Thomas L. Shriner, Jr., Esquire

2015 Professionalism Award for the Seventh Circuit

By Jennifer J. Salopek

Thomas L. Shriner, Jr., Esquire, has been selected to receive the prestigious 2015 American Inns of Court Professionalism Award for the Seventh Circuit. Shriner is a partner with Foley & Lardner LLP in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he focuses on commercial and public law litigation and appellate practice at the state and federal levels. He has substantial experience in the bankruptcy courts and regularly speaks on creditor-debtor law subjects. He has litigated disputes involving business acquisitions, shareholders, trade secrets, non-compete agreements, lender liability, and loan participations.

A native of Lafayette, Indiana, Shriner was raised by his father, an elementary school teacher and administrator, and his mother, who stayed busy raising Shriner and his six brothers and sisters. He attended parochial school and began working at the age of 12, when he got his first paper route. An after-school job in high school with the local grocery garnered him a full scholarship from the Jewel Tea Company, which Shriner used to attend Indiana University at Bloomington. He earned a bachelor of arts in history.

"It bothers me that appreciation for the benefit of a liberal arts education is being lost," Shriner said.

Only the second person in his family to attend college, Shriner didn't know any lawyers when he made the decision to apply to IU law school; his greatest motivation was his admiration for Abraham Lincoln. He was married before his third year of law school, and graduated magna cum laude. His constitutional law and contracts professors left a lasting impression, and "professionalism and civility were implicit," Shriner says.

"When I attended, law school was largely a male environment," he continues. "The notion was that lawyers were supposed to be "gentlemen." Your word was your bond, and you played by the rules."

Upon graduation, Shriner took a position as law clerk to Judge John Hastings on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals; Hastings became a mentor and role model. "He was very upright. Integrity and sound decision making were everything to him," Shriner says.

After a year with Hastings, Shriner joined Foley & Lardner in Milwaukee, where he has remained for the duration of his career. After a summer working on probate cases, he began focusing on constitutional law, handling First Amendment and school desegregation cases.

Shriner was named Milwaukee's Bet-the-Company Litigator of the Year for 2015. His public law experience includes representing defendants and plaintiffs under major civil right statutes. A member of the Eastern District of Wisconsin Bar Association, Shriner received the organization's Myron L. Gordon Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. He is also a member of the American Bar Association and the Seventh Circuit Bar Association, which he served as president. He is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, the American Bar Foundation, and the Wisconsin Law Foundation.

Over the course of his career, Shriner has seen a lot of changes in the practice of law. "I think there's an increasing emphasis on specialization far too early. Although I'm not so naïve as to think that making money hasn't always been an issue in the practice of law, now the profession is rife with people choosing to be a certain narrow kind of lawyer and marketing themselves as such." That can be a double-edged sword, he notes, as early specializers miss out on a diversity of experience and challenges. "Getting thrown into the mix, you have to figure things out. That makes you a better lawyer," he says.

As to the tenets the American Inns of Court espouses, Shriner admits that he went through a period of concern about professionalism and civility, but no longer: "Those things have a way of righting themselves. There have always been jerks, but professionalism and civility are hallmarks of good lawyers," he says. An adjunct professor of law at Marquette University Law School, Shriner has no fears for the future of the profession

Jennifer J. Salopek is a freelance writer based in McLean Virginia.

© 2015 American Inns of Court. This article was originally published in the July/August 2015 issue of The Bencher, a bi-monthly publication of the American Inns of Court. This article, in full or in part, may not be copied, reprinted, distributed, or stored electronically in any form without the express written consent of the American Inns of Court.