Saturday, May 17, 2014

how i will always miss my uncle mike

Michael K. Phillips

Practiced Law and Acts of Kindness

Mike Phillips kept everything he held dear.  There was a shoebox inside his house with memorabilia from his 55 years on this planet. There were Confirmation notices, report cards, news clippings, photos. None of them were about him. They were all about his brothers. He was proud to be a part of his family.

As much as he kept everything he held dear, Mike Phillips also gave to those he held dearest. He offered his time, thoughts and full effort to his friends and family.  He took those closest to him on trips to all points on the globe. He was the first to help out whenever someone needed it, always going beyond what anyone could expect. He was there for you, your personal guardian angel.

But it didn't stop there. Mike Phillips was also generous to those he barely knew. He gave out legal advice to acquaintances who couldn't afford a lawyer.  He would overtip workers that were doing a great job or he felt could use something extra. He even handed out gifts to complete strangers. He was the extraordinary person you couldn't wait to tell your friends about.

Mike once said, "Little acts of kindness, small courtesies and displays of love and respect are so important. In relationships, the little things are the big things." He knew how to make those little things mean so much, at just the right time, to just the right person. He used the resources available to him to make the lives around him better, fuller, happier. That's what made him Mike. He never thought of himself. He was as selfless as anyone can be. And he never ever asked for anything in return.

Mike Phillips was born and raised in his beloved San Francisco, the youngest son of Edward and Gloria, the brother of Daniel, Patrick and Dennis. They didn't have much growing up in the Sunset District, but they had each other. He was taught, through words and actions, to always give back even if there wasn't much to start with.

He was a special little prodigy, excelling throughout his education, from St. Gabriel Grammar School through St. Ignatius College Preparatory, during which he was invited to compete in the high school national debate competition.  He then went on to the University of California, Berkeley where he studied economics and eventually the University of California, Hastings College of Law.

His personal endeavors fueled his fire. His professional life provided the spark.

He was a nationally recognized tax attorney with a specialty in 1031 exchanges and was considered an expert on the subject.  He authored several significant tax articles and treatises. He counseled clients during his tenure at San Francisco-based Pacific Realty Exchange, a partnership he established with Gregory J. Rocca in 1988. He taught many graduate seminars and classes at the New York University Institute on Federal Taxation, the National Business Institute and the National Real Estate Development Center.  He was a lecturer and writer for the Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB) and was a member of the California Star Bar Sections on Taxation and Estate Planning.  Mike began his career in the tax division of Arthur Andersen & Co. in San Francisco and then in the Office of Federal Tax Services in Washington, D.C.

One of Mike's greatest skills was the ease of which he could simply and clearly explain complicated issues and concepts. That, along with his tremendous sense of humor, attracted a roster of high-profile clients, including several of San Francisco's well-known restaurants and some of the city's long-established families. He became their attorney and their friend, one who was trusted and beloved from generation to generation. He had that way about him.

He was a generous benefactor to several charities. And when they asked, he also donated his legal services to them.

Mike was truly a friend to San Francisco.

He enjoyed dancing, sports, music, sharing his well-researched and thought-out opinions, riding roller coasters, telling riddles, watching movies, reading and learning about his varied interests and getting the most he could out of every single day.

He was a brother, a brother-in-law, an uncle, a lawyer, an art collector, a mystery story writer, a faculty member, a speaker at conferences, a staple in the gay and lesbian community, a confidant, a genius, a friend. He was anything and everything to those close to him. And to those he just met, he was something wonderful.

Mike died suddenly and unexpectedly in his home. He is survived by his two brothers, Daniel and Patrick, and his sisters-in-law Candyce and Florence.  He is survived by a robust family including his nieces and nephews Shannon, Aaron, Lisa, Roddy, Vanessa, Steve and Jenn. He is survived by all the friends he has made throughout his life. He is survived by the countless stories about him that everyone will continue to share. He is survived by his expertise and thought leadership in his field. He is survived by everyone within San Francisco's gay and lesbian community as a leader, friend and champion.

He survives because the legacy of his kindness, generosity and love will live on.

Mike Phillips will be dearly missed.

A celebration of Mike's life will be held at 6pm on May 22nd. For addition information, please contact  In lieu of flowers, the family asks donations be made to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.  
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on May 18, 2014