History

Our Roots

The history of Law Weathers demonstrates its stability, long-term commitment to clients, and service to the community. In 1855, only five years after Grand Rapids was chartered as a city, John Champlin began practicing in Grand Rapids. Beginning a long tradition of public service, he became Grand Rapids City Attorney, was later elected Mayor, and ultimately served as Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. In 1868 Champlin partnered with Roger William Butterfield, thus creating the firm that would become one of the oldest law firms in the state of Michigan.

The firm of Champlin and Butterfield became the preeminent firm in Western Michigan and was very active in representing individuals, logging companies, furniture companies, the State of Michigan, and even the State of Louisiana. Like Champlin, Roger Butterfield was active in civil affairs, serving on the University of Michigan Board of Regents for 16 years. Willard Keeney, a nationally-known authority on timber law, joined Champlin and Butterfield, practiced with the firm for more than 60 years, and handled legal matters in 45 states.

In 1915 Julius Amberg joined the firm, and the firm name was changed to Butterfield, Keeney & Amberg. Amberg was a remarkable scholar, having graduated as valedictorian from Grand Rapids’ Central High School, and first in his class at both Colgate College and Harvard Law School. The brilliance of Julius Amberg made him a dynamic force in the firm and in the community. In addition to representing local clients, he handled numerous high profile trials, appeared on behalf of clients in the Michigan Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court. He was chairman of the Kent County Welfare Commission during the depression and served as special assistant to the Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, during World War II.

Upon his return from World War II in 1946, Gerald R. Ford joined his long time friend Philip Buchen at the firm. Ford practiced with the firm until he was elected to Congress. In 1961, Buchen became the Vice President of Business Affairs of the fledgling Grand Valley State College. After the college was successfully off the ground, he rejoined the firm where he practiced until August 1974 when Gerald Ford became President and named him as White House Counsel. For decades the firm has represented the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, and in the 1990s represented the Airport in litigation of nationwide significance – ultimately arguing the case before the United States Supreme Court and obtaining a unanimous decision in favor of the Airport.

Today Law Weathers continues to maintain its diversified practice: representing individuals, businesses, organizations, and numerous municipal entities including cities, villages, townships and other governmental authorities. A leader in legal and community service, the firm maintains a serious commitment to good counsel and public service that exemplifies its almost 140 years of practice.