By Patty Gelb
Whether due to the time spent practicing law, time on boards representing those in need of legal aid, donating time in a soup kitchen, or performing with his lawyer/judge rock band, Jingle Balls, Martin E. Mohler (Law, ’73) is a busy man. Nonetheless, he recently assumed an important role in the state of Ohio that will make his schedule even more hectic. On July 1 of this year, Mohler took office as president of the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA).
A Toledo native who grew up in the Old West End, he attended Rosary Cathedral Grade School and then Central Catholic High School. Following graduation Mohler went to John Carroll University in Cleveland, where he earned his BA in English, cum laude.
Mohler knew he wanted to become a lawyer from a young age. Upon completing his undergraduate degree, he planned to go to Georgetown University for law school. Instead, the budding attorney received a draft notice.
“Oddly enough, when I took my draft physical, I was rejected for some minor physical issue,” said Mohler. “Afterward, The University of Toledo College of Law gave me a scholarship and my wife-to-be was going there as an undergrad. So I stayed, and I don’t regret it at all.”
Mohler spoke fondly of many people at UT, including current Dean of the College of Law, Daniel Steinbock, and John Stoepler, who was a professor while he attended. Stoepler went on to be the dean of College of Law and interim president of the University in 1988.
“John Stoepler was just a wonderful teacher and he became a close friend of mine,” said Mohler. “He tragically passed away at a young age.”
Mohler said he had excellent professors. Judge James G. Carr, who is now a federal judge on senior status, was his criminal procedure teacher. Mohler said he felt privileged to have the opportunity to practice in front of Judge Carr. He was also honored to be the person to present Judge Carr his black robe at a ceremony 20 years ago when Judge Carr first became a judge and Mohler was the president of the Toledo Bar Association.
Mohler spoke highly of his University of Toledo education.
“It was a nice place to go,” he said. “It was an intimate setting. The school wasn’t big back then. You really got to know the professors well, and I think that helped.”
Following law school, Mohler went into private practice starting out with William J. McDaniels. McDaniels died only a few months later, so he practiced on his own until joined by attorney Robert G. Christiansen. Christiansen later became a judge.
“So I did a solo, small-firm thing for about 30 years with different iterations of firms,” said Mohler. “Then about 11 years ago, I merged my practice with my present firm.”
Mohler’s merger made him a partner with the Toledo firm of Shindler, Neff, Holmes, Worline and Mohler, LLP. His practice covers both criminal and civil law.
His road to become the OSBA President began early in his law career. In addition to being a former president of the Toledo Bar Association, Mohler is a life member of the Sixth Circuit Judicial Conference. He is also a fellow of the Ohio State Bar Foundation. He has been an active member of the OSBA over the years, having chaired the government affairs committee of the OSBA Board of Governors in 2010-2011.
As the OSBA President, Mohler performs many roles including spokesperson for the large organization. The OSBA has almost 80 employees and an array of programs and services for its almost 30,000 members. Mohler has speaking engagements, lobbies, writes articles and is the face of the state bar for a year. He was president elect, is now president and will become past president, each for a year, for a three-year commitment.
Mohler feels the benefits provided by the OSBA makes membership valuable. Some of the services include providing online legal research free to members, discounted required continuing legal education hours, webinars, malpractice insurance and many networking opportunities.
“We try to be indispensable to Ohio lawyers,” said Mohler. “If you are a member of the Ohio State Bar, you get bang for the buck. We have a huge membership. It’s a voluntary bar so no one is required to join. But, historically we have enjoyed a strong, vibrant and robust membership, and we continue to do so.”
There is a lot he would like to accomplish as President.
“You know, you can’t change the world in a year. I realize that,” said Mohler. “But, I would like to build on some of the good things that my immediate predecessors have done.”
He is interested in specialty courts and he is also concerned about funding for legal services both nationally and in Ohio. Many who are unrepresented, can’t afford an attorney and can’t qualify for legal aid because the financial guidelines are so low.
“There is a gap of people who really don’t have the money, or at least in their minds don’t have the money, to afford an attorney, and we really need to get these people representation,” said Mohler. “I was in Washington in April, lobbying various congresspersons for the funding for the Legal Services Corporation. We hope to keep funding at least at its present level, if not increase it, so we can meet the large unmet need for legal services.”
Mohler said the relationships one can develop through a local or state bar association are invaluable for all lawyers.
“The networking opportunities are amazing,” said Mohler. “I was pretty much a solo guy, just starting out and I met tons of people through the Toledo Bar Association and its committees. It really helped me professionally. I think those relationships that you can develop through bar association memberships are good.”
Mohler has a full plate with the OSBA, but continues his history of service to the Toledo community. He volunteers at a local soup kitchen through St. Joseph Parish in Sylvania. He also serves on the pro bono board of the Toledo Bar Association. He chairs the Facility Governing Board for the Correctional Treatment Facility for Lucas County and is a former member of the board of trustees of the Toledo Legal Aid Society and Advocates for Basic Legal Equality and Legal Aid of Western Ohio.
He and his wife of 41 years, Terri, have four grown children and two grandchildren. Mohler and his wife enjoy visiting their children, in Cincinnati and New York, as often as they can manage to do so. He also enjoys squash, tennis, working out, reading, movies and music.
What else does this man, who seems to do everything, do in his spare time? He plays rhythm guitar and provides vocals in an all-attorney band know as Jingle Balls. Their genre is 60s, 70s and 80s rock and the band is comprised entirely of OSBA members. They played at the Gridiron Show at the Valentine in May of this year and also in Columbus at the reception on the evening after Mohler accepted the presidency of the OSBA on May 1, 2014.
To learn more about the Ohio State Bar Association, click here to visit their website.