'Top 5 under 35' attorney makes mark in Lansing


by Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Introduced to the field of employee benefits as a law clerk during his first summer of law school, Brian Gallagher found it to be a natural fit that combines his business and legal educations.

“Having an understanding of complex areas like ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) allows me to be a unique resource to help employers deal with these difficult issues,” he says. “With retirement and health benefits becoming an increasingly large focus of the national discussion, these issues are only going to become more prevalent.”

Gallagher, an attorney at Fraser Trebilcock Davis & Dunlap in Lansing, earned a B.B.A. with high distinction from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.

“Business always interested me,” he says. “I could tell the concepts I was learning would be useful, regardless of what job or field I eventually landed in.  Finance and accounting were natural fits for my skill set and I enjoyed the classes.”

The son of a lawyer, Gallagher considered the legal field as an option from an early age.

“However, it was the business law classes I took in undergrad that really got me thinking about law school,” he says.

He went on to earn his J.D. summa cum laude from MSU Law School, on a full-ride scholarship as part of the King Scholars Program, and served a year as Associate Editor of the Michigan State Law Review.

“It was a great education, thanks to some of the excellent professors I had an opportunity to learn from,” he says. “I also enjoyed the perks of being a part of the larger university,
like the beautiful campus and high-caliber athletic teams.”

Gallagher, a recent recipient of the Ingham County Bar Association’s “Top 5 Under 35” award, says he is honored and humbled by the award.

“Practicing in a niche, largely transactional area like employee benefits is not particularly high-profile, so it was surprising and exciting to be selected.”

Gallagher, who has worked at Fraser Trebilcock since 2006, says the best part of working there is the people. 

“The firm is a collection of experts in a variety of practice areas, including my mentor, Darrell Lindman,” he says. “Darrell is great to work with and has been instrumental in my development. My assistant, Denise Andries, and all of our support staff regularly go above and beyond the call of duty. The firm is also a nice size – small enough that I know every employee by name, but large enough that we can expertly handle large clients and sophisticated projects.”

Gallagher chairs the board of Highfields, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1962, providing home-based counseling, residential care, experiential education, and support programs for families and youth in communities throughout mid-Michigan.

 “Highfields allows me to give back,” he says. “It’s a great organization that helps thousands of local children and families every year. Through in-home counseling, residential, and school-based programs, it strengthens families and provides children with opportunities, as well as the skill sets necessary to capitalize on those opportunities to create bright futures for themselves.”

He also serves as Vice President and Chair of Networking Programs for the Grand River Connection, a networking organization for local young professionals in their 20s and 30s.
“As someone who grew up in East Lansing, went to college in Ann Arbor, and came back to East Lansing for law school, I assumed I would have all kinds of friends and contacts in mid-Michigan after I graduated. Unfortunately, because of the job market, almost all of my colleagues left the state to find work elsewhere,” he says. “I think Grand River
Connection does an excellent job of connecting the young professionals who work in the greater-Lansing and East Lansing areas to help them develop relationships and showcase some great features of the region that might otherwise go overlooked.  I think we play an important role in the effort to retain more talent in mid-Michigan, which will hopefully attract more employers and jobs, and reverse the cycle of job loss that Michigan has been experiencing.”

Gallagher enjoys playing hockey two to three times a week. 

“It’s a great way to stay active and release the stress of practicing law,” he says. “I’ve also made some great friends. A number of us just returned from a three-day ‘adult hockey camp’ that some of the guys organized in Traverse City.”

Cooking is another hobby, particularly learning how to make things from scratch; and he looks forward to grilling outdoors now the spring weather has arrived.

Working on projects, indoors or out, keeps him busy at his home in Bath, a small community about 10 miles from Lansing; and he especially enjoys landscaping and working in his yard.

“Household projects like these provide an instant sense of gratification and accomplishment, which is often hard to come by at work with the delays inherent in practicing of law,” he says.

As an East Lansing native, graduate of Lansing Catholic Central High School, and MSU Law alumnus, Gallagher “bleeds green” as a big Spartan fan, and relishes the MSU tailgate parties organized by his father and his father's friend.

“These have evolved significantly over the years. When we started, I was in fourth grade, and the tailgate =consisted of a cooler and maybe a grill,” he says. “These days, we roll in looking like the Beverly Hillbillies, with a generator, tents, lights, tables, music, satellite TV, a deep fryer – and somehow, it keeps growing every year.”

After doing his undergrad work at U-M, Gallagher also cheers for the Wolverines – but with no divided loyalties when the gridiron warriors from Ann Arbor and East Lansing go toe-to-toe.

“When they play each other, I’m a Spartan.”