College of Law

Michael Dockins '05

Turning Childhood Fandom into A Career

Feb. 7, 2022

Michael Dockins

Michael Dockins '05 is a partner at the law firm of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP in Toledo. Mike was preparing for a career in engineering when he decided he wanted something different. He embarked on the path to become an attorney, combining his engineering background with a specialty in intellectual property, and has been able to incorporate a hobby with his career. It has affectionately earned him the moniker the "Gimmick Attorney"®.

During law school, Mike clerked at the intellectual property firm of Fraser, Clemens, Martin & Miller, LLC in Perrysburg, Ohio and then accepted a position as an associate as the firm's first lawyer employee. He worked his way up from clerk to associate to senior associate to non-equity partner to partner. Then he left the firm for a brief time to expand his experience as an in-house intellectual property counsel at First Solar. After First Solar significantly reduced the legal team from 28 to 4, Mike returned to Fraser, Clemens, Martin & Miller as an equity partner with First Solar as his client. In 2017, the opportunity arose for Fraser, Clemens, Martin & Miller to merge into the firm of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick.

Throughout his life, Mike has been a fan of professional wrestling. In college, he would read stories of wrestlers who were leaving the big wrestling promotions and because they did not own their stage names and trademarks (or "gimmicks" in wrestling parlance), they had to change their names. Recently, Mike has been able to combine that hobby with his career. It has affectionately earned him the moniker the "Gimmick Attorney"®.

Mike earned a B.S. in chemical engineering with a minor in German from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and a J.D. from The University of Toledo College of Law with a certificate in intellectual property.

Q&A with Michael Dockins

How did you decide on Toledo Law for your legal education?
I was an undergraduate representative on the Board of Directors of my fraternity, Phi Gamma Delta, and the fraternity had just started a new chapter in Toledo. I wanted to stay active with the fraternity after my time on the board was over. Then, When Toledo Law offered me a very generous scholarship, it made it an easy decision.

Do you have a favorite memory from attending Toledo Law?
The friendships and the basketball. I made lifelong friends during my time at Toledo Law. Friends who were in my wedding, and friends that I see and talk to nearly every day. During my time at Toledo Law, I played countless hours of basketball with some of these friends. It gave me a great opportunity to get to know quite a few professors and the Dean at the time on a personal level.

How did Toledo Law prepare you for your career?
Toledo Law really prepared me not only for the bar exam, the very first hurdle to starting a career, but also in how to think like a lawyer. I had come from an engineering school where math and science were paramount, not necessarily critical thinking and expressive writing. I got that training in spades during my time at Toledo Law, and I was ready to hit the ground running once I graduated.

What have been the major turning points in your life/career thus far?
As an engineering undergrad, I had the opportunity to intern during my summers at a wonderful pharmaceutical company. My supervisor for the summer told me he had worked at that company, in that city, on that process for over thirty years. The same thing. For over thirty years. It was at that time that I had to make a critical decision: Do I transfer schools (only engineering majors were offered) and essentially start over, or do I see it through and figure out what to do with an engineering degree that isn’t engineering? At that same pharmaceutical company, I met with the legal team to explore my options and was turned on the patent law and an intellectual property law career. I was sold on the idea and the prospect of helping protect the cutting-edge of innovation and the shifts and changes that come with that. I finished engineering school with that in mind, and I never looked back.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago, I had a hair-brained idea to try to combine a childhood hobby and fandom with my career. As a kid and into my teens, I was a big fan of professional wrestling. In college and after I kept an eye on professional wrestling, but was much more a passive fan. I would regularly read stories of wrestlers who were leaving the big wrestling promotions and having to change their names. They did not own their stage names and trademarks (or "gimmicks" in wrestling parlance). I thought who better to help these men and women than someone who appreciates the product and appreciates the art. I went to the Managing Partner at Shumaker, Tom Dillon, and pitched my hairbrained idea to try and crack the nut of the professional wrestling world, a vastly underserved market. I asked Tom and the firm for the support (financial and otherwise) as I attempted to enter the professional wrestling world by sponsoring local and regional wrestling shows, buying dinners and drinks, and everything that comes with trying to make a name for myself in the business. Shumaker and Tom were supportive from moment one, and that has made all the difference. I am proud to say I represent nearly 100 professional wrestlers, most of whom are featured every week on national television, for not only trademark protection, but also real estate transactions, business formation, estate planning, and all manner of legal needs.

What was the most challenging aspect of law school?
Learning the game. Again, coming from a math/science/engineering background, the game is played one way to have success in school and in your career. In law school, it was an entirely different game. Once I figured out how to think, how to write effectively, and how to take the exams, the rest of my time and the back-to-back bar exams (Ohio and Indiana) were a piece of cake. What helped was time and focus and asking a lot of questions. It is the only way to truly learn it.

What has been the most challenging aspect of your work so far?
Managing the work-life balance. As a legal intern at a firm in Indianapolis, a young associate gave me a piece of advice I will never forget. He said, "Mike, there will always be more work to do. You cannot get it all done today. You have to know when to stop working and go live." That is sometimes hard to do, and the job can become consuming. Thankfully, my loving wife, Michelle, and my two wonderful kids, Stella (12) and Everett (9), keep me grounded and remind me that there is so much more to life than work and so much life to live outside of work.

What have you found most satisfying?
The marriage of a hobby with my job. I always heard it isn't really work when you love what you do, and the last few years I have been able to live that dream.

What suggestions do you have for those who want to do what you do?
I love the quote "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." You have to be willing to put yourself out there, try new things, and to learn to deal with failure. The pain of regret from never having tried is far worse than the pain of trying and failing.

What concerns you?
I imagine my concerns aren't terribly different from those of most people. A global pandemic and its implications on health, commerce, governments, and mental health, to name but a few, is frightening. Just as frightening is the unrelenting divisiveness that our country has been mired in over the last number of years. I fear for the future for my children if things remain this way or continue to get worse. I believe that most people are more centrally-minded and not as extreme as things are portrayed in the media, but until that moderate majority becomes the loudest voice, I fear things will continue to spiral negatively.

Share the name of a leader (in the legal profession or other) you follow/identify with -and why.
Vince McMahon, the chairman of the WWE. He has done many things over the years worth criticizing, but he has done a lot of good. He changed professional wrestling from regional businesses to national (and now international) sensation. He had a passion and vision and he worked hard and saw it through. His story is fascinating.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Spending time with my family, traveling, and lifting weights.

What are you passionate about?
Paul "Triple H" Levesque, the  executive vice president of global talent strategy & development of WWE, once replied to a question about how he finds the time for family when he has so many performing, business, and training obligations. His response was "You have to be where your feet are." This meant being present in each moment where you are and when you are, and not distracted by work or phones or whatever else. I have tried (and many times failed) to live that mantra, and so I work hard and I play hard. I am passionate about spending time with my family, traveling, and lifting weights and I try to make the absolute most of the time I have doing those things.

Last Updated: 6/27/22