Photo of Thomas C. O

Thomas C. O'Brien

Of Counsel




University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, J.D., 1969

Eastern Michigan University, B.S.

Bar Admissions

Thomas O'Brien is an experienced trial lawyer who has represented clients in major civil and criminal cases, including some that received national attention.

O'Brien's civil cases have encompassed catastrophic personal injuries, product liability, complex business disputes and representation of health care providers and universities. His criminal practice has involved murder trials, white collar crime, fraud, federal grand jury proceedings and internal investigations.

He has also taught trial practice at the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, University of Michigan Law School, Institute of Continuing Legal Education and Federal Bar Association. O'Brien has been a legal analyst for the ABC news affiliate in Detroit and has received awards for professionalism, integrity, and civility in the practice of law.

Representative Matters


Best Lawyers in America, Bet-the-Company Litigation, Commercial Litigation, Personal Injury Litigation, 2005-present; Criminal Defense: Non-White Collar, Criminal Defense: White-Collar, Personal Injury Litigation-Defendants, Personal Injury Litigation-Plaintiffs, 2012-present
2022 Ann Arbor Criminal Defense: General Practice Lawyer of the Year
2021 Ann Arbor Personal Injury Litigation - Defendants Lawyer of the Year
2019 Ann Arbor Criminal Defense: General Practice Lawyer of the Year
2018 Ann Arbor Personal Injury Litigation: Defendants Lawyer of the Year
2017 Ann Arbor Criminal Defense: General Practice Lawyer of the Year
2016 Ann Arbor Criminal Defense: White-Collar Lawyer of the Year
2015 Ann Arbor Bet-the-Company Litigation Lawyer of the Year
2015 Ann Arbor Personal Injury Litigation - Defendants Lawyer of the Year
2014 Ann Arbor Criminal Defense: White-Collar Lawyer of the Year
2013 Ann Arbor Bet-the-Company Litigation Lawyer of the Year
2011 Ann Arbor Criminal Defense: White-Collar Lawyer of the Year

Michigan Super Lawyers, Criminal Defense, 2006-present

Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Attorney, 2016, 2023, 2024

Leading Lawyers, 2014, 2016, 2021

National Association of Distinguished Counsel, Nation's Top One Percent, 2015-2016, 2021, 2023

DBusiness Magazine, Top Lawyers, White Collar Criminal Defense & Antitrust Law, 2011-present

Washtenaw County Bar Association, 2012 Professionalism and Civility in the Practice of Law Award

Cooley Law School, 2012 Integrity in the Community Honoree

Who's Who in American Law

Washtenaw Land Trust, Distinguished Service Award, 2003

Michigan Centennial Farm Association, Outstanding Centennial Farm of the Year, 1996

Northfield Township Historical Society, Centennial Farm Award, 1996

Peace Neighborhood Center, Defense Lawyer of the Year, 1994

State Bar of Michigan, Circle of Excellence Award

Professional Activities

American Bar Association
Section on Litigation; Trial Practice Committee, 1981-present
Sub-Committee on National CLE Programs

National Center for State Courts, Lawyers Committee, 2012-present

State Bar of Michigan
Section on Negligence and Criminal Law; Task Force on Professionalism, 1989-1990
Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, 1993-1994
Criminal Jury Instructions Committee, 1993-1999

Michigan State Bar Foundation, Fellow

Washtenaw County Bar Association
Trial Practice Section, Chairman 1988-1990
Judiciary Committee
Trial Court Case Evaluation Panel, 1983-present
Case Evaluation Committee, Chairman, 1991-1994

American Association for Justice

Michigan Association for Justice

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Criminal Defense Lawyers of Michigan

American Constitution Society for Law & Policy

Phi Alpha Delta

Civic, Cultural & Social Activities

James K. Stringwell Scholarship Fund, Board of Directors

State of Michigan, Agriculture Preservation Fund Board; Member, 2004-2014

Michigan Prospect for Renewed Citizenship, Vice President, 1998-2002; Board Member, 1984-2010

Washtenaw Land Trust, President 2001-2003; Board Member, 1998-2004

The Devine Foundation, Board Member, 1993-1996

Campus Ecumenical Center, Board Member, 1993-1996

NEW Center, Board Member, 1993-1996

COPE-O'Brien Center, Board Member, 1987-1992

Northfield Township Historical Society, Board Member, 1981-present; President, 1984-1988

Spaulding for Children, Board Member, 1980-1984

Ann Arbor Bicentennial Commission, Chairman, 1975-1976

Parent/Infant Center, Board Member, 1971-1973

Federal Bar Association; West Michigan Chapter


Guest Lecturer – University of Michigan Ross School of Business, Conflict Resolution Corporate America Class, February 1, 2023; March 11, 2024

National Institute for Trial Advocacy
Faculty Member, 1980-present
Midwest Regional Program Section Leader, 1996
Distinguished Faculty Member, 1994

University of Michigan Law School, Trial Advocacy; Adjunct Faculty, 1985-1997; Guest Lecturer, 1971-2015

2018 Trucking Auto Injury Cases: Deposing Accident Reconstruction Experts Strafford Webinars

2018 Handling Difficult Witnesses in Personal Injury Cases: Direct and Cross Examinations, Strafford Webinar

Federal Bar Association, Eastern District of Michigan Chapter, Trial Advocacy Program 2010 and 2012 Team Leader

Institute of Continuing Legal Education, Trial Advocacy Workshop; Team Leader and Faculty Member, 1978-1994

Advanced Trial Advocacy Skills Workshop, Team Leader and Faculty Member, 1985; Lecturer, 1986-present

Michigan Trial Lawyers Association, Lecturer, April 1994

Criminal Defense Lawyers of Michigan, Lecturer, 1983, 1987, 1993, 1994, 2007

State Farm Insurance In-House Advocacy Program, Faculty Member, 1992

Travelers Insurance Advocacy Program, Faculty Member, 1990

Creighton University, Trial Advocacy Skills Workshop, Faculty Member, 1976


"Internal Investigations," Aug. 8, 2016 to lawyers and investigators for a Big Three auto manufacturer

"Health Care Related Reporting Obligations: 'Who ya gonna call?'", State Bar of Michigan Health Care Law Section, (Moderator) March 2013, (Presenter) April 2013

"Cross-examination of an Arson Expert," National Institute of Trial Advocacy, 40th Anniversary National Program, Boulder, Colo., 2011

"Presenting and Rebutting Evidence in Michigan Resentencing Hearings," (following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Miller v. Alabama, striking down mandatory life sentencing for juveniles), University of Michigan Law School, July 27, 2012

"Presenting the Defense," Criminal Defense Lawyers of Michigan Seminar, Spring 1983, Spring/Fall 1987, Fall 1993, Spring 1994

"Examining Expert Witnesses," National Institute of Trial Advocacy (video), Spring 2003

"The V.A. Nurses Case: The Effects of Press Coverage on a High-Profile Criminal Trial," V.A. Nurses Symposium, Wayne State Law School, 2001, Wayne Law 2002

"The Defense Perspective," US v Narciso, Federal Bar Association, Rakow Scholarship Awards Luncheon, November 2001

"How to Develop a Winning Theory of the Case," Jackson County Bar Association, 1997

"Federal Grand Jury Practice," Federal Practice Section, Washtenaw County Bar Association, 1995

"Cross Examination of Expert Witness," Institute of Continuing Legal Education, 1993, 1996, 1999, 2003, 2007 and Criminal Defense Lawyers of Michigan, 1994

"What Every Lawyer Should Know About Cross Examining Expert Witnesses," ICLE - 2007 Wayne County Assigned Counsel Training-Juvenile, May 2007

"Advocacy in the 90's," Michigan Trial Lawyers Association, 1992

"How to Develop a Winning Theory of the Case," Michigan Trial Lawyers Association, October 1990

"Reliability of Child Witnesses," Institute of Continuing Legal Education, 1987

"How to Introduce Evidence in Court: Expert Witnesses," Institute of Continuing Legal Education, 1986

Symposium on Hypnosis, National Legal Aid and Defender Convocation, Albuquerque, N.M., November 1979


Effective Strategies for Cross-Examining an Expert Witness, by Thomas C. O’Brien and David D. O’Brien, 44 Litigation 26-30 (Fall 2017)

"Defining works: trial attorney's career includes series of headline-grabbing cases," Legal News, June 15, 2012

"Daubert, Crawford, the Rules of Evidence and Issues in Presentation of Expert Investigator Evidence," Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan (CDAM) Newsletter, June 2007

"The V.A. Murders," Litigation Magazine, November 1984; The Advocate, Idaho State Bar, April 1985; The Court Legacy, the Historical Society for the United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, volume XXV, 1 October 2018