posted on November 26, 2019
As a recent North Carolina State graduate, Michael J. Braggs had a decision to make – pursue a career in the law or in social work. The law won.
“I just decided that it would be a lot more interesting over the long term,” Michael recalls. “And, to me, by going to law school, I thought that I would learn to do important work.”
Today, Michael does that “important work” every day by helping people to pursue the compensation they deserve after they have been injured by the wrongdoing of others. He joined our legal team at Marks & Harrison in March 2019. He focuses exclusively on helping plaintiffs in personal injury claims, including cases involving car accidents and premises liability.
“I’m a litigator at heart. I enjoy the day to day, ins and outs of a case. So, in that sense, my work gives me a great deal of personal satisfaction,” Michael says. “But at the end, what it’s all about is getting the best results for our clients.”
Even though he is from New London, Connecticut, Michael spent most of his youth after age 12 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He spent a semester in college after he graduated from Westover High School but opted to take a break from school. He went into retail, with a long period with Circuit City.
One day, he decided to go back to school.
“I don’t know if it was ‘retail fatigue’ or family encouragement, or both, but I went back to taking one to two classes per semester,” Michael says. “I didn’t have a lot of direction at the time, but I knew I didn’t want to be doing retail for the rest of my life.”
Eventually, Michael returned to school full-time and earned his undergraduate degree in Political Science (with a minor in Spanish) from N.C. State.
After graduation, he worked at Duke University Library. At the same time, he studied and took the LSAT – a requisite for law school entrance. He also explored his other career and graduate school options. As he mulled his choice, he thought about a family member.
“My oldest aunt went to the University of Michigan Law School in the early 1980s, and I had always admired her,” Michael says. “I spent quite a lot of time in Detroit and with her while growing up, and she inspired me to think about the law – pretty early on, actually.”
Michael went directly to the University of Richmond School of Law and earned his J.D. in 2009. He then went to work in the area of law where he envisioned himself spending the rest of his life – criminal defense. He took a job as an Assistant Public Defender with the State of Virginia Public Defender Office in Fredericksburg.
“That’s what I saw myself doing long-term. It’s what I had done in law school. But after a few years, I became discouraged at how the overall criminal justice system works, and how it works for defendants,” Michael says. “That was a bit discouraging.”
So, Michael moved from the criminal defense side to the civil defense side of the law. First, he worked as staff counsel with GEICO, one of the nation’s largest insurance companies. Next, he took a position with a private law firm that frequently worked with State Farm, another insurance giant.
“The most valuable thing that I take away from that is knowing how insurance companies evaluate injuries and how they look at issues like causation,” Michael says.
“With insurance companies, it’s not people-centered. It’s more about the numbers. So, knowing that helps,” he adds. “It also helps when talking with clients about what to expect in a case.”
Michael has felt right at home since joining Marks & Harrison in March 2019. In many ways, he sees it as being the “important work” he set out to learn when he chose to become a lawyer. He also sees a strong connection to his days as a criminal defense lawyer.
“With criminal defense, you have to form relationships and establish trust with defendants, so they will trust you to make the right decisions for them and advise them to make the right decisions for themselves,” he explains.
“It’s similar to the situation I’m in today. I’m asking people who have been injured and who actually have to deal with the pain and suffering to trust me to give them advice as to what a fair settlement is and what offers to take,” he says. “So, there is a connection there – a line throughout my career. It’s establishing relationships and trust.”
Before he became a parent, Michael liked to do volunteer work. He says that he hopes to get back to it someday. For now, however, all of his free time is spent with his wife, their 8-year-old and their 4-year-old twins.
For instance, one of his children recently became passionate about reptiles.
“So, now we’re a reptile family,” Michael says, laughing. “We have collected a couple of pythons, and I think we’ll have three or four more reptiles in the coming year or so.”
Michael also calls himself a “Jiu-Jitsu nerd” who loves to practice, watch and read about the martial art as much as he can.
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