Alum Joseph Vernon named to Crain’s Detroit Business “40 under 40” list

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Principal and Resident Director, Miller Canfield

Laura Cassar

Twice in his life Joseph Vernon has said, “Let’s give it a shot.” That willingness to take a chance is how Vernon went from a Canadian business major and football player to resident director of the Detroit office of Miller Canfield — the oldest and one of the largest law firms in Michigan.

The first time Vernon uttered those life-changing words was as a fourth-year business student in Toronto. He was still trying to select an area of focus when a professor asked Vernon if he had ever thought of law school.

“Honestly, I never had,” Vernon said. “I liked law shows and movies but I didn’t know any lawyers.”

FURTHER READING: David Grossman’s “Laurier Grads Soar: Joe Vernon

The professor was impressed with Vernon’s unique ability to reach people during classroom presentations. That push, and the fact that Vernon still had football eligibility left, inspired Vernon to say, “Let’s give it a shot.”

Vernon went on to get a dual law degree from the University of Windsor and University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. He also continued to play football.

“Playing football, you spend countless hours getting ready, studying the opposing team. Much like court, most of the work is done before the game,” Vernon said. “Meticulous preparation — it’s exactly what we have to do as lawyers. I honed my skills on the football field. It’s a big part of who I am.”

Vernon had every intention of returning to Toronto to practice law until he met some Miller Canfield people at a networking event. Impressed by the firm’s willingness to give young lawyers opportunities for high-level work, with support and mentorship, Vernon found himself thinking those same words and gave Miller Canfield, and Detroit, a shot.

“Life happens,” Vernon said. “I fell in love with the firm, the experiences and the city.”

Now as a senior principal at Miller Canfield, Vernon is in a unique position to help people, and that’s what matters the most.

“When people ask you to be their voice in court, it is an honor,” Vernon said. “I work hard for people; they put their trust and faith in me and I appreciate that.”

Vernon was recently appointed resident director of Miller Canfield’s headquarters office in Detroit, where he oversees a team of 159 attorneys and staff.

“I know that the teams that do the best are the ones that gel,” Vernon said. “Miller Canfield’s most important assets are our people.”

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