Michigan Lawyers Weekly
Kenneth L. Gross – Leaders in the Law 2011
Thav, Gross, Steinway & Bennett, P.C., Bingham Farms
Education: Wayne State University Law School, 1982
Specialty: Financial crisis management, business law, estate planning
Kenneth L. Gross, co-founding shareholder of Thav, Gross, Steinway & Bennett, P.C., puts a lot of people back on their feet after they’ve had the financial rug pulled from underneath them.
In the process, he’s evolved the law practice that he and Charles Thav founded 29 years ago, the day after Gross graduated from law school.
For many years, he said, Thav Gross “was a normal business practice.” The bulk of the work was mergers, new companies, contracts and commercial disputes.
Then, in 2008, the national economy melted down, unemployment shot up, and the real estate market crashed.
“A lot of people connected to the real estate market were put out of work,” Gross said.
In response, he led the firm to a new type of practice: financial crisis management.
“We had a tax collection defense and bankruptcy practice, so we rechanneled the focus and expanded it from a standpoint of what’s going on the economy,” he explained.
“The real estate developers, the mortgage brokers, the trade workers, the suppliers — all those people have suffered horrendous losses as a result of the housing crisis. They’re fighting for survival. They’re trying to save their homes. They’re trying to figure out how to put food on the table.”
This troubled Gross. He also was frustrated by “the arrogance and the lack of practically the banking industry has displayed with regard to the mortgage crisis.”
When homeowners are underwater with their mortgage and their income drops, “it would make more sense to renegotiate the principal and let the people stay in there,” he said.
“But the lending market and the banking industry absolutely refuses to recognize any concept of principal reduction.”
So Gross views his advocacy as if “it’s almost a war, an ‘us versus them’ mentality in terms of the banking industry.”
But, he added, “what’s incredibly interesting is all of the possible ways to improve a bad situation that we’ve learned by doing.”
Gross’ approach is to assess a client’s particular circumstances and determine which creative combination of the available tools — bankruptcy, debt settlement, loan modification, short sale tax relief — will work best to resolve the client’s problems.
This approach has worked well for his clients in many instances.
Gross’ business strategy has worked well for his firm.
Due to the slow economy, fewer clients seek “pure” business services and many more clients seek help with their personal financial circumstances.
Gross is invigorated by the shift in focus, saying, “I used sit there sometimes and say, ‘Is there any good that I do as a lawyer?’
“When I’m engaged from a pure business standpoint, I’m doing good for my client. But when you start moving into this financial crisis area, where you’re trying to help and solve people’s problems on a long-term basis, it is more inspiring and in some respects it’s more fun.
“I think I’m more charged-up about practicing law now than I’ve ever been,” he said.
Though he admitted feeling guilty at times about being too impatient to bring about the result he’s after, “I’ve learned over the course of time that you need some level of impatience to stay on track.”
By Ed Wesoloski, Esq.