Tom Breitenbach says all he had to do was follow in his four siblings’ footsteps to be assured of being a success. That’s due to the world his parents created for all of them.
His father was one of the smartest people Tom has ever met. It wasn’t until later in life, Tom says, that he realized how wise his dad was. He was a chemical engineer and a lifer with Standard Oil in Cleveland. Tom was the youngest of five – a sister followed by four boys.
Tom’s mother had a nursing degree and spent most of her working years as a homemaker. She was committed to raising the kids and keeping their priorities straight. Books first, sports and other fun second – those were the family rules.
Because of their parents, Tom says, all five kids were seriously goal-oriented. He had it easy, he says, being the youngest of five who did well. His three brothers were Eagle Scouts. So Tom made Eagle when he was in the eighth grade. His siblings all achieved success in their careers in medicine, law and accounting, so Tom set out to do the same.
One thing he did differently. He decided he didn’t always want to be the little brother. His three brothers each settled close to home. Tom hit the road. Armed with an MBA, he worked for Arthur Andersen’s management consulting division in Boston, then moved across the street to Shawmut Bank. Law school was his next step. He chose Ohio State, in part at least, because he could pay for it with his credit card and scholarships. He chose not to return to Cleveland. He wanted to be independent.
He had never been to Cincinnati until his interview with Graydon in 1990. He arrived when the Firm’s culture was transitioning. He was the last person to have his name on the letterhead. He was one week in Cincinnati when he met the woman he would marry. Her name is Bridget. They could have met several times before.
“As a child, she lived in University Heights in Cleveland, one block from where I grew up. Her brother went to Notre Dame, one year behind me, so she, unknowingly, was at my MBA graduation when she went to see her brother graduate. She moved to Boston in 1987 when I was there, so we might have passed on the street or a random watering hole. Then she lived in Columbus for a few months while I was at Ohio State.”
They finally met at the Mt. Adams Bar & Grill on a Thursday night, August 30, 1990 – the first week Tom started at the Firm. That’s when the whole story came tumbling out. Bridget is a Delta international flight attendant, and they travel whenever they can with their two children, Kelly and Will. Tom will tell you he has the world’s greatest wife and that he’s the world’s luckiest husband, then he’ll start listing reasons.
In his work, his compass is set on practicality. “I try to get things out of the books, to get the client’s nose outside of that and make things practical to tailor the solution to the client’s true needs. You should expect the right answer from your attorney, but are you getting the answer that’s shaped to the client’s needs in a practical way? That’s what I strive to do.”
Tom is a member of the Benefits & Executive Compensation Practice Group, and previously served as a member of the Firm's Executive Committee and as Chair of the Firm's Business & Financial Client Service Department, the Human Resources Client Service Department, and Benefits & Compensation Practice Group.
Tom has substantial experience with qualified and nonqualified retirement and deferred compensation programs. His employee benefits experience includes, but is not limited to, guidance in the design, formation, and implementation of qualified pension and welfare benefit plans under ERISA; general consulting on benefit matters; administrative and compliance advice; issues regarding plan qualification, private letter rulings and plan terminations; design and implementation of nonqualified employee plans such as funded and unfunded deferred compensation agreements and supplemental retirement plans; communication issues; plan audits; benefit issues involved in acquisitions and mergers; ERISA compliance and litigation; tax and benefit issues regarding independent contractors; cafeteria plans, health plans, dependent care assistance programs and VEBAs; Medicare coordination; and benefit issues involving the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and various other pieces of benefits legislation.
Tom was one of the founding Board of Trustees of Crayons to Computers and, along with the Board, received the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce’s 2001 Outstanding Community Service Award. In 2000, the Business Courier named Tom as one of the top "Forty Under 40" in Greater Cincinnati in recognition of his leadership in business and civic activities. Additionally, based on the grading and comments of his peers, Tom is recognized with an AV Rating, the highest rating given to lawyers by Martindale-Hubbell. Tom has also been chosen by his peers as an Ohio Super Lawyer from 2006-2014 for his work in Employee Benefits/ERISA law and has also been selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America for his work in Employee Benefits/ERISA Law from 2008-2020. Tom has also been selected as The Best Lawyers in America 2020 “Lawyer of the Year” for his work in Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law in Cincinnati.
Tom, his wife, Bridget, and two children, Kelly and Will, reside in Anderson Township where they are involved in their community and active with the Guardian Angels Church.