Upward trajectory: Attorney keeps in step with efforts of the ALA


By Linda Laderman

Legal News
For the past 10 years, Collins Einhorn Farrell attorney Rick Braun has made it his mission to walk up more than 1,000 stairs for the annual American Lung Association’s (ALA) “Fight for Air Climb,” held in Detroit’s Renaissance Center.
Braun’s work on behalf of the American Lung Association was one of the determining factors in his selection as the 2016 recipient of the Frances R. Avadenka Award, presented by the Oakland County Bar Association in June.

The award is named for the late Frances Avadenka, the first woman to lead the OCBA.

“I am very honored by the award, particularly because her family decides who will receive it,” Braun, an alumnus of Michigan State University’s College of Law, said of the Avadenka Award. 

Known and respected by the legal community for her commitment to public service and her ability to inspire others to participate in nonprofit endeavors, Avadenka died in 1987, while serving as president of the OCBA.

Congruent with Avadenka’s leadership philosophy and her dedication to the community, Braun has spent a significant portion of his personal time raising funds in order to shed more light on the long-term effects of lung-related diseases.

“Ten years ago I lost my grandmother to COPD. Essentially, I was looking to do something to honor her. You feel powerless when you lose someone,” said Braun, who is a member of the national Asbestos and Toxic Tort Practice Group at Collins Einhorn Farrell.

One of only nine people to have completed all 10 “Fight for Air” climbs, Braun said, “I thought it would be a ‘one and done,’ but I think it’s our duty to leave the world in a better place than the way we found it.”

Since the inception of the climb, Braun has become an outspoken advocate for the ALA, as well as for the event, counting his wife, attorney Kelly Braun, children, Luke, 12, and Emily, 9, among the team members who accompany him on the trek up the 1,035 steps.

“How many people can say they climbed the stairs at the Ren Cen?” Braun asked. “And my kids have always just taken the whole event in stride and been great sports about it. They look forward to the event every year.”

Besides his ground floor involvement in the climb, Braun has taken a leadership role in the ALA by making himself available as a spokesperson for the ALA, by lobbying for the Michigan arm of the organization’s “Rapid Response” team.

“I’ve lobbied as a volunteer for the ALA in support of its overall mission,” Braun said. “Lung disease is the number three killer in the U.S., causing one out of every six deaths. And lung cancer is the second leading cause of death among women in this country.”

Braun, who is a registered lobbyist agent with the State of Michigan, said he has found that his work outside the courtroom carries as much weight as what he has learned in litigation.

“Someone told me early on that the practice of law happens outside of the courtroom, “Braun said. “I’ve worked on issues that dovetail with my advocacy – it doesn’t stop at court.”

A year ago, Braun turned the emphasis on his out of court work up a notch when he attended the Harvard Negotiation Institute at Harvard Law School, a program in which the importance of developing a thorough understanding of each party’s position was an overriding principal.

“One of the things underscored in the Harvard program was empathy. In order to do that, you have to first listen. Oftentimes in practice we all can be so focused on what we are going to say next, that we forget to listen,” Braun said. 

“At Harvard, we were divided into teams of three and asked to choose a hot button topic. It was nice to drop the tendency to cross-examine and step back in order to better understand the other side.”

In step with Avadenka’s legacy, Braun urges other attorneys to use their legal skills for those who cannot speak for themselves.

“Our ability to advocate for our clients is something we take for granted, but it is a skill that is so valued by nonprofits,” Braun said. “I encourage my colleagues to get involved because we are so fortunate that we can do it.”
Just three years away from his 20th year of practice, Braun said he is excited about the future and his work at Collins Einhorn Farrell.

“The firm has an entrepreneurial spirit and supports the legal community by taking leadership roles in state and local bar organizations and supports various charities such as the United Way and the American Cancer Society,” he said. “I'm proud to be a part of that.”