Darren M. Malek J.D.

Darren M. Malek J.D.

Managing Partner
Founder
Location:
Kalamazoo, Michigan
Phone:
269-270-3500
Fax:
877-567-0404
Email:

Real Life Experience
It’s easy to assume that how things are for someone or something are always how they’ve been or were somehow inevitable.  I suppose that, to some extent, modern life prefers it to be that way.  Looking a things that way is simple and convenient – it allows us to make assumptions without ever getting to really know other people so that we can focus on what’s really important – our own problems.  But we all know that how we present ourselves in the everyday real world working life may not reveal what is going on in our lives – what the spilled coffee that morning, the call from a family member with a serious problem just before the business conference call, our kid crying at night because they’re getting bullied, or our own experiences further back in life which impact how we view things and how we react to things when interacting with other adults in getting through our day.  We all have stories – positive funny stories, and negative stories.  While those aren’t typically part of the public narrative we offer to others as part of marketing ourselves to others in business and in friendship, those stories are who we are.  Recalling the closing line of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”  That’s not to say that we are stuck in the past, but is to say that that we are affected by it as we go forward – and it’s our job as adults to make that a good thing and to move forward.

I am where I am because I fought and worked hard to get here and to remain here.  It wasn’t foretold and it wasn’t destiny.  I had advantages and disadvantages.  There were external struggles and self-imposed challenges.  And there were also a lot of stories which, looking back, are pretty funny.  My parents divorced when I was pretty young.  Some things that were not great happened through that and after that.  In my mind’s eye, things went from pretty darn good to pretty unbelievably bad through no fault of my own.  But I was a pretty chippy kid, with decent talent and smarts.  That can only get you so far though.  As a pretty socially adept guy, I was able to have a lot of success in superficial things in high school while getting buy scholastically.  There’s a pretty epic story about how I was elected Student Council Vice President my junior year.  I also had the chance to play the lead (Danny Zuko) in our production of Grease that year.  But at the same time, there was an awful lot going on at home which I was trying desperately to avoid.  Add to that a Vice Principal who carried a personal grievance against me (not unfounded) which made Mr. Rooney’s obsession with Ferris Bueller look like a healthy rivalry, and I had a formula for problems.  On the positive side, that whole relationship provided a few early insights into my future career path, which included demanding a recall for a school election when no one else would - which ended up completely reversing the election results, asserting a First Amendment right to wear boxer shorts with the Vice Principal’s face silk-screened on the bottom, and asserting my right to counsel when being questioned about a school prank.  Ahh, memories.  That all – predictably - culminated in my crowning achievement in high school – getting booted my last semester before I could graduate.  Unfortunately, my sister did not catch our Vice Principal breaking into our house.

As it was, running away from things at home and accumulating high school accolades like winning the lip synch competition and choreographing a powder puff routing to a mash-up of the Mission Impossible Theme Song and the them music to the film Never on Sunday was not leading to anywhere particularly positive beyond glory-days stories with my friends.

I went and took the GED test and enrolled in community college.  A few other, more significant family bombs dropped, but I couldn’t rely on the easy distractions of the high school social scene – I had to find a path.  I moved into my Dad’s unfinished basement, crammed 2-years of college into 18-months while working nearly full time and got scholarships and financial aid to allow me to go off to a 4-year school that was small enough and good enough to advance academically and not get so distracted by personal things that I came off track.  I was able to do well enough to get a chance to attend law school.  Because I lacked confidence that I could actually make it through – and money – I worked full time while in law school and went at night for a grueling 4-years and summers.  My wife and I met during that time and got married.  By the end, I got a job at one of the most prestigious law firm’s in Michigan, was married and was on my way  – which, as a guy with a GED, was more than a little strange when my fellow starting lawyers were Harvard and U of M grads.


I’d like to say that things were on rails to success from that point on, but they weren’t.  Being an unintegrated person with an only partially developed personal character catches up with you.  I had become a success but felt like one of the phonies so despised by Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye.  And I wasn’t well equipped to deal with other aspects of real life.  I ultimately decided that I, as the person who I actually was with the life experiences I actually had, I couldn’t be the lawyer – or the person – who I wanted to be and who I really was and remain at a large law firm.  While those are great and necessary models, they required too much in terms of corporate and political structure and permitted too little flexibility in terms of taking on matters and clients that meant something to me beyond economic benefit.  That’s when I left all of that behind and started Veritas.  I wasn’t done growing as a person, and wasn’t done unfortunately making terrible choices which would impact my life and my family, but I at least had a context to practice that I could live with everyday.


Veritas means "truth" in Latin and was chosen as a name as both an aspirational and philosophical statement. During a teaching moment in a Latin class I audited, Professor Ron Miller riffed on our College's motto taken from the Book of John (et veritas liberabit vos – “and the truth shall set you free), noting that he liked the idea of combining it with quote from Hamlet: "to thine own self be true . . . and the truth shall set you free." It stuck with me, though I only recently understood the depth of what he was trying to convey. After graduating from DePaul, I had no inkling that I would ever start my own firm. Starting out, having lived and worked in Chicago, I thought that all great attorneys worked only in huge law firms with lobby's similar to the main floor of the Field Museum, complete with high ceilings, stone floors and the corresponding re-verb of your footsteps up to the disinterested receptionist. And I pursued my legal opportunities accordingly. Veritas was the fulfillment of a dream I didn't even recognize I had and is the career opportunity that has changed my life from top to bottom. When jumping from the relative predictability and safety of "big law," a colleague told me that his one regret in his career was that he never built something. I've thought about that often since then. I didn't know that I'd be building myself and my character at the same time I was building a firm. I've learned that when you build something in your own image, you get a pretty clear idea of your own talents - and flaws. As a result, I've made a lot of adjustments in all aspects of my life and have grown substantially both personally and professionally. Simply put, practicing through Veritas gives me the opportunity to be of service to people - clients and the odd person that just finds their way to my door step - in a way I never thought possible. The firm started out in an interior office with a part time secretary and it has grown since then. I'm looking forward to what's next and I'm enjoying the ride.  I choose the matters I work on and the people I work for.  I run my own practice as a business, but the guiding principal for me has never been - and never will be – operating for profit first and as a professional second.  Guided by my personal and professional principals, the money that I need will come – or it won’t and I’ll figure it out.  I’m in the right place, with the right people, doing the right things, for the right reasons.

Areas of Practice

  • Business Litigation
  • Contracts and Business Law
  • Banking, Finance and Securities
  • Distressed Borrower Representation
  • Mergers, Acquisitions, and Sales
  • Real Estate Acquisition and Development
  • Litigation and Related Disputes

Bar Admissions

  • Michigan, 2000
  • Illinois

Education

  • DePaul University College of Law, Chicago, Illinois
    • J.D.
    • Honors: Extern, Hon. Erwin I. Katz, (Ret.), U.S. Bankruptcy Court, N.D. Ill
    • Law Review: DePaul Law Review, Associate Editor
  • Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, Illinois
    • B.A.

Representative Clients

  • Business Owners
  • Professional Service Organizations
  • Manufacturers
  • Closely-held Businesses
  • Start-up and Emerging Enterprises
  • Real Estate Developers
  • Management Firms

Classes/Seminars

  • Frequent Lecturer, Document Retention and Commercial Lending
  • Presenter and Author of Materials, Commercial Loan Documentation, Robert M. Perry School of Banking/Michigan Banker’s Association, August, 2002 - 2007
  • Presenter and Author of Materials, Documentation Retention and Destruction in Michigan, Lorman Education Services, August and September, 2004
  • Presenter and Author of Materials, Documentation Retention and Destruction in Michigan, Lorman Education Services, July, 2005
  • Presenter and Co-Author of Materials, Business Lending in Michigan, Lorman Education Services, August, 2004
  • Presenter and Author of Materials, Records Retention, Progressive Business Conferences, December, 2005

Professional Associations and Memberships

  • American Bar Association, Member
  • Federal Bar Association, Member
  • Michigan Bar Association, Member
  • Risk Management Associates, Member
  • Illinois Bar Association, Member

Pro Bono Activities

  • City of Portage, Zoning Board of Appeals, Past Member
  • City of Portage, Vision 2025 Project, Past Member
  • Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Corporate Board
  • Ducks Unlimited, Board of Director
  • Notre Dame Club of Kalamazoo, Board of Director