Lawyer, teacher, author and lifelong learner Michael Brooks

Michael Brooks (MBA ’93) Partner, Aird & Berlis LLP
Michael Brooks (MBA ’93)

To call Michael Brooks, MBA’93, a “lifelong learner” might well be an understatement. The partner at Bay Street, Toronto law firm Aird & Berlis LLP already had three degrees under his belt — in environmental studies, law and an LLM from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School — when he landed at the Schulich School of Business in 1991. He followed his MBA with a PhD from the University of Waterloo in 1998.

“I was scratching an itch,” he laughs.

Brook’s foray into business education wasn’t as far afield as it might first seem. In 1978, while articling for a small Toronto firm, he got his first taste of real estate law, eventually joining Aird & Berlis in 1990 as a commercial corporate lawyer and member of the firm’s real estate group. He devoted his spare time to reading Forbes and Fortune Magazines, and “lots of business books, sometimes one a month.”

“My MBA was a way for me to learn all of that in a structured format.”

Coincidentally, Brooks’ MBA coincided with the arrival of Professor James McKellar, recruited to Schulich from MIT to launch a real estate specialization. Brooks joined the new program, becoming a member of its inaugural graduating class in 1993.

After graduating, he met with McKellar to pitch an idea that would, ultimately, shape his later career. Brooks offered to design and teach a new course in real estate law. He taught in Schulich’s real estate specialization for the next five years and eventually served on the program’s advisory council, all while continuing to practice law full-time.

Today, Brooks credits his Schulich teaching experience with the genesis of his textbook, Canadian Commercial Real Estate: Theory, Practice and Strategy, published in 2016 by the Real Property Association of Canada (REALPac). “I joined REALPac in 1997 and put my Schulich teaching notes online,” he remembers. “For 10 years, they told me they were their number one download.

Eventually I decided to make that motley collection into a book.” He hopes the knowledge and experiences contained in its pages will influence what and how the next generation learns about commercial real estate.

As for what comes next, Brooks isn’t quite sure. He’s already penciling a few ideas for the next edition and is inspired, too, by the launch of Schulich’s new Master’s of Real Estate and Infrastructure program — a Canadian first.

“Finally, you don’t have to leave the country to study real estate at a graduate level,” he says.

For a “lifelong learner”, it might simply be too hard to resist.