steadily growing practice. Partners Clarence Lightner and Walter E. Oxtoby joined Keena in 1906. The firm was heavily involved in the banking industry, as Lightner had previously served as President of Peoples State Bank.

1929

The Ambassador Bridge opens to the public, connecting Detroit to Windsor, Ontario.

1930

In the 1930s, the firm drew on its banking, real estate, and business roots to expand its legal service offerings. During this period, Donald N. Sweeny joined the firm following his service as president of the First Wayne National Bank. Significant expansion in real estate matters followed Sweeny’s addition and by the 1950s, the firm would be involved in many notable developments around Metro Detroit.

1940

Lester P. Dodd

In the 1940s, partner Lester Dodd, a former president of the Michigan Bar Association, began representing organized medical associations affiliated with the American Medical Association. As the firm’s proficiency in the legal areas related to medical, dental, and other healthcare interests grew, it became an early leader in the multifaceted group of legal disciplines now recognized as the field of health law.

1947

A. Stewart Kerr

As the firm continued to flourish, it added new partners. These included Stewart Kerr and Bob Russell, who lend their names to the firm’s contemporary identity: Kerr Russell.

Stewart Kerr joined the firm in 1947 after serving as the head of the U.S. Justice Department’s Antitrust Division office for Detroit. Kerr was among the founders of the American Bar Association’s Antitrust Law Section in the early 1950s and the State Bar of Michigan’s corresponding group later that decade. Kerr is credited with helping to write the U.S. antitrust laws. His leadership established the firm in the complex field of antitrust practice — a focus that Kerr Russell still maintains.

1950-1970

Robert G. Russell

Bob Russell steadily grew the firm’s trial practice and held a reputation for being an outstanding litigator. There was scarcely a prominent case in federal or state court in the Detroit area during Russell’s 40+ years in the courtroom that did not find him listed among the counsel of record. Russell also served as President of the Detroit Bar Association in the early 1970s.

1975-1998

Richard Weber

The 1970s onward marked a period of growth for Kerr Russell. Under the leadership of Dick Weber, the firm expanded into new practice areas, including automotive and construction. 

The firm also incorporated what is today one of the country’s largest insurers of professional liability risks. At that time, no one had formed a mutual insurance company in Michigan in 20 years. The chosen format became a model followed in other states. 

Kerr Russell now represents medical and dental professionals across the state. As a result, the firm’s attorneys often play a role in shaping key Michigan health legislation and appellate matters vital to the healthcare field.

1999

Kerr Russell celebrates 125 years

Today

As the legal sector continues to evolve, Kerr Russell has developed a reputation as one of the leading law firms in the nation.  

Among recent accolades, Kerr Russell was ranked a “Best Law Firm” for 2024 by Best Lawyers®. In addition, 20 Kerr Russell members were selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America® 2024, and six Kerr Russell attorneys were recognized as 2024 Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch®.