Distinguished service: Attorney promotes value of 'rule of threes' in the law


By Linda Laderman
Legal News

Attorney Keefe Brooks isn’t one to call attention to his professional achievements. Yet, he is regularly recognized by the legal community for his expertise and wholehearted dedication to the Oakland County and State Bar associations.

For the past six years, he has been named one of the 10 best attorneys in Michigan by his “Super Lawyer” peers, is the founding member of Brooks Wilkins Sharkey & Turco, and in an acknowledgment of his long-term commitment to the Oakland County Bar Association, recently received its Distinguished Service Award at the organization’s annual meeting.

“This (Distinguished Service Award) is backwards. I have gotten so much from the Oakland County Bar Association in terms of exposure to great practitioners and judges,” Brooks said. “I feel like my association with the OCBA has been so productive and so rewarding that I should be thanking them, not the other way around.”

Brooks strongly believes that membership in a bar association is essential for legal professionals.

Accordingly, the younger associates in his office are expected to become an active part of nonprofit organizations that are both professionally and community oriented.

“I literally don’t give our new attorneys much choice. I practically insist on them being active, not in terms of just writing a check but in terms of getting involved with committees,” Brooks said.

He said he has a policy with young lawyers that he calls “the rule of threes.”

“That is, I want my young lawyers to be involved in three organizations,” Brooks said. “One would be some aspect of the State Bar and at the local bar level, in particular the OCBA, because that’s where we live and work. And, I want them involved in one charity in the community where they can give back.”

After nearly 40 years of practice, Brooks sets a standard for himself that remains consistent with what he asks from his younger colleagues.

And he takes pride in their achievements.

“One of my colleagues just made it to the (OCBA’s) board of directors, which I am very happy about, because I’ll be gone in a couple of years and she’ll be around much longer,” Brooks said.

Brooks is also a past president and director emeritus of “The Generation of Promise Program,” a nonprofit group that gives high school students the opportunity to connect with their peers from communities other than their own.

“The organization takes high school juniors, by application, from Detroit and suburban high schools and sponsors an event, at least once a month, where they have the chance to spend quality time doing quality things with people who they wouldn’t ordinarily meet and come in contact with because of our still overly segregated population in Southeast Michigan,” Brooks said.

He said he has “an abiding interest in dealing with remaining vestiges of racism and segregation in Detroit.

“As a student of the law, I have a pretty good understanding of how our legal system contributed mightily to that,” Brooks said. “I am a deep believer that everyone should have the opportunity to achieve their goals. That’s personal to me.”

What also is personal to Brooks, who lost an older brother to cancer, is the importance he places on giving his best effort to his family and profession.

“Losing my ‘big brother’ and also my best friend just made me appreciate all the more that life is fleeting,” he said. “No one is guaranteed any particular tomorrow. So I want to do my best while I can. But I also don’t plan to do this much longer, so I can focus more on scuba diving, and spending more time with my children and grandchildren,” Brooks said.

Why scuba diving?

“The law is a very jealous mistress, with clients expecting you to be available 24/7,” he said. “Scuba diving is an escape from the practice.  It’s an immersion in another world and a place where no one can find me.”