Mike Briley '69 to be Honored August 19 With Community Service Award
The pro bono practice that earned Toledo attorney Mike Briley the Moritz College of Law 2005-2006 Community Service Award began when a friend wanted to adopt a child. A problem solver at heart, Mike offered to handle it. A specialist in litigation and antitrust and trade regulation with Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP, Mike had to master a completely new area of law.
"The work was so satisfying and joyous, I wanted to do it again," says Mike, and so he has for many years through the Toledo Bar Association Pro Bono Legal Service Program.
Most of Mike's pro bono cases are cross-family adoptions. Many are stepfathers adopting their wife's children when the natural dad is out of the picture or unwilling to pay support. Others are the children of institutionalized, drug-disabled mothers who are taken in by relatives or friends. In some cases a loving family, without the resources to pay for legal services, wants to adopt. "Those are the most rewarding cases," says Mike who usually handles one or two adoption cases at any given time.
Adoption can be particularly difficult for low-income clients given costly home study fees and court costs. Pat Intagliata, Toledo Bar Pro Bono program director says Mike has been a particularly effective advocate in getting court costs waived for his clients.
Mike's clients sometimes have an ongoing relationship with him. When prior clients want to know something, like whether to buy life insurance when purchasing a car, they turn to him. "These are very proud people," says Mike, "Anyone who expects accolades from pro bono clients will be disappointed. These clients don't always have the same social framework - many were never taught to say 'thank you.' The satisfaction has to come from the work."
Mike doesn't proselytize. What he looks for are attorneys who already have an interest in helping others. He understands that young lawyers are always trying to balance their lives and can't jeopardize their careers by doing too much pro bono work. They often have commitments to young families. "Don't try to do it all when you're 30 years old," Mike cautions, "Start small with something you are truly interested in intellectually and emotionally. Limit it to one thing. As you get older, you will eventually have more time to devote to it. Don't put it off either, that's a mistake too. Start realistically, but start."
As Mike's pro bono practice grew, he talked with psychologists who emphasized the value of adoption in creating solid family foundations for children. Mike and his wife Sandy, a second-grade teacher, share that value. They have a son and a daughter whose accomplishments speak to the family support they received. Their son is an astrophysicist with a dual Ph.D. in astronomy and physics. He is a professor at the University of Wisconsin and a director of the National Science Foundation. Their daughter, who earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry, is doing post-doctoral research in cardiology at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. She holds three medical patents for contrast agents and hopes to eventually teach and do research at the college level.
Mike's community service extends beyond adoption. Early in his practice, Mike was chair of the OSBA's Antitrust Board of Governors. He was also actively involved in ABA 's section on antitrust. Mike spent a lot of time researching and organizing materials to do the related public speaking. It was a small next step to publish his presentations. He has co-authored a book, and has had his work published in three law reviews and a host of bar, trade, and conference publications.
The University of Toledo Law School invited Mike to become an adjunct professor. Although he loved it, he has only been able to teach for a few years. A busy practice, pro bono cases, and a family meant he just couldn't devote the time to it. A "frustrated academic," Mike hopes to return to teaching upon retirement.
Mike also finds time to volunteer as an Ohio Bar Examiner. Appointed by Supreme Court of Ohio Justice Alice Robie Resnick in 1997, he has completed one five-year term and is in the midst of his second. Marsha Mengel, clerk of court for the Supreme Court of Ohio and director of bar admission, feels "lucky" to work with Mike. In addition to drafting bar questions and model answers, he serves on the subcommittee that deals with requests from bar applicants with disabilities who need non-standard accommodation for the bar examination.
Mike chose a career in law so he could help people, and through that process has consistently demonstrated the highest ideals of the profession. The 2005-2006 Moritz Community Service Award properly recognizes his service to clients, students, and the profession. Award nominator, Mark D. Wagoner '97, sums it up, "Mike is an outstanding lawyer, a good mentor, and an example for other lawyers to recognize the need for pro bono legal advice." Professionally, what more is there?