Level One Bank is used to being the customer service provider, offering the personal touch of a smaller bank while maintaining the assets and strengths of a larger one. But when the Farmington Hills-based bank turns to Dalton & Tomich, plc, for its legal needs, the bank is suddenly the consumer looking for the best of both worlds. And for three years, the Bloomfield Hills firm has provided the bank with the personal relationship of a small firm while offering the comprehensive legal acumen of a large firm in an ever-changing world of banking and financial regulation.
“For me, I have always looked at things like we are consumers, too.” said Michelle Kirsten, Vice President of Consumer Lending at Level One Bank. “We want to be treated a certain way. (Dalton & Tomich) have always treated us not only as a bank, but as if we are also consumers. They are able to give us special attention. They don’t just tell us something. They give us an explanation we understand. They continue to provide Level One Bank with customized service, offering us options that work best for our current needs. You continue to work with us as we evolve and grow expanding our services with each step.”
The partners of Dalton & Tomich, plc, Daniel P. Dalton and Zana Tomich, have worked together for eight years. In August 2010, they sought to recast their firm with a greater focus on quality, timely, and comprehensive legal advice to a range of financial institutions, from local community banks to financial institutions throughout the country.
“When we started this firm, Zana and I set out to fill a void we saw in the marketplace. We found that far too many financial institutions complained of the lack of personal attention from their legal services providers,” said Dalton. “We set out to create a firm dedicated to providing the best quality legal services that adhered to our core values: Always do the right thing, treat our clients as though we would want to be treated, and provide the highest quality legal services with the best legal talent.”
Dalton and Tomich have diverse legal backgrounds and personal interests that make them leaders in their legal and local communities. Dalton has been quoted on banking and related financial issues in the Wall Street Journal while also litigating and lecturing around the country on constitutional land use issues. Named one of the top 25 attorneys within the state of Michigan in 2010, receiving the highest peer review rating for ethics and legal skills from fellow attorneys and clients, awarded accolades from clients and national publications in the areas of Corporate Counsel, Finance and Land Use and Zoning, Dalton maintains an impressive presence with a national practice. Tomich, named as one of the top 20 Up and Coming Lawyers in Michigan in 2011 and also a Michigan SuperLawyers Rising Star in 2010 and 2011, has been recognized as a leader throughout Metro Detroit and is a graduate of Leadership Detroit XXXII. Those diverse backgrounds have helped the firm create mutually beneficial relationships that include both sharing legal advice with their clients, but also seeking their clients’ input, direction, and advice.
In other words, the firm understands the world that banking institutions encounter on a daily basis, including new legal realities. Michigan’s still-sputtering economy, as well as the national economic malaise, has created an even greater need for banks to secure reliable legal guidance. Banking has been the target of increased regulation from the federal government, even on those banks that did not contribute to the economic meltdown.
“Our banking and financial services clients are located throughout the United States,” said Tomich. “We are dedicated to keep up with the changes in law for our clients as they mean for banks.”
Dalton & Tomich quickly unraveled the layers of regulations in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and what the Act meant to small and large Michigan banks alike. Banks are under increased pressure to comply with increased federal oversight, consumer protections, reporting requirements, and mortgage reform efforts. Many of these reform efforts have increased the costs banks charge for previously free services, including the use of debit cards, checking accounts, and online banking transactions.
What did all of this mean for clients such as Level One? As Level One soon found out, it meant banks were living in a new world with new rules and legal guidance was needed on a number of matters. With a thorough understanding of every aspect of banking and financial regulatory efforts, Dalton & Tomich has delivered comprehensive legal services to Level One Bank. That work has included drafting loan documentation and origination, loan closings, and loan documentation review for banks and financial institutions attempting to work through the credit crunch and increase their lending.
As their needs rose, Level One began to meet weekly with Dalton & Tomich to evaluate a myriad of legal issues. This included reviews of the bank’s loss mitigation process, banking agreements, and trusts and power of attorney documents. There were also additional calls to the firm at all hours as new issues arose.
Along with advice on the daily needs of Level One’s consumers, Dalton & Tomich also counseled the bank on the big picture. The firm had an understanding of new federal regulations that governed the acquisition of other banks through the FDIC acquisition process, including complex loss-share agreements. In 2010, Dalton & Tomich was part of a team that guided Level One through aspects of a purchase of a distressed bank from the FDIC as receiver, with the substantial portion of the assets subject to the FDIC’s Shared-Loss Agreement.
From the outset, through regular meetings and constant attention, Dalton & Tomich was able to help Level One through the responsible purchase of a distressed bank.
“They have helped us to understand the purchase and assumption agreement, how to implement it, and employ best practices,” Kirsten said. “We went through our first audit very successfully.”
In the aftermath of such a purchase, Level One found that its legal needs grew as the bank was suddenly dealing with an increased number of assets that were either distressed, or upon which the debtor had defaulted. Again, when Level One turned to Dalton & Tomich, the firm met the increased needs.
“We go over these things weekly and discuss the best practices,” said Len Wilczewski, Assistant Vice President/Consumer Portfolio Manager.
“(Dalton & Tomich) being so available to us has been wonderful. Dan and Zana are responsive to our needs, coming to our office weekly to review open issues, responding to our emails and calls in a timely fashion and working with us to understand the changes within our industry and how to address those changes. We feel it is important to have the right alignment when selecting a firm that represents the bank, as it is an extended representation of Level One Bank.” Kirsten said.
Wilczewski agreed. “Regardless of the legal issue encountered, Dalton and Tomich are able to provide Level One Bank with answers,” he said. In particular, Kirsten noted that the personalities of all the firm’s lawyers is conducive to providing intelligible answers to non-lawyers in a manner that is more personal than some.
“I am not from the background of law, so what they say might lead to another question I might have. (Dalton & Tomich) put it into terminology and practices we use so that we understand it. We formulate a plan, and then run it by them to ensure we have interpreted the process correctly.”
Again, Kirsten said Dalton & Tomich provided the same type of customer service the bank strives to offer its consumers.
“Level One Bank is a very public bank with a very private feel,” she said. “We know our customers. We started out small but we have grown. Having that same relationship with our legal counsel is great.”
All of this has led to the creation of a relationship between Dalton & Tomich and Level One Bank that is both professional but also personal.
“They have gone above and beyond every time,” Kirsten said. “I consider them to be friends and great, great people.”
The ability of Dalton & Tomich to guide financial institutions of all shapes and sizes has not gone unnoticed. The firm has expanded its expertise with a focus on new financial clients, including ecclesiastical credit unions throughout the country. Dalton & Tomich have added two attorneys in order to meet the increased demand its comprehensive services have attracted.
With a larger staff, as well as a superior understanding of an ever-changing financial world, Dalton & Tomich, PLC, is equipped with the right combination of know-how and personal attention to guide any financial entity. Whether the matter focuses on day-to-day transactions, or your bank seeks to expand, Dalton & Tomich will counsel you through any challenge and help ensure future fiscal success for you and your clients.