Steven H. Hilfinger



Steve Hilfinger is a partner and senior business counselor with Foley & Lardner LLP. Steve focuses on representing private companies on mergers and acquisitions (M&A), finance transactions, corporate counseling, and government affairs matters. He has represented automotive suppliers and other manufacturers for more than 30 years, helping found the Firm’s Detroit Office, and its Manufacturing Sector. Steve currently serves as a member of the firm's Manufacturing Sector Advisory Board as well as Co-Chair of the Smart Manufacturing initiative and Electrified Mobility and Infrastructure initiative. Steve also is a member of the firm’s Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) Team.


Steve has closed more than 200 M&A transactions in his career, in a variety of industries including automotive, manufacturing, business services, advanced technology, and other sectors. He is Chambers rated in the M&A field, and rated AV Preeminent® by Martindale Hubbell® for his M&A work. Steve represents private equity firms, private and publicly held corporations, closely held/family businesses and family offices in a variety of M&A, joint venture, and other investment matters. He has extensive restructuring experience in “distressed M&A” and guiding two debtors through Chapter 11 plan confirmation.


Steve represents borrowers and lenders in a variety of corporate finance transactions. He began his career doing work for a large global bank, and went on to work extensively for a large complex of mezzanine loan funds and a complex of venture capital funds, focusing primarily on private transactions. When he served as chief regulatory officer for the State of Michigan, he oversaw all of the state-chartered banks in Michigan and implemented a number of regulatory reforms to enable banking and insurance businesses to operate more competitively in Michigan.

Corporate Counseling

Steve serves as outside General Counsel to a number of companies including both privately held and non-profit concerns. This work includes counseling on business formation and corporate governance, general corporate and commercial contract counseling and a variety of other corporate legal matters.

Government Affairs

Steve assists many clients with government and public affairs matters in Michigan, as a registered lobbyist in Michigan and member of the firm’s Government Solutions team, which assists clients with a variety of administrative and legislative matters in Michigan including Lansing and Detroit. Steve served as chief regulatory officer for the State of Michigan and chief operating officer of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) under Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. As chief regulatory officer, he served as director of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) and its Office of Regulatory Reinvention (ORR). In his role as director of LARA, Steve was responsible for the supervision of banks, insurance companies, utilities and certain health care companies and a number of regulatory functions, including the oversight of corporations, securities, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, occupational safety and health and a number of licensing functions. In addition, he led the ORR, which was responsible for repealing more than 2,000 administrative rules and implementing more than 125 recommendations to streamline Michigan’s regulatory environment. As chief operating officer of the MEDC, his team helped facilitate the creation of more than 52,000 direct jobs and leveraged private investments totaling $9.2 billion, substantially exceeding targets. Steve led MEDC delegations to both China and Mexico during his tenure and to several U.S. cities as well.

Automotive Experience

Steve co-founded the Automotive Industry team at Foley, focused on representing automotive suppliers and technology companies with their full range of legal needs. In that role, he has handled corporate, mergers and acquisitions and finance mandates for a number of automotive suppliers. Steve has served as legal counsel to a number of strategy councils of the Original Equipment Suppliers Association (OESA). Currently, he co-chairs the Advocacy Committee of MichAuto, a statewide organization focused on growing the automotive and mobility industries in Michigan and driving automotive and mobility policy in Michigan.


  • Peer review rated as AV Preeminent®, the highest performance rating in the Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™ system
  • Recognized, JD Supra Readers’ Choice Awards in the field of M&A (2021)
  • Selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© in the field of Government Relations (2018 – 2023)
  • Named the Best Lawyers® 2020 Government Relations “Lawyer of the Year” in Detroit
  • Named a leading business law attorney in Michigan by Chambers USA (2008 - 2010, 2016 – 2022)
  • Named as one of the "500 Most Powerful Business Leaders in Metro Detroit" by DBusiness magazine (2019, 2020)
  • Recommended by The Legal 500 for his work in M&A (2015 – 2017)
  • “Leader in the Law” designation from Michigan Lawyers Weekly (2015)
  • Selected for inclusion to the Michigan Super Lawyers® list in the field of M&A (2006 – 2010)

Firm Leadership

Steve is co-chair of the firm’s Smart Manufacturing initiative, co-chair of the Electrified Mobility and Infrastructure initiative, member of the Manufacturing Sector Advisory Board, chair of the Detroit office Business Law Department, and Detroit office captain of the Transactions Practice, where he helps direct a team of more than a dozen M&A professionals. Steve also served two terms as managing partner of the Detroit office, from 2002-2006 and 2009-2011.

Affiliations and Board Memberships

Steve served or has served on the boards of directors of the:

  • Michigan Strategic Fund
  • Michigan Economic Growth Authority
  • Michigan Emergency Loan Management Board
  • Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Authority
  • Michigan Governor’s Talent Investment Board
  • Investment Advisory Committee to the Michigan State Treasury overseeing the state’s pension funds
  • NextEnergy Center
  • Investment Committee of Invest Detroit.

Thought Leadership

Steve has lectured as an instructor for the American Counsel of Corporate Attorneys (on corporate, M&A, economic development and government affairs topics), the National Directors Institute (on “The Board’s Role in M&A” and on “The Board’s Role in Talent Development and Site Selection”), and the Wayne State University Commercial Law Clinic, a course that he helped co-found. Steve has also taught courses for the Michigan Institute of Continuing Legal Education including “Drafting Asset Purchase Agreements and Related Documents” and “Formation and Initial Operation of Business Enterprises-Financing Issues.” He has participated in numerous programs focused on connected and autonomous vehicle technologies in Detroit, Palo Alto, Boston, New York and London, including co-chairing the Thomson Reuters “Concordant Crossroads” program in New York in October 2018 and presenting an update on U.S. autonomous and electric vehicle legal developments at the Financial Times' "Future of the Car Summit" in May 2019.


  • Northwestern University (J.D., magna cum laude, 1987)
    • Member, Order of the Coif
    • Editor-in-Chief, Northwestern University Law Review (1986-87)
  • University of Michigan (B.B.A, with high distinction, 1984)
    • Member, Phi Beta Kappa
    • Recipient, William A. Paton Award for achieving the highest score on the May 1984 Michigan CPA examination

Admissions and Professional Memberships

  • Michigan
  • Illinois
  • Fellow, Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association
  • Member, Business Law, Administrative Law, Government Law and International Law Sections of the State Bar of Michigan