What do yellow cab litigation, a fight over maraschino cherries, and nurseries have in common? They are all things that attorney Chris Nyenhuis has worked on. The newest member of Hilger Hammond shares about his chosen career path, life outside of the law, and a few war stories he’s accumulated along the way.
Why did you chose commercial litigation as your area of expertise?
I chose litigation first because I’ve always enjoyed competition. Growing up playing sports you always worry about someone else practicing more or working harder than you. Litigation is the same. There’s always someone on the other side trying to beat you, and that motivates me to outwork, outthink, and do what’s necessary to win.
As far as commercial or corporate work is concerned, aside from being the only type of litigation the large firms that I’ve work at did, the cases in that space are often sophisticated, interesting, and high-stakes. Hilger Hammond is great because we do that sophisticated, high-level corporate litigation without the downsides of a large law firm.
Describe one of the more memorable cases that you’ve worked on.
Let’s be honest—corporate work does not make for the best stories at a cocktail party. But I’ve been involved in some interesting disputes with memorable characters, including: a patent infringement trial with one of President Trump’s former lawyers as opposing counsel; a dispute involving a failed real estate transaction in Dubai, which led to the intersection of America, UAE, Dubai, and Sharia law; a civil rights trial over tasing an inmate; a construction dispute where former NBA player Sam Cassel called out of the blue to make a settlement offer; a fight over 40,000 pounds of maraschino cherries sitting in brine; representing Chicago’s yellow cabs against Uber when it first came on the scene; and a battle over IOSHA and the federal government executing an administrative warrant on our client’s plant. And there’s been plenty of little war stories accumulated along the way in these and other disputes.
Can you talk about your industry or community activities and why being involved is important to you?
Since joining Hilger Hammond I’ve started to branch out into the West Michigan construction community. So far, I’ve attended CFMA, ASA, and ABC meetings. I’m on the MCOY committee for ASA, a committee evaluating education opportunities in the construction industry for ABC, and am on the committee for the West Michigan Construction Industry Forum. I’m excited to be at a firm that has partnered with such a vibrant industry, and I look forward to getting more involved and strengthening that partnership.
You just got home from work, what’s on the agenda?
Since my wife and I are expecting our first child in early April, I’ll probably participate in the “nesting” that is going full bore at our house right now. From getting the nursery ready to working on projects that have lingered for a while, there’s apparently always something to do. Beyond getting ready for our lives to be turned upside down (in the best way!), my wife and I enjoy relaxing and checking out Grand Rapids’ countless bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues—although there’s obviously been less of that the last few months.
If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be?
I have no idea. I remember one of those career tests I took in seventh grade where you answer a bunch of inane multiple choice questions and then it tells you what careers would be good for you. I figured out which answers I should pick so that the recommended career would be lawyer. And it worked. That’s a long way of saying I always thought that this is what I would do. And since no one wanted to hand a history major from the University of Michigan a bunch of money upon graduation, I went to law school and on from there.
What else would you like people to know?
Top Gun is the greatest movie of all time.