Mike Pace: Citizen Lawyer

In Memory, Mike Pace

Mike Pace admired Atticus Finch. No doubt Mike aspired to live like Atticus Finch. To many, Mike Pace was Atticus Finch. And if you ever met Mike, you know that he enjoyed talking about Atticus and all that Atticus stood for in the legal world and in the real world. For those of us who had the pleasure of knowing Mike, in working with him in practice, and in watching him operate in the community and the bar, he may be as close to Atticus as we will ever know.

To describe the impact and the influence that Mike seamlessly and positively supplied to this firm, and the bar, and the community, would take volumes. To portray it succinctly, Mike was the one person who simultaneously never met a stranger or an impossible task, and somehow seemed to have 48 hours in a day to make it happen. With Mike’s passing at a way-too-early age, we can rest easier knowing that Mike squeezed at least twice as much into his professional career and his family commitment as any other person we know. And he did it all well, very well.

Mike’s contributions to the firm were immense. From day one, Mike was a natural leader, full of ideas, energy, confidence, and contagious friendliness. He quickly worked his way through the leadership ranks to become the firm’s second managing partner at the early age of 41, being tasked with filling the shoes of one of his mentors, Bill Rakes. Mike helped build on the strong base that Bill had begun in adding a commercial practice to the firm. Under Mike’s leadership, Gentry Locke grew in numbers, in stature, and in focus. No one spent more hours, even into the late-night/early-morning caring for his clients and for the firm that he called home.

Mike extended his leadership skills well beyond just the firm, exhibiting that same passion and commitment to bar groups, including being President of the Roanoke Bar Association and the Virginia Bar Association, and to the community, where he provided leadership as President of the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce and as President of the Roanoke Regional Partnership, among many other groups. While leading these bar groups, he helped form the Center for the Study of the Rule of Law which he planted at Roanoke College during the years when he became the school’s first general counsel, and helped to spread the recognition of the importance of the Rule of Law across the entire state, country, and other parts of the world. Mike was the epitome of commitment, and of getting done what he said he would do.

Like his mother, Mike was an educator at heart. Beyond his time at Roanoke College and with the Rule of Law program, Mike spent countless hours providing support, leadership, and creative ideas to his alma maters, Hampden Sydney College and Washington & Lee Law School, where he helped to establish the third-year externship program for students to gain real-life experience and was an adjunct professor. At Gentry Locke, he led the formation of an in-house education program, Gentry Locke University (GLU), that continues to help young attorneys learn more about the practical elements of legal practice.

Mike’s commitment did not stop there. There was never a minute that he was not bragging on his parents, his wife Nancy, or his two scholarly and athletic daughters. Returning for a late night at the office after leaving to watch a girl’s lacrosse game was just the way Mike was wired. He was proud of them, and all of their accomplishments.

We too are proud. Proud to have called Mike Pace one of our own, a member of the Gentry Locke team and family. Though he is no longer present with us, the indelible and positive marks he has made on us individually, on our families, on this firm, on our communities, and on his family will last eternally. Well done. Here’s to you Mike. Or shall we say …. Atticus!

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