Michael Schwartz, founding partner of the Schwartz Law Firm, illustrates his firm’s approach to the law with a story: “It’s called ‘Hold the Rope.’ Imagine you’re climbing a mountain with a companion at 20,000 feet, and you fall off and are just dangling there. The only thing between you and death is a rope, and at the other end of that rope is the person of your choosing. Who would you choose to hold the rope and get you to safety, no matter how bad their hands bled or their arms ached? That story started out in the hockey locker room and was about supporting your teammates. In our firm, that story is about the way we treat our friends, family and clients. It’s the philosophy of our law firm. Our clients know we hold the rope; it’s what we do.”
From childhood, Schwartz identified with his television heroes who always won out over the bad guys. “To a certain extent, that’s why I got into the law, to do that on a daily basis in situations that mean something in people’s lives. It’s a great feeling that has kept me energized over the last 35 years.”
In 1982, Schwartz established his own firm, where he has built a legacy of stability and professional excellence that clients and colleagues have come to associate with the Schwartz family name. While the firm has seen several incarnations over the years, one thing has always remained the same – Schwartz has never let go of the rope. Today, he is joined in that determination by his son, Brandon. Together, they are a synergistic combination of experience and youth. Brandon attended college with a full, fouryear athletic scholarship, while also distinguishing himself as a scholar. He went on to a professional hockey career in the ECHL and AHL before earning his law degree from William Mitchell College of Law. While there, he was a research assistant to professor Daniel Kleinberger, one the nation’s premier corporate lawyers, and then graduated among the top 10 in his class. He is now an accomplished attorney in his own right and a leader in the ABA young lawyers division.
“I was fortunate enough before and during law school to clerk for Michael,” Brandon said. “The longer I worked with him, the more I realized he was really good at what he was doing. After law school, I had the opportunity to go other places, but I liked working with him and learning from him. I didn’t want to go to a large firm and just do research for a partner for seven years. I wanted to participate in depositions and hearings, but wanted advice and guidance. His support has been invaluable.”
The Family Business In a fast-paced world where the rules of life and business are constantly changing, clients who work with the Schwartz Law Firm find it is a refreshing return to traditional values. It is a family business in the truest sense, where clients enjoy working with a family of individuals bound by trust, loyalty and common principles.
Michael’s wife, Kathy, has been the firm’s office manager for 26 years, seamlessly handling staffing, billing and the day-to-day business concerns of the firm. Their son, Tyler, earned his degree in criminal justice from the University of St. Thomas, served an internship with the U.S. Marshals and is now the firm’s process server and investigator. Their daughter, Jennifer, is a doctor of psychology who works for the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and teaches at the University of Southern California. She has been an exceptional expert resource to the firm when handling family law matters and cases involving child abuse.
“We’ve found that these are the people who are most dependable, and the ones we could rely on to make sure things are done right,” Michael said. “These individuals are not just here because they are family, but because they are really good at what they do.”
The respect Michael and Brandon have for one another manifests in a harmonious working relationship. “Brandon is phenomenally good at focus and time management,” Michael said. “He had to have that to do so well in law school and hockey. His self-discipline is an exceptional quality that he’s helped me to improve on.”
“What impresses me most about Michael and has been most beneficial to me is his ability to see things before they happen,” Brandon said. “One of our clients describes him as prescient. He is able to foresee the twists and turns of litigation after handling so many cases with various factual patterns and legal issues.”
“The Art of War” Going to war does not always mean meeting an enemy on the battlefield. The firm’s primary aim is to bring clients swift resolution in family and business matters, avoiding costly litigation whenever possible. Acting not just as attorneys but as trusted counselors, their practice philosophy is summed up in this quote from Sun Tzu, “The object of war is peace.”
“‘The Art of War’ is required reading at Harvard Business School, and I think it should also be required reading in every law school,” Michael stated. “It offers phenomenal guidance in conducting litigation and business in today’s world. The object of litigation is dispute resolution, and this is the philosophy we use in representing our clients. Sun Tzu also said the greatest victory is a battle won without ever having to fight it. The way we do that is by being so prepared, opponents realize it is futile to go to battle.”
Licensed to practice in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, the firm is well-equipped to represent the corporate and litigation needs of large entities with diverse business interests, clients like Simrad North America, one of the world’s largest suppliers of marine electronics; and Cedar Valley Medical Specialists, a group of highly specialized doctors and surgeons based in Waterloo, Iowa.
“We’ve represented Cedar Valley Medical Specialists for over a decade, and against some of the biggest firms in the area,” Michael explained. “We have successfully avoided disputes where we could and successfully prevailed where we could not. Simrad manufactures high-tech products for the marine field, including bridge simulators for oceangoing vessels. We represent them in contract issues and also litigation. In one case, we went to Norway to gather the documents necessary to keep them out of a major dispute.”
“We have the expertise and resources to successfully handle any case, even against large firms,” Brandon said. “We provide big firm service while making ourselves available and handling each case personally. When people come to our firm, they work with us. They have two capable attorneys discussing all aspects of the case to make sure they’re getting the best representation possible.”
Michael and Brandon recently won a sizable award for a client, resulting in their admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. This honor is awarded to only 1 percent of lawyers in the nation. “This was a life-changing outcome for our client, and something we’re very proud of,” Brandon said. “We pride ourselves in handling all of our cases with the same dedication, no matter how large or small. Our firm has always been referral-based, because we believe in cultivating long-term relationships.”
When a client’s livelihood, assets and reputation are on the line, they need to know they can unreservedly trust the person they have chosen to hold the rope. According to Michael, this is his firm’s greatest differentiator. “My wife and I have been married for 26 years, and we have a phenomenal relationship with all of our kids. We’ve had outstanding relationships with clients and other people with whom we interact in our practice for multiple years and multiple decades. I think what makes us different is that we always hold the rope. We’ve done that since the inception of our firm, we’ve done that within our firm and within our family. In today’s world, that’s unique.”