UT Tyler Launched Foley into Successful Law Career

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Publication Date: 05/28/2020

US Army veteran Michael Foley of Canton is a lawyer for the energy company and UT Tyler partner Martin Resource Management Corp. Learn about the alumnus and why he believes UT Tyler gave him a strong foundation for career success.

Can you please tell us a little about yourself?

I am counsel for Martin Resource Management Corporation (MRMC), where I have worked for the past two years. Being an in-house lawyer for an energy company with diverse businesses, I get the opportunity to work in a variety of areas. My job entails a mixed bag between transactional law and litigation. On the litigation side, we are more managers of litigation than actual practitioners, meaning we rarely set foot in a courtroom. I love working for MRMC. As it has been said many times, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Although we work hard at MRMC, most days it does not feel like work at all. I also am a military veteran and am honored to have served in the greatest Army in the world.  Foley

When did you graduate from UT Tyler, and what degree did you earn? How did you select your major?

I graduated from UT Tyler in December 2009 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in marketing. I have wanted to be an attorney since high school, so I began seeking advice from attorneys at an early age. One attorney told me that I should pick a degree in something that I would enjoy doing because law school or the legal profession is not for everyone. While I found this to be odd advice at the time, I also thought it was practical and logical, too. I have always been interested in business and thought that I would be able to use a marketing degree to assist me in the practice of law. Hence, I chose marketing as my major.

What is the most fulfilling attribute of your professional role?

For me, it is the challenge of the work and the problem solving involved. In a way, it is like putting together pieces of a puzzle, knowing that it may involve creating your own pieces. I never know what is going to come across my desk or what will be assigned to me. Every situation is somewhat unique and sometimes a creative solution is required. I also enjoy working collaboratively with our business leaders to craft agreements that minimize our liability risks while furthering our commercial goals. This is where having a business degree and background comes in handy because it allows me to see things from the business leaders’ perspective rather than only seeing things from a risk perspective, which we hope leads to a win-win result.

Another fulfilling attribute is that lawyers are able to help people. Many times, the only thing standing between something bad and the person seeking help is a lawyer. It is a good feeling when you feel like you were actually able to help someone who would otherwise be taken advantage of without your help. The State Bar of Texas recommends that its lawyers provide 50 hours of pro bono work every year for those in need.  It is an aspirational goal, not a requirement, but there are many lawyers who do a lot more pro bono work than that. Don’t tell anyone, but lawyering is an honorable profession!

What led you to UT Tyler?

Growing up in Canton, I knew people who had attended UT Tyler. I always heard good things about UT Tyler; so, the University was always in my mind when thinking of where to further my education. I left the Army to pursue my educational goals, but I needed to be able to work while going to school. Shortly after leaving the Army, I began working as a driver salesperson for Blue Bell. At that point, I just needed to find the right university. UT Tyler’s business school had a great reputation with a strong night program, and the rest is history. Looking back, UT Tyler was exactly what I needed, and I am proud to have graduated from such a great university. 

How did UT Tyler prepare you for a successful career?

For starters, UT Tyler gave me a strong foundation to build upon. Just like construction, a building is only as good as the foundation it sits on. I felt confident when I left UT Tyler that my education compared favorably with others entering the job market. When you have a confident – but not arrogant – mindset, the sky is the limit. I would tell any students attending UT Tyler that, if they will apply themselves while there, they will be armed with the tools needed to be fully prepared to take the next step to a fulfilling career upon graduation.

What do you like about the Soules College of Business?

The professors. The approachability of the professors from the Soules College of Business sets it apart. Class sizes are smaller, which is conducive to a more personalized education. When I would discuss my college experiences with other colleagues who graduated from larger universities, it turns out that our experiences were much different.  I told them how I saw my professors every class meeting and that professors were open to questions before, during, and after class.  Conversely, my colleagues told me stories of how they saw their professors “maybe once a semester” and how classes were taught mostly by graduate assistants.

Also, I would like to mention the new building at the business school. I had the opportunity to tour the Soules College of Business several months ago. If there is someone who reads this and has not toured the facilities, I highly recommend that they do – especially if they are looking at universities to attend. The technological advances and commitment to learning is evident from the moment you walk in the door. The facilities are truly impressive!

Who was your favorite professor, and why?

I had positive experiences with all of my professors, but Professor Gail Johnson was probably my favorite and had the largest impact on me. She was my favorite because of her personality combined with enthusiasm for her subject matter. With Professor Johnson, she is as honest and true as they come. You will always get the truth from her even if it is not something you want to hear. She makes us better for that. If your resume or elevator speech is not up to par, she will tell you, but she will also work hard to help you improve. Her passion for truly helping students is unparalleled.

There is no doubt in my mind that any of her students (and likely ones that are not) could call her up and ask for help on how to market themselves, and she would drop everything to help them. That is true care. Professor Johnson drove the point home that you have to learn how to market yourself to your future boss and be ready with zero notice to deliver your “elevator speech.” Just like the old cliché, you may never get a second chance to make a first impression. What I realized is my resume and degree could get me an interview, but how I handled my interview would determine whether I got the job. If utilized, Professor Johnson’s teachings can help you get both.

I am not sure that I realized the value of her teachings until I had my introductory meeting with my first boss at the federal courts. This boss gave me some career advice that tied directly back to Professor Johnson’s teachings. My boss said, “You are always interviewing for your next job.” When she told me that, the proverbial lightbulb went off and I realized this was the whole point of Professor Johnson’s teachings – Always be ready to succeed!  

What advice would you give to current UT Tyler students?

I would encourage students to find a way to get to where you want to be. Be creative. Each person has a unique perspective that only they can offer. For example, federal clerkships are highly sought-after positions for lawyers because of the value that law firms place on the experience. In turn, they are extremely hard to get. I was able to secure a federal clerkship with US District Judge Terry R. Means after law school by convincing him that I had a skillset that would benefit him that few others had.

By working at the federal courts during law school, I had obtained an inside knowledge of the court system that other clerk applicants could not offer. I was not the best nor the smartest, but I was able to convince him that I could fulfill a need that he had and was the right fit for his chambers. He hired me, and it turned out to be a true win-win. I will always be grateful to him for the opportunity he gave me, but I would have never gotten that opportunity without putting myself in a position to get it.

Without that clerkship, I probably would not have been able to get the job here at MRMC. In other words, do not be afraid to ask or to take a chance on something you believe in. Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss every shot you don’t take.” I would implore students to prepare for the opportunity and take their shot.  

Any family information you’d like to share?

I have a wife and three boys, and they mean everything to me. I believe the secret to life is having those people who you want to share your special moments with. I cannot imagine sharing those moments with anyone other than them. I am lucky!

What are your hobbies/interests?

I enjoy spending time with my family and playing with my kids. I also enjoy reading about a variety of topics. Just about anything nonfiction book will hold my attention. Not that I never read a novel, but my preference is definitely nonfiction. I also enjoy keeping up with and watching sports – especially baseball!

Anything else you'd like to add?

I would like to thank the Riter Family Scholarship for the scholarship they awarded me during my last year at UT Tyler. The scholarship was greatly appreciated. I can tell you from personal experience that those scholarship endowments go a long way towards reducing the financial burden on a college student.