UNT Dallas College of Law professor Michael Maslanka was born in Batavia, New York, a small community in the western part of the state, exactly midway between Buffalo and Rochester. As a child, Maslanka recalled the frigid winds blowing off Lake Erie and the freezing mist off Lake Ontario. After undergraduate school, he traded in his thick winter gloves and heavy coats for the much milder climate of New Orleans, where he attended Tulane Law School.
Maslanka didn’t let any grass grow beneath his feet after graduation. He accepted a job offer with the Houston office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to practice employment law.
In an interview with UNT Dallas College of Law Communications, Maslanka recalled the early days of his career.
“After Tulane Law, I became a trial attorney for the NLRB where I enjoyed investigating and prosecuting violations of the National Labor Relations Act,” Maslanka said. “I prosecuted large employers who terminated employees for protesting their working conditions, and I also prosecuted poorly managed unions for failing to properly represent employees in their disputes with employers.”
Maslanka found it exhilarating to charge into battle with lawbreakers.
“There is no life experience that substitutes for going to the Houston docks at 3 a.m. to interview a witness, or for trying a lawsuit solo against a mega firm," Maslanka said. "We may have been outgunned, but I was taught by the NRLB supervisors to never be outworked.”
Also a prolific writer, Maslanka has penned a number of books, articles and columns. His regular offerings appear in Texas Lawyer: Work Matters, a monthly contribution, and quarterly in The Literate Lawyer. He learned a lot about writing during his employment at the NLRB, and it was there that he discovered how to use the written word more effectively.
“I learned to write at the NLRB,” he said. “After my first trial, I wrote a draft brief to the Administrative Law Judge arguing why I felt the government should win. My supervisor read the brief, then strolled into my office and flopped it down on my desk.”
Maslanka joked how his supervisor, Dwain, complained that the brief wouldn’t cut it and why.
“It doesn’t follow the 'Ned-in-the-first-grade-reader’ principle,” he said, “so rewrite the brief until it follows the ‘This is Spot. Spot is a dog. See Spot run,’ paradigm.”
The young attorney listened to the sage advice and used it to experience success in his position.
“That was 39 years ago, and to this day when I write something – whether it’s one of my books, an article or my column, I ask myself… would Dwain be proud?” Maslanka said. "Considering the professor’s successful law career spanning almost four decades, the answer is an unequivocal, yes, supervisor Dwain certainly would be proud.