Bar Bulletin

Bar Bulletin

Profile / Michael Longyear: A Great Attorney and an Even Better Human Being

Profile / Michael Longyear: A Great Attorney and an Even Better Human Being

November 2020 Bar Bulletin

By Mary Anne Vance

Mike Longyear’s dedication to the King County Bar Association, the community and the legal profession is legendary. He has been a leader in continuing legal education through his chairing of the most relevant KCBA bar committees and CLE seminars associated with his practice areas of guardianship, trust and estate planning for the past 26 years.

Longyear was one of the first co-chairs of the Title 11.88 GAL Training Committee and section chair for the KCBA Guardianship and Elder Law Section. He served in both capacities for three years and continued to chair or speak at numerous KCBA CLE programs in guardianship, estate planning, trusts, probate and TEDRA matters. He also has co-chaired the KCBA Probate Administration program for more than 15 years. It is one of the most popular and successful CLE programs for KCBA, which has often sold out.

Longyear also started the “Estate Planning for the 99%” CLE in 2009 and it has become one of the most well-
regarded CLE programs for both new and experienced attorneys. He is on the Executive Committee for the KCBA Real Property Probate and Trust Section and served as chair of the section last year. He is known for working effectively and collaboratively with colleagues in developing new, financially successful programs for the legal profession.

In addition to his KCBA service to KCBA, Longyear served as chair of the WSBA Elder Law Section and continues to serve on the section’s Executive Committee and the board of the Washington Association of Professional Guardians. He was appointed by the Washington Supreme Court to serve on the Certified Professional Guardianship Board from 2001–08 and also served on the WSBA Real Property Probate and Trust Executive Committee.

Longyear’s path to these accomplishments began in humble circumstances. He was raised in a blended family of many children. His father’s first wife died of tuberculosis, leaving him to raise three children on his own. His father then married Longyear’s mother, who had five children at the time. Once married, the couple had two children, including Longyear. Sadly, his father died in a work accident when Longyear was 20 months old and his mother became the sole support of the seven children living at home.

Longyear’s mother hired an attorney who helped her obtain guardianship of her late husband’s three children and manage the estate’s probate and workers’ compensation issues. She supported the family, cleaning houses and working as a cashier in the local grocery store, while living on a small farm in upstate New York. The family moved “to town” (pop. 1,300) when Longyear was 15.

Longyear was a high school class officer, debate club member, a “Future Teacher of America,” sang in the choir, played sports and participated in band along with 70 other class members. In his free time, Longyear mowed lawns and delivered newspapers. He graduated from college, obtained his masters-in-teaching degree and taught high school for several years. While considering a Ph.D. in education, he switched gears and went to law school.

Following law school, Longyear worked in bank trust departments, but he wanted to work more closely helping people. After moving to Seattle in the late 1980s, he met attorney Tim Bradbury, a KCBA trustee, who encouraged him to join Volunteer Attorneys for Persons with AIDS program. He also volunteered on Judge Carol Schapira’s judicial campaign, did contract work for attorney Phil Ginsburg and worked with the First Interstate Bank Trust Department.

In 1991 he began working with elder law attorney George Edensword-Breck. Longyear developed his enduring interest in elder law through his relationships with Edensword-Breck and attorneys John Hertog and Suzanne Howle who encouraged him to become involved with the elder law sections of WSBA and KCBA.

Practicing on his own for several years in the mid-1990s, he met attorney Fred Reed and, in 1998, joined what is now Reed Longyear Malnati and Ahrens, PLLC, where he continues to practice.

Outside his law practice, Longyear met his life-partner, Ed Marquand, an art book publisher. Together they were early adopters of downtown Seattle condo living. Though enjoying urban life, they wanted a rural connection to enjoy hiking, biking and winter sports. In 1991 they built a cabin in the Naches Valley about 15 miles northwest of Yakima. In 2005, they discovered the small town of Tieton in the fruit-packing region. They founded Mighty Tieton and began investing in the community by buying several buildings and converting them into artist design production studios and to create new businesses.

The Tieton businesses now include a space for the first medical clinic in the area in 40 years, a cafe, residential workspaces, and the Paper Hammer Studio and Tieton Mosaics Studio. They collaborate with other organizations to sponsor community-wide events each year, including a Day of the Dead celebration. They also supported the building of a soccer field through a nonprofit they helped establish. Longyear appreciates his return to the small town living of his youth and is thankful that he can contribute to the quality of life in Tieton.

Denise Medlock, senior manager of Continuing Legal Education & Events for KCBA says Longyear has focused his talents on attorney education for more than 20 years with KCBA. With his teaching experience, he has created educational programs that are relevant, beneficial and provide the opportunity for attendees to interact with the speakers.

“Mike is one of the most generous, compassionate, and engaging attorneys that I have had the pleasure to work with,” Medlock said. “Education is important to him and he has the ability to bring together great speakers and topics. He has himself been a speaker at numerous KCBA CLE programs including Settlement GALs, Advanced Guardianship Issues, the Title 11 GAL training and countless more.”

Medlock says that Longyear’s programs have educated hundreds of attorneys on the nuances of estate planning, probate administration, advanced guardianship issues and certified professional guardianships. These programs have been financially, as well as educationally, successful, which helps KCBA continue its mission. Typical comments from CLE attendees are: “Great program. This is not my area of practice, but was interesting, informative, and relevant to my life. This program included everything necessary to practice in probate.”

Kathleen Wareham, mediator with WAMS, worked with Longyear in the guardianship arena. She notes that “Longyear is a bar leader, a kind man, a successful attorney and a community connector”. She recalls that he was a leader of the Elder Law Section and instrumental in starting the first SGAL trainings. She reports he excels in coaching and mentoring young attorneys.

Jenna Ichikawa, an attorney at Stokes Lawrence, was a law student when she approached Longyear at a CLE and asked him for advice about becoming an estate planning attorney. “Mike was so generous with his time advising me,” she said. Ichikawa worked as a legal intern with Longyear and appreciated that he included her in his client meetings and encouraged her as part of the new generation of estate planning attorneys.

“Mike propelled my career,” she said. “He took the time to introduce me to his professional colleagues as well as his clients. He wanted me to know and rely on other attorneys and become part of our legal community. He cared about my career development.”

Judge Schapira, now retired from the King County Superior Court bench, said Longyear is “five stars out of five stars” and at the top of his profession. As noted, she met Longyear in her first judicial campaign when he volunteered to wave a large campaign sign to passers-by at the Kingdome on game day.

“He is a lot of fun and such a great listener,” Schapira says. “He knows how to make people feel comfortable. He accomplishes monumental tasks in a quiet way. Mike is a creative thinker. When everyone else is puzzled by a problem, Mike will say, “Well, maybe we could try this?’ He was always well prepared, thoughtful and an excellent advocate for his client.”

Attorney Roxanne Mennes, director of program development of the National CASA/GAL Association for Children and formerly CLE director at KCBA, worked with Longyear for many years. “Mike is a great people connector,” she says. “He knows how to move a task forward. He has many good ideas and the energy to turn the ideas into action.”

Longyear wrote a guidebook on guardianship practice and developed the financial budget to establish the KCBA Elder Law Section. Mennes says that Longyear was always willing to help with KCBA activities and that “he is humble and does not require much recognition. Mike enthusiastically supports KCBA fund-raising activities such as encouraging people to attend fundraisers and ‘fill a table.’ He has a talent for helping people come together.”

Olga Barajas, an attorney at Fahlman, Olson and Little, worked with Longyear as a legal intern while in law school six years ago. “Mike took the time to introduce me to clients and other attorneys by taking me to networking events. I still reach out to him for advice and he continues to help and support me in my career because he cares about people. I am Hispanic and I am touched by the interest and sensitivity he has shown to the Hispanic community in Tieton.”

Bruce Moen, of Moen Law Office PS., met Longyear early in his legal career and they would discuss guardianship litigation strategy as Moen was more experienced. Longyear often took Moen’s advice until one day when Longyear insisted that his own point of view on a particular issue would be more successful. Moen recalls that his days as mentor appropriately ended when Longyear, not having taken Moen’s advice, prevailed in the trial.

Attorney Tim Bradbury has been a friend and colleague of Longyear since the 1980s. “I wish I was Mike,” he said. “He has accomplished so much during his life to be proud of. Professionally, I rely on him for the most up-to-date guardianship advice. He is kind and patient with everyone, including challenging clients.”

Mike Longyear has dedicated his personal and professional life to supporting both KCBA and the broader community in an extraordinary way. He takes pride in combining his love of teaching and the law. He enjoys educating both his clients and other attorneys. Always dignified, calm, attentive and caring, we are lucky to have him. 

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