Serving the GRBA: Fowler will take Young Lawyer leadership skills to full board


By Cynthia Price
Legal News

Though he has less than seven years in practice, Mika Meyers Beckett and Jones attorney Brad Fowler has already had a multi-faceted career.

The Grand Rapids Bar Association members have just elected him to the board of trustees, so he will now bring both his political/legal expertise and his professional and community leadership skills to bear on helping steer the local bar.

“Practicing in different courts, you see that Grand Rapids really is something special — the camaraderie, the mutual respect,” Fowler says. “I’m deeply honored... It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

The two years he served on the GRBA Young Lawyers Section (YLS)?executive committee helped land him the opportunity. “Someone from the nominating committee called up and I said
I’d be willing to run for the board. You have to run in a contested election, which is the bad part, but I was fortunate and honored to get elected,” Fowler says.

Fowler is certainly not alone in following a leadership arc from YLS?to the full board. As just one example, current GRBA?Secretary Ben Hammond was president of YLS in the late 2000s.

But becoming better-known and polishing leadership skills are just two of many benefits Fowler derived from his time on the YLS.

He originally got involved with the section through fellow attorney Jeff Black, now with Plachta Murphy and Associates. The two shared office space briefly, and while Black was the YLS chair he asked Fowler to become active.

“It was a tremendous opportunity for me, being new to Grand Rapids, to build friendships. It helped a lot professionally but also personally. It was hard because I didn’t really know anybody, but eventually, after a couple years, it starts to pay off,” he says.

Fowler also mentions how rewarding it is to participate in the new lawyer admissions; YLS members sponsor some of the newly minted attorneys, and Fowler enjoyed interviewing them and attending the swearing-in ceremony.

Originally from the other side of the state, Fowler attended Michigan State University’s James Madison College for a B.A. in International Relations, followed by the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, where he was very active in the law review, moot court, and St. Thomas More Society.

Even while in law school, he ran a successful political campaign, for a state senator. After summer-clerking for the Michigan Supreme Court, Fowler managed the 2010 campaign of Robert Young, now Chief?Justice.

Following that, Fowler, whose sister went to Grand Valley, decided that if he was going to stay in Michigan it would be on the West side. That decision coincided with Judge James Robert
Redford of the 17th Circuit Court selecting him as his law clerk from among 200-plus applicants.

Fowler has nothing but praise for Redford, who, as noted last week, is now the Director of the Michigan Veteran Affairs Agency. “I can’t imagine anyone better suited for that job,” Fowler comments.

Following two years as clerk for Redford, he joined the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, commuting from Grand Rapids and appearing in courts around the state. There he worked in the labor division, representing the state in occupational safety (MIOSHA) and workers’ compensation cases. He says there is so much going on there that it is hard for the office to keep up.

“I learned a huge amount, but it was very different, very bureaucratic. That wasn’t great for me, it’s not what I enjoy, but they give you good experience right away,” he comments.

He honed his litigation skills, which composes a lot of his current municipal law practice at Mika Meyers. In addition, he helps cities and townships with drafting of ordinances, land use and zoning, reviewing agreements, telecommunications permitting, and election law. He also prosecutes and does enforcement work on behalf of some local governments. He says he enjoys the personal aspect of working with the smaller municipalities. He also does some non-municipal civil litigation.

Before landing at Mika Meyers in February, Fowler spent a year at Law Weathers, where he discovered how much he enjoyed public sector law. When Law Weathers merged with Varnum, Fowler moved on to the Mika Meyers firm.

“It’s been a great place to come to work everyday. I work with top-notch attorneys in the municipal area,” Fowler says. He also notes that Mika Meyers management encouraged him to run for the GRBA board, and is very supportive.

Since moving here, he met and married his wife, an occupational therapist with Spectrum Health. “She helps people tangibly every day,” he says with pride.

Fowler’s love for the community is reflected both in legal-related activities, such as involvement on the Hillman Advocacy Program,  American Inns of Court, and the Federalist Society West Michigan Chapter, and in the broader community, such as serving on the Catholic Charities of West Michigan board.

His interest in politics has not gone away, and he is currently co-chairing Chris Becker’s bid for Kent County Prosecutor, which makes for one busy attorney. But he takes his charge as a new GRBA Trustee seriously and plans to stay involved even after his three-year term ends.

“I can just hope to continue building upon my time as a young lawyer leader to work hard for the entire community,” he says.

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