Mike Oliver's Personal Story
Sometimes the “bio” is a little dry and it does not tell you who you are working with. We want to give a little of the personal perspective as well. So, in a very few words, this is a little about me.
I was born in St. Louis, Missouri. My father worked for the American Can Company. He was a troubleshooter – a guy they would send in to a troubled can plant, and basically, clean house, and get it running again. So, we moved around a lot. We moved next to Minnesota. We did the typical stuff kids do there -build igloos, ice fished, learned to ride bikes and fall off of them. My brother and I played chess a lot and I remember we were good enough that our parents would take us to a local hall (I do not recall it, but I am guessing a VFW post) and we would play the old men – and usually to their consternation, beat them.
We lived in Minnesota for about 5 years (about the time it took to fix a poorly operating can plant) and then moved to Mexico City, Mexico. We lived in a semi gated community that was close to the main Pyramids. There I attended the only school for anglos in Mexico, the Greengates School. It was a British private school, so I had to wear the same uniform everyday. Here is where I discovered that the American public education system was not as advanced as the British system – as I did not initially do well in school, even failing 4th grade. In Mexico we met and played with Tyrone Power‘s son – he was very wealthy and had all the cool stuff, like model rockets, so we would go off and fire rockets (usually not aimed up in the sky) and generally goof off. In those days parents were fine with kids being out of the house, so we were virtually never home as kids. We were at best “middle class” in America, but in Mexico – this was the wealthy class – so we lived in a place that had 2 live in maids, a nice swimming pool, and this house set on the 7th hole or so of a nice golf course. As kids we made money selling everything you could to the tired golfers who came to the tee. This included beer (cerveza) and when a police officer came to shoo us off the course, we would feign not knowing how to speak spanish – even though by then we were fluent. Mexico was a fantastic place to live, but no seasons at all – on Christmas it was usually 70 and sunny, so we would wake up and go swimming. Quite a change from Minnesota, where once it snowed, it was pretty much white until spring.
We then moved here to Maryland, where my father was moving higher in the American Can Company and now was running the Can Company on Boston Street in Canton, as well as other plants on the East Coast. That plant is now a converted technology incubator center. I used to go there and I recall the extreme noise given off by the plant when it was operating; I also recall the computer system with all the blinking lights, that took up an entire room. It had only one function – accounting. That computer was 1/10th the power of an iphone. It was at his time that I started to have an interest in computers and electronics.
In high school I acquired, borrowed or used any computer I could get my hands on. I worked on everything out there – old IBM punch card decks (Fortran IV), TRS-80 (the proverbial “Trash 80”), Commodore 64, Atari, Apple (a short lived girlfriend’s father was the East Coast arm of Apple), MS Basic, and so on. I even was good enough the math teacher who also taught computer programming, allowed me to teach the computer lab in High School when I was a senior. I was a “nerd” in high school – though I did play baseball and football in JV, I was also on the math team (in my senior year we won our county and went to the State math competition – the best part about winning was that we were able to host a competition of the other Ane Arundel County schools and we got to write the questions, mine involved determining the area of an irregular geometric shape).
I left high school thinking that I would be a software programmer – I was pretty good at it. I chose poorly however because I thought programming was akin to engineering, so I started as a computer engineer at Case Western Reserve University. It was at CWRU that I discovered that computer engineering is essentially a more complex version of electrical engineering. I was never a hardware guy, so I quickly switched majors. Back then, the news media reported that there was a “glut” of “comp sci” majors – so I decided to go into business school, and I ended up graduating from the Weatherhead School of Business with an accounting degree. I continued programming as a hobby during the entire time I was at school, including helping all my friends with their labs and projects (most of my friends from there are engineers and they hated software). I programmed in COBOL, Pascal, Structured Pascal, Basic etc.
At CWRU I joined the Sigma Chi fraternity. I loved being in that fraternity, my pledge class was able to grow our chapter immensly, clean up some of the drug use, and become a well respected greek member on campus. I served in many positions in the chapter, but the highest was Quaestor (basically, the head accountant).
After college I worked for what was then known as Ernst & Whinney, now Ernst & Young. I was good at studying, so I did not take a review course (I did read the course books) and seriously overstudied as I ended up winning a “Sells Award.” The Sells award is given to those persons who pass the 3 day very hard CPA exam on their first try and average 90 or better. There are very few people who meet this criteria, in my year I think there were 2 or 3 of us in Maryland. You would think that was a major accomplishment setting me off on a great career in accounting, but I really was an awful accountant. While detail oriented (you have to be to be able to program and think logically), I quickly discovered that accounting was sort of a game, and I particularly did not like the budget process which was constantly abused by staff and senior accountants to shift time around to meet a project budget (because if you went over budget it really negatively impacted you). I discovered things as I worked that lead me to conclude this was not for me, so I went right to law school.
I attended the University of Baltimore School of Law – where I “graded on” to law review after the first year, and later went on to be the Managing Editor of the Law Review. I loved law school. I did very well and ended up graduating second in my class and receiving the Law Faculty Award – essentially an award by the faculty that recognized contributions to the school (I actually co-received this with another fine graduate).
When I left the school I had several offers but chose Whiteford, Taylor & Preston. I wanted to be a litigator and do director and officer defense in corporate cases. And indeed, for the first year I was on essentially a huge D&O case, and I loved working with my team there. When that case settled I literally had no work on my desk and I came in and was worried if I would continue to have a job. So I started looking for work. At the time the bankruptcy department was very small, and they needed litigators, so me and another lawyer started doing all of their litigation. I had been in federal court in the D&O case, and so I jumped at the chance. Little did I know I needed to check with a partner – after a little negotiation, I split my time. I tried a lot of bankruptcy cases . . . too many to count. At the same time, I started being trusted with regular court cases, and started trying those. Back then, more cases went to trial. I worked on several jury trials – mostly in federal court.
However, this was also the time of great technological change, and I at least had the presence of mind to see a little of what was about to happen, so as “intellectual property” cases came in to WTP – the partners needed an associate to work on them. I had taken most of the IP classes in law school. Also, and oddly, no one else wanted these cases, and I was good at figuring things out . . . so I ended up being a garbage can so to speak for all of the oddball, screwball cases that came in. These were patent cases, copyright cases, Lanham Act cases, trademark cases . . . if it involved IP I was doing it, and there was a lot more work like that coming in.
Just as I left WTP, the internet was just getting going. I came over to Bowie & Jensen when it was just 2 lawyers. Initially, I worked almost exclusively on patent cases at Bowie & Jensen for about 2 years, until a new associate came in and wanted to take over those cases. I tried my last jury trial (a software case in Montgomery County) in 1996, and switched over to transactional practice. To do this I had to learn about transactions and learn how not to “litigate through” a transaction.
That leads me to now . . . I started this firm to do what I love to do, and that is technology and IP transactions for great clients who have a vision, and want good, efficient and relevant legal advice. Over the years I have learned to cut through the legal stuff that just will not matter, and get to the heart of the issues for clients. This saves them time and money, and when they are about to make a mistake – I can usually fix it.
Postscript: on my personal life side, I am married to my lovely wife Donna who has put up with me since 1986 – she dealt with law review, working at a large firm, starting a new practice at Bowie & Jensen, and now this practice. At home I enjoy computer programming, playing classical guitar, and working out of doors when it is nice. I also love teaching and have been giving seminars and teaching at various schools for many years. My wife is an Orioles NUT. We have to die for season seats (thanks to a wonderful ticket rep at the Orioles) that we have had for 25+ years. If you are ever at the yard, you might see her, she is known as stretch lady (she likes to “work out” with the players when they stretch).
Hope this helps you know a little more about me.
Best regards, mike