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Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin - Summer 2014

In Memoriam Balch & Bingham LLP Michael D. Freeman – “Mike” to his friends, and he counted everyone he met as a friend – was a man larger than life. Mike earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Alabama in 1984, graduated from the University of Alabama’s School of Law in 1988, and joined the law firm of Balch & Bingham LLP in Birmingham that same year. Over the course of the next 25 years at Balch & Bingham, Mike rose from associate to the head of the firm’s environmental litigation practice and a role as a trusted advisor to the firm’s largest clients. During his career, Mike carved out a hard-earned reputation as a nationally recognized environmental and energy litigator. Mike’s professional accomplishments in the court room were complemented by a fierce devotion to his clients and a fiery competitive streak. It was a streak, however, both stoked and tempered by a joy for fair, hard-fought competition. For Mike, competition was fun and, for Mike, it was fun to compete. Even in the most challenging situations and when fighting for the highest stakes, it was clear that Mike, with his booming voice, hearty Michael D. Freeman (1962-2014) laugh, and infectious grin, was having fun doing the job that he loved. Given the joy that practicing law brought him, it was not surprising that Mike invested much time and self in improving and nurturing his chosen profession. He chaired the American Bar Association’s Environmental Litigation and Toxic Torts Committee, was a Fellow of the American, Alabama, and Birmingham Law Foundations, served on the Executive Committee of and as the treasurer for the Birmingham Bar Association, was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Legal Aid Society of Birmingham, and performed pro bono work in support of the Birmingham Bar Volunteer Lawyers Program. Mike’s generosity of his time and spirit reached beyond the field of law. He supported King’s Home both financially and with pro bono legal services.  He raised funds for the Vestavia Hills school system, the American Heart Association, the Vestavia Hills Soccer Club (for which he also served as a team manager), and the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign. A generous patron of the United Way of Central Alabama, Mike’s efforts earned him recognition in the United Way’s Tocqueville Society. Mike also found time to serve as a member of the Vestavia Hills Park & Recreation Foundation Board. Nevertheless, Mike reserved his greatest love and enthusiasm for his family – his wife Sherri, their sons Tucker and Trevor, and their daughter Julia. Indeed, many would say that his love for his family and his commitment to them was Mike’s defining characteristic. If Mike’s office was quiet, it was only because he was elsewhere at that particular moment, cheering his children’s accomplishments on the volleyball court or soccer field, sharing his love of Alabama football, or reveling in a successful fishing trip with them. Mike was living life full-bore in the spring of 2013 when he and his family learned that he had been diagnosed with a very rare form of lethal cancer known as blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm, or BPDCN. In his usual inimitable manner, Mike refused to accept defeat in the face of such a grim diagnosis. Instead, Mike not only attacked his cancer with his characteristic vigor and optimism but even began developing a website, www.bpdcn.net, to enable others to benefit from the hard-earned firsthand knowledge that he was acquiring in his fight. And, for a time, it seemed that Mike had won his battle with BPDCN. He even returned to work, perhaps a little shorter of breath but with an even greater zest for life – as if a greater zest for life was even possible for Mike. On January 17, 2014, however, the insidious cancer succeeded in claiming Mike’s life, if not his spirit. As his friends, family, colleagues, and clients gathered shoulder-to-shoulder a few days later to remember Mike, one truth was clear to them all. If Mike was a man larger than life, then his spirit is certainly larger than death. And as long as people remember to put others above self, and ethics above material gain, and family and friends above all else, Mike’s spirit will endure in those who were blessed to know him. In honor of Mike, a scholarship is being established at the University of Alabama School of Law. Donations may be made to the Law School Foundation, Box 870382, Tuscaloosa, AL  35487, reference “Mike Freeman Scholarship.” G 18 Birmingham Bar Association


Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin - Summer 2014
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