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The law firm Mark Briol helped found will mark its 30th anniversary in June. (Submitted photo)
The law firm Mark Briol helped found will mark its 30th anniversary in June. (Submitted photo)

Breaking the Ice: Ex-boxer turned attorney left ring for courtroom

 Name: Mark Briol

Title: Attorney, founder Briol & Benson

Education: B.A., child psychology, University of Minnesota; J.D., William Mitchell College of Law

Attorney Mark Briol turned a youthful boxing defeat into a successful career as a commercial litigator at Minneapolis-based Briol & Benson.

Briol, at 19 the city’s welterweight champion, had plans to box professionally until he lost a 1973 decision to Greg Holmgren, a future Minnesota Boxing Hall of Fame inductee.

“I reached a realization after I lost that I had to do something with my life,” Briol said.

Heeding the advice of the young woman he later would marry, Briol got into college, eventually finishing in the top of his law school class.

“I put as much effort into being a good student as I did into being a good fighter,” Briol said.

He did the same in specializing in complex financial litigation, high-asset marital dissolutions, securities fraud litigation and arbitration and bet-the-company litigation, among other practice areas.

Briol has tried more than 90 cases to award or verdict and served as lead counsel in 27 states, and the firm he helped found in 1988 will mark its 30th anniversary in June.

Q. What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A. I’m an extraordinarily gregarious person. If you look at me I’ll start the conversation.

Q. What prompted you to study law and pursue it professionally?

A. It seemed compatible with my personality and how I think. I look at trying cases as a three-dimensional chess game or a live play with real people where I’m the director and a supporting actor. I enjoy the mental and strategic challenge. As an ex-fighter I enjoy the one-on-one confrontation.

Q. What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?

A. The last two books I read were “All the Light We Cannot See” and Hillary [Clinton]’s new book, “What Happened.”

Q. What is a pet peeve of yours?

A. Dishonest lawyers.

Q. What are your favorite aspects of being an attorney?

A. Trying lawsuits. It’s like getting in the ring.

Q. Least favorite?

A. It’s fun if you’re against good lawyers. If you’re against incompetent, unprepared or dishonest lawyers — it’s not a regular occurrence but when it occurs it does an injustice to the entire judicial system.

Q. What’s a favorite activity outside your job?

A. I have seven children. My home is on Lake Minnetonka and I love spending time on the water, especially with my last two children. I have five girls and two boys. My oldest daughter graduated from Carleton [College]. My second daughter graduated from St. Olaf [College]. My third daughter graduated from Carleton. My fourth daughter is a freshman at St. Olaf.

Q. If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do?

A. Last year when a friend came here, I took him golfing at Hazeltine [National Golf Club], took him to dinner at Manny’s among other places and hired a guide to take us fishing for bass and walleye on Lake Minnetonka.

Q. Is there an attorney or judge, past or present, whom you admire most?

A. Vance Opperman. I consider him one of my closest friends. He’s by far the smartest person I’ve ever met. He’s a man of tremendous character. He’s smart, he’s loyal, he’s engaging.

Q. What’s a misconception people have about working as an attorney?

A. One misconception people have is that bigger is better. Meaning larger law firms automatically mean better lawyers. There’s a lot of extraordinary talent in smaller firms. I think that I lend some credibility to that because we’re celebrating our 30th year and we have pretty good reputation.

Q. What was the last arts or cultural event you attended?

A. I took the boys to New York over spring break. We spent four days in the city. I took them to see “Book of Mormon,” “Hamilton” and “The Lion King.”

Q. What if any is your favorite depiction of the law, the legal professional in popular culture (books, films, TV)?

A. I like “Law and Order.” You tend to see things that would never happen in real life because they’re objectionable, but it makes the show interesting and funny.

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