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    Friday, September 22, 2023

    Lahan left ‘a legacy of doing much good for many in the community he loved’

    Once in a great while - perhaps only in a lifetime or generation - a select few individuals emerge in a community who transcend volunteerism and leadership, rising to a level at which everything and everyone they touch during their lives is better for it.

    Whether spending quality time with family or friends, assisting grieving law clients, or spending long hours supporting and volunteering for the local bank, YMCA, high school, hospital, city commission, or any of the other numerous causes in his busy life, P. Michael Lahan was just such an individual.

    Lahan died on July 16, several months after being diagnosed with leukemia and only a year after retiring from a distinguished law career dating back more than a half-century. Practicing in the very specialized field of estate law, probate administration, and elder law, he was among the best at his profession and could have practiced in a large firm anywhere in the country. Instead, to the benefit of many thousands locally whose lives he made better, he settled in Norwich after his two-year military service in Vietnam.

    He was brilliant - always the smartest person in the room - but never compelled to prove it because it was evident when he spoke. More than intellect, however, was his affable, everyman persona that made people gravitate to him, seeking his counsel and leadership but also warmed by his affinity for telling and listening to stories.

    He didn't serve on boards and commissions to pad an already impressive resume or plug rare openings on his calendar. On the contrary, he ran many meetings, often as chairman, coming to them fully prepared and engaged.

    And when Michael Lahan spoke at those meetings, everyone listened, and his was usually the final word. After all, there was usually nothing left to say when he finished. The votes normally went his way too, not because he insisted on it - he never objected to dissent - but because it was the right thing to do for the organization - Chelsea Groton Bank, Norwich Free Academy, the YMCA, New England Commission of Higher Education, Reliance Health, Backus Hospital, Norwich Cemetery Association, Senior Citizens Affairs Commission, Safe Community Commission, Arts in Education Commission, Reliance House, Norwich Heritage Trust, Commission on the City Plan, Charter Revision Commission, and many others. Get the picture?

    His clients often came to him in hard, times, vulnerable and seeking counsel and compassion after the death or incapacitation of a loved one. His work wasn't done until the client was comfortable knowing what to do because it had been explained in its simplest terms.

    "What I have been reflecting most on is that not only was he extremely intelligent, but incredibly compassionate to those suffering loss or disability,“ said his law partner, Daniel King, who joined the practice five years ago. "There are countless elderly and disabled clients that Michael went so far beyond in helping and took no credit."

    King is the son of another local attorney, the late Jackson King, once Lahan's partner at the prominent Norwich firm of Brown Jacobson before the elder King was hired as general counsel by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in 1993 and Lahan opened his own firm on Lafayette Street in 2000.

    When the younger King heard in 2018 that Lahan was looking to add a partner to his solo practice, he jumped at the chance to work with one of the region's top attorneys, even if it meant leaving Suisman Shapiro in New London, the region's largest law firm.

    "When I heard, I ran to his office with bells on as I knew what a great attorney he was," recalled King, who was 27 at the time. "Michael tried to convince me that it was not in my best interest to leave a large established firm to join his solo practice, but I was undeterred. My first day, he brought me in on eight client meetings, and he spent lunch hour speaking at the Rose City Senior Center and I was blown away. That was an average workday for Michael and usually two to three times a week he had city or board meetings on top of that."

    Lahan had a wry sense of humor. Having pushed him hard during the work week and knowing how much the exhausted young partner looked forward to weekends, his parting words late Friday afternoons were "See you tomorrow."

    Perhaps the little private joke stemmed from Lahan's own work ethic. Even in retirement, he came to the office once or twice a week for half-days, right up until a week before his passing, "showing his dedication to his clients and the practice," King said. And when his partner did come into the office on Saturdays, Lahan - a devout family man with a wife, Carol, and daughters Amanda and Melissa - told him he should go home to be with his own young and growing family.

    P. Michael Lahan was laid to rest this past Friday after hundreds attended his wake and funeral. The turnout was a testament to a good, full and accomplished life dedicated to family and a legacy of doing much good for many in the community he loved.

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