Wheeler Upham traces its roots to a law partnership started in Grand Rapids in
1883 by Niram A. Fletcher and George P. Wanty. The partnership underwent
a series of name changes over the next hundred years, including Knappen
& Kleinhans and Knappen, Uhl & Bryant. In 1982, the year it was
incorporated as Wheeler, Upham, Bryant & Uhl, the firm was honored
by the Michigan Historical Society as a centennial business. The name of
the firm was shortened to Wheeler Upham in 1992.
firm's founders were both dedicated public servants. Niram A. Fletcher
served as a member of the Michigan legislature in 1882, as a member of
the Grand Rapids school board, and as a member of the board of control
of the Kalamazoo Asylum for the Insane. George P. Wanty was appointed a
United States District Judge for the Western District of Michigan in
1900, in which capacity he served until his untimely death in 1906.
Wanty was succeeded on the Western District bench by firm attorney
Loyal Edwin Knappen, who served for four years before being elevated to
the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Judge Knappen also
served as a regent of the University of Michigan, as a member of the
Grand Rapids Board of Education, as prosecuting attorney in Barry
County, and as an assistant prosecuting attorney in Kent County.
dedication to public service exhibited by our founders has continued
through the firm’s history. Kent County Probate Judge Richard Bryant and
Circuit Judges George Boucher and Patricia Gardner were all members of
the firm. Seven presidents of the Grand Rapids Bar Association have been
firm attorneys: Loyal E. Knappen, Jacob Kleinhans, Marshall M. Uhl,
Winter N. Snow, Donald G. Slawson, Gordon B. Wheeler, and Buford A.
Upham. In addition, Stuart E. Knappen served as President of the State
Bar of Michigan. Firm attorneys have served on boards of such
organizations as the State Bar of Michigan’s Representative Assembly;
the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan; the Grand Rapids Chamber of
Commerce; the Michigan State Board of Law Examiners; the Grand Rapids
YWCA; and the Grand Rapids YMCA. From the firm’s inception through
today, many of our attorneys have held leadership positions in our
respective houses of worship.
Upham attorneys routinely receive accolades from their peers. Gordon
Wheeler, for example, was a fellow of the American College of Trial
Lawyers. Gary A. Maximiuk is a member of the American Board of Trial
Advocates and is recognized in Best Lawyers in America. Current
shareholder Glenn L. Smith is also recognized in Best Lawyers in
America. Firm attorneys have consistently earned the highest
Martindale-Hubbell peer review ratings and are regularly asked to
contribute to Michigan’s Institute of Continuing Legal Education
The attorneys of Wheeler Upham are well known in the courtrooms and
boardrooms of Michigan. Wheeler Upham is the oldest continuously
operating law firm in Grand Rapids. We have spent over 135 years
advising individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations and
solving their legal problems.
As a firm, we are big enough to bring together a team of lawyers with
many diverse skills, yet small enough to provide you with the
personalized attention your unique concerns deserve. We offer the
benefits of a larger law firm at a more affordable cost. That's why our
clients range from individuals to small businesses to Fortune 500
Our attorneys are expert courtroom advocates and innovative out-of-court problem solvers.
The professionals at Wheeler Upham practice in many different areas
of law, but we have in common a commitment to personalized, efficient,
and effective legal service.