Liam McMillin is not the type of person to shy away from public speaking. In fact, like anyone who has the courage to admit their ideas matter, Liam finds talking to large groups of people rather exhilarating. So, when he was asked to give a speech at an awards ceremony a week before his law school graduation at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, Liam was thankful for the opportunity and more than happy to oblige.
The excitement of his upcoming graduation day was obviously palpable. Years of studying for dozens of law students was about to finally pay off. Heads were ready to be adorned. Backs were eager to be patted. Diplomas were itching to be presented. And everyone promised to change the world. After the last awards were presented to the law students who will make exceptional lawyers, due of course to their exceptional grasp of the law, Liam stepped up to the microphone to begin his speech and gleefully announced, “The law doesn’t exist!” You could almost hear the record scratch.
Sure, it was ironic, and perhaps a bit provocative, but it was mostly to get everyone’s attention. What followed was a thoughtful speech which offered a perspective that the law is just a construct, or in Liam’s words, “A formula for interacting with the world to facilitate transactions between people, be those transactions of justice or dollars.”
In other words, the law is merely a tool. People come first.
What else would you expect from a self-described naturalist? That is how Liam describes himself in some of his personal and published writings. What is a naturalist? It is someone who is mindful of how they interact with nature and studies the relationship between living things and their environment. Like any good steward of nature, Liam makes it a priority to serve one of Earth’s most valuable assets; people. You can see this in some of Liam’s early law work for programs like the Help Center, Legal Aid, and other support initiatives. Kind of like a rescue dog that searches for people buried beneath debris, Liam searched for people buried beneath the system.
Liam’s people-first origins stem directly from his college professor parents, who raised Liam to think outside of systems. Every Sunday, they would take Liam and his brother into the woods to exist in nature. Occasionally, they would have to write about what they saw and felt. Sometimes they would just remain quiet and soak in the experience. They called it “going to church.”
“We would stand in silence for a while, or spend time with the trees, or go hiking and just try to spend time out away from things.”
Today, Liam carries on the tradition in his own way. Just last winter, Liam rented a remote cabin in Daniel Boone National Forest for the weekend. The accommodations were far from luxurious, and rudimentary enough to make Henry David Thoreau proud. His only company was his dog, Lonie, and his cat, Cowboy. He was totally unplugged, and his most pressing issue was to feed enough wood into the iron stove to keep warm. When he wasn’t hiking, avoiding coyotes, or playing his guitar, Liam was writing. By the time he departed, he wrote a piece titled, CABIN. Ask him about it. It’s due to be published soon, but he’ll probably give you a sneak peek if you ask for it.
CABIN is a thoughtful and introspective piece that examines the orientation of being unplugged and alone. The isolation of the cabin held a mirror up to Liam, and what came out on paper was a self-portrait of sorts based on what he saw. Reality tends to do that. It exposes us, and if you’re honest like Liam, it helps you to see things differently, sometimes scratching a record or two in the process.
To be clear, this is not the story of a hermit. Far from it. What Liam found in the woods was a yearning to get back into the mix of the world, and a new appreciation for the things we tend to take for granted. These excursions were really just a way to stay grounded, to maintain a balance between nature and the system; the two things Liam hopes to be a bridge between for his clients and for Graydon.
Liam McMillin is a member of the Firm’s Labor and Employment Practice Group, where his practice focuses on litigation, as well as advice and counsel. In addition, Liam has experience defending employers against claims based on discrimination, wage & hour, and claims based on employee conduct. He also loves helping businesses work through those strange, thorny employment law questions, and generating new ways of thinking about the employer-employee relationship.
Prior to joining Graydon, Liam worked at The Help Center in the Hamilton County Courthouse, Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati, and the civil rights firm, Gerhardstein & Branch. Liam also clerked in the Southern District of Ohio for the Honorable Judge Michael Barrett, and wrote for the long-running, popular blog on the Supreme Court of Ohio, Legally Speaking, for former judge, and Professor Emeritus, Marianne Bettman.
Liam earned his J.D. from the University of Cincinnati College of Law, where he served as the Managing Editor of the Law Review, and competed on both the Trial Team and the Negotiation Competition Team. Liam also participated in the Entrepreneurial and Community Development Clinic, working directly with clients to provide free legal advice to small businesses. Liam was awarded the George A. Dornette Legal Ethics Prize, the McDonough Law Review Prize, the ALI-CLE Student Scholarship & Leadership Award, and the William S. Richardson Champion for Public Service Award.
Liam graduated from Oberlin College with a degree in Religion, concentrating on “Modern Religious Thought in the West” (ask him now, and he’ll tell you he really majored in the Concord Transcendentalists). Before law school, Liam opened a coffee shop in Cleveland, and founded a tutoring program that trained and organized college students to tutor public high school students on their writing. Liam has also worked as a barista, bartender, substitute teacher, baseball coach, soccer coach, summer camp counselor, and hardware store clerk.
Liam enjoys writing, reading, hiking, singing, cooking, and thinking. He loves to be in the Midwest forests and the West Texas desert, and everywhere in between. You can often find him at the bar at Comfort Station, tucked away in the Deeper Roots on 4th Street, or among the hills of the Red River Gorge.
He lives in Cincinnati with his dog, Lonán, and Lonán’s cat, Cowboy.