The firm today known as Miner, Barnhill & Galland started in 1971 when Judson Miner and Allison Davis, both recently having completed law school, decided to create a firm that would be racially integrated (a rarity in small firms at that time) and specialize in civil rights and community development law. Charles Barnhill joined the firm the following year, and George Galland in 1973. The partners bought and refurbished a neglected townhouse at 14 W. Erie St. in Chicago — in what was then an unfashionable area — a few blocks from Chicago’s Michigan Avenue. That building remained the firm’s home office for four decades while the surrounding neighborhood reversed its decline and gradually became part of the vibrant Near North Side of Chicago as it exists today. In 2016, MBG moved into modern new offices along the Chicago River at 325 N. LaSalle St.
MBG’s Chicago Offices at 325 N. LaSalle St.
From the very start, the firm found itself participating in some of the most exciting legal developments in the region. Within a year of the firm’s founding, Judson Miner and Charles Barnhill were arguing an important case in the U.S. Supreme Court, and the firm was representing community organizations developing ambitious subsidized housing developments on Chicago’s South Side. At the start of the 1980s, the firm became heavily involved in litigation under the Voting Rights Act, leading — among other victories — to a 1986 court decree that threw out the racially gerrymandered Chicago aldermanic map and led to Mayor Harold Washington obtaining a working majority in the Chicago City Council. Beginning in the late 1990s, the firm developed a practice focused on predatory lending, which led to some of the most significant consumer rights settlements in the nation’s history. Additionally, the firm’s environmental practice has flourished in recent years, as it has been our privilege to represent individuals and organizations, such as Sierra Club, in lawsuits to protect the environment, people and their property from pollution.
Judd Miner and Former Chicago Mayor Harold Washington
In 1988, Charles Barnhill moved to Madison, Wisconsin, and opened the firm’s Madison office on Capitol Hill, overlooking Lake Monona. For a time, the firm maintained a third office in the Central Valley of California, which specialized in representing low-wage workers challenging wages and other abuses in the food packing and agricultural industries. While that office is now closed, the firm has continued its ongoing work challenging wage and hour abuses in several industries.
Various partners and associates of the firm have held public office or contributed to public service in bar associations and other activities. In the mid-1980s, Judson Miner served for nearly four years as Corporation Counsel of the City of Chicago under Mayor Washington and his successor, while George Galland served as General Attorney of the Chicago Park District.
Chuck Barnhill and Former U.S. President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama began his legal career as an associate at the firm in 1993 and remained affiliated with the firm until his election to the United States Senate in 2004. Three of the firm’s partners have served as past presidents of the Chicago Council of Lawyers, a reform bar association. In Madison, Elizabeth Eberle served as the Treasurer of the Wisconsin State Bar’s Appellate Practice Section Board of Directors and Sarah Siskind is President-Elect of the Wisconsin Western District Bar Association.
Over the years, MBG has expanded from its original focus on civil rights, class action litigation and community development to now encompass several other practice areas, including a thriving environmental practice, with expertise in pollution and toxic torts; fraud and consumer protection; and transactional law for corporate entities. In the 1980s, the firm began representing not-for-profit hospitals and has become well-regarded for its broad healthcare practice. In the 1990s, the firm began representing governments and private “relators” in litigation under the federal False Claims Act and analogous state statutes. Among many other important achievements in this area, for the past 10 years the firm has represented numerous state’s Attorneys General in litigation that has recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for the states in challenging pricing practices in the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry.
MBG today enjoys a national reputation and represents a broad range of individual, government, not-for-profit and corporate clients.