Service-oriented attorney opens firm with daughter

TRAVERSE CITY – It was 1963 when Patrick Wilson and his young family moved to Traverse City for his first job out of law school. The opening was with a firm headed by Traverse City prosecutor Harry T. Running and William L. Wise.

He made $100 a week when he first started. “I thought I was in heaven,” he remembered.

Sitting in the conference room of his brand new practice, Wilson & Kester P.L.C., Wilson recalls those early days with fondness. He spent nearly three and a half decades with the firm, eventually becoming a senior member with Running, Wise, Wilson, Ford and Phillips.

At 63, the local attorney has started a firm with his attorney daughter, Shelley Kester, and couldn’t be happier. Kester was formerly an associate with Running,Wise, Wilson, Ford and Phillips.

“I thought I could work more closely with her and have more fun,” Wilson said of their new working relationship. “She’s a good lawyer and is having more fun, too.”

As of the first of the year, the pair have been practicing together in their new East State Street office, which Wilson describes as a family law center. With the new practice, Wilson said he wants to concentrate more on public service, while maintaining an active general law practice.

“I see it as a new path with an opportunity to emphasize some things, primarily the public service aspects of law,” Wilson said. “I also wanted to apply more technology to my practice.”

In doing so, he has created “The Lobby,” a room which offers much more than the name would imply. Furnished in Spartan green and white, this is a multi-media center where law CD-ROMs and direct Internet access to Westlaw have replaced law books. Wilson envisions the room as a place where lawyers can do research for non-profit organizations, where non-profits boards can gather, and for other charitable activites.

Wilson has a long-standing record of public service activities in the community and statewide. Earlier this year he was honored for that work when he was given the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce’s Distinguished Service Award. Wilson has been very involved with the public schools, Northwestern Michigan College, Munson Medical Center, and with Rotary Charities, working with non-profit and public entities.

“It was the furthest thing from my mind,” Wilson said about the recognition. “I could think of a number of other more worthy candidates for the award.”

Wilson said he was overwhelmed, both by the award and by family members who had traveled from around the country to be at the event honoring him. Besides Shelley, Wilson and his wife, Sharalee, have two sons, Michael and John, and two other daughters, Holly and Meg.

After growing up in Lapeer and completing undergraduate studies at Michigan State University, Wilson served in the U.S. Army’s aviation division and flew in Korea. Then it was on to rival Ann Arbor to attend U of M Law School. Though he was in the stands at a few Michigan sporting events, he admits with a smile he always felt a little odd.

With good reason.

Wilson has a bit of Spartan sports history in his blood. Around this time 41 years ago, Wilson was playing in the NCAA Final Four game against North Carolina. Michigan State lost that game in the third overtime to the Tar Heels, who went on to become the 1957 champions. That same year, he played in the Rose Bowl as a back-up quarterback on the Spartan football team.

Much has changed with the legal community since Wilson first came to Traverse City in the ’60s. For one thing, there were only 23 lawyers in the local bar association at that time.

“It was a close-knit association with some very unique personalities,” he recalled. The association has since swelled to some 400 lawyers, and the intimate nature of the group is long gone.

“There is a renewed effort, however, to bring the lawyers back together,” he added.

Wilson said he and his daughter may add a lawyer to their practice at some point, but for right now he’s enjoying the father-daughter team and his work.

“In the law profession, especially with independence, you can work as long and as hard as you want to,” he said. “I see myself working well into my 70s–maybe 80.” BIZNEWS