THOMAS KIENBAUM:
 
ALEX BURKULAS




 
 
 
 
 
Partner and Co-founder, Kienbaum Opperwall Hardy & Pelton in Birmingham. Kienbaum has more than 40 years’ experience representing employers in significant labor and employment disputes. His background includes traditional labor matters, employment class actions, as well as individual plaintiff litigation. During the 1980s, he defended several major Michigan employers against what were then the first massive employment discrimination class actions in the federal courts. During the 1990s, he helped shape the Michigan state courts’ approach to class action certification, resulting in denials of class certification and appellate affirmance in a number of cases. More recently, he has represented employers in retiree health care class actions, resulting in a modification of the liability standard previously set by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He defeated class action certification in large Fair Labor Standards Act actions in Ohio and Michigan, which were dismissed following appellate affirmance of the trial courts’ denial of class certification. Numerous federal and Michigan appellate decisions, in which Kienbaum represented the employer, have resulted in employer-favorable developments in the law. He has lectured on class action and other trial subjects for the National Employment Law Institute and Institute of Continuing Legal Education. Kienbaum served as president of the State Bar of Michigan, the Metropolitan Detroit Bar Association, and the Barrister’s Association. He is vice chair of the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board and of the board of visitors of Wayne State University Law School. He also serves on the advisory board and executive committee of the National Employment Law Institute. Named in “Best Lawyers” since its inception and Lawyer of the Year by Michigan Lawyers Weekly in 2003, he is also a Fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers. Kienbaum graduated magna cum laude from Wayne State University Law School, served on its Law Review, and was awarded the “Order of the Coif.” He received his bachelor’s from the University of Michigan.


WHERE BORN: “Berlin, Germany.”

MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSONS: “Two people: my former partner and now District Judge John Corbett O’Meara at the beginning of my career, and my wife and partner, Elizabeth Hardy, for the latter part of my career. I learned my area of expertise by mentoring from Judge O’Meara in the first 25 years or so of my practice. In the last 15 years, my wife has taught me a lot about human interactions.”

LAST BOOK READ: "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin.”

WORDS THAT DESCRIBE ME: “Determined and focused.”

WHERE MY FIELD/INDUSTRY IS HEADED:  “The legal field generally is retrenching and our field is part of that, which I think is good for top performers. It’s good for any field when competition has a tough time; if you’re in the top end, you tend to benefit when the weaker fall by the wayside. We have a Democratic administration in Congress and a new Michigan Supreme Court so the pendulum may be swinging in employment fields. There may be some change in approach by the Michigan judiciary.”

FAVORITE TECHNOLOGICAL GADGET: “I stick with my BlackBerry. I’m not very tech-oriented but I’m very proud that I can manage it.”

FAVORITE PLACE: “Torch Lake on a quiet weekday.”

FAVORITE HOBBIES: “Skiing, watersports, reading, and friends.”

FAVORITE FOOD: “Steak.”

MY HIDDEN TALENT: “I can keep my mouth shut.”

HOW I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED: “Professionally, as a problem solver instead of a problem creator. On a personal level, as a good father and good husband and partner to my wife.”