CHICAGO — Birmingham, Mich.-based law firm Clark Hill PLC has hired veteran attorney Robert Schwartz to expand its public finance practice.

The firm hopes to ramp up its work with Detroit and Michigan. Schwartz, formerly Detroit’s bond counsel, is working with the city on a new borrowing.

Schwartz is a 38-year veteran of the Michigan bond counsel industry who most recently was at Butzel Long. He joins Clark Hill’s Birmingham office as a partner.

The firm now has four attorneys and two associates in its public finance practice.

Schwartz, who has launched at least two public finance practices at Michigan firms, said he would expand Clark Hill’s public finance practice into nearly all areas of public finance, working as bond and underwriters counsel.

Clark Hill has traditionally focused on education financings, said James ­Crowley, who works in the education and municipal law group.

The firm represents more than 150 public schools and 40 charter schools across the state, he said.

“We’re now a full service public finance firm in every respect,” Schwartz said. “In the general tax-exempt bond practice, we now cover every area of public finance.”

Schwartz, 63, started his career in 1973 at Dickenson Wright PLLC.

Since then he’s worked at a handful of Michigan firms and developed a practice that focuses on project financings, private-activity bonds, and private school and higher education financings.

Clark Hill represents Detroit in several areas, including its police and fire retirement system. The firm now hopes to increase its role as bond counsel. Schwartz said people are optimistic that new Mayor Dave Bing will help revitalize the troubled city. 

“He put together a transition team when he entered office a year ago, and he’s got a good strategic plan,” Schwartz said of Bing.

On the state level, the economy continues to take a bite out of the bond ­business.

“The big problem is tax revenue,” Schwartz said. “As property values shrink, so do tax revenues, and so municipalities are reluctant to borrow and reluctant to build because of shrinking tax revenues.”

Income-tax receipts are down at the state level, he said.

But school financings have been bolstered the last year by the qualified school construction bonds available as part of the federal stimulus program, according to Crowley.

Clark Hill’s public finance practice is located in its Birmingham and Grand Rapids offices.

The firm, a full-service law firm with more than 200 attorneys. Clark Hill maintains offices in Birmingham, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Phoenix, and

Washington, D.C.

It also has a new office in Chicago. The firm ranked sixth for the first half of the year among bond counsel in Michigan, working on 11 deals valued at $140 million, according to Thomson Reuters.

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