Browning Endicott Marean III, 71, passed away last night in a hospital in his adopted hometown of San Diego. He died of complications attendant to a six month course of aggressive treatment for esophageal cancer. Browning was not ready to go, and he fought his fate with the grace, intelligence, steadiness and humor that made us love him. Browning Marean was the world’s best known and most admired ambassador for e-discovery, the peripatetic mayor of our global village. No one traveled further, spoke more or put a better face on the American approach to the exchange of information in litigation than Browning. Lawyers around the world think Americans mad when it comes to civil discovery; but when they heard Browning speak, when they heard that mellifluous radio announcer voice, they thought better of us. And that was Browning in a nutshell: a wise, avuncular presence who just made you feel that everything would be all right. He touched my life for good, and I will miss him with all my heart. In that, I am far from alone.
Browning practiced law with DLA Piper, though his affections lay with Gray Cary Ames & Frye, the San Diego firm he joined in 1969 and saw gobbled up by DLA in 2005. DLA Piper is huge, and Browning was so proud that his firm “even has an office in Tbilisi!” (It’s in Georgia–the Soviet one. I had to look it up.) To its great credit, DLA Piper allowed Browning to play to his strengths. Browning crisscrossed the globe gently nudging lawyers toward the future. He served as his firm’s ethics counsel and shepherded them through tough times. I did not know Browning when he had first chair litigation duties; but, he spoke of having fought the “Uranium Wars,” which I took to mean that he had either engaged in years of litigation over Uranium ore or that Earth had secretly gone to war with Uranus and Browning had fought and won for our side. Either way, he earned his stripes.
A patrician Yankee turned Californian via a Stanford education, Browning frequently reminded me that he, too, was licensed to practice law in Texas. I was as proud of his Texas connection as he was. We did a long-running roadshow together in the early years of e-discovery, where we blathered, dallied and dined in every major city and some not so major. One was little Rapid City, South Dakota, where Browning was warmly attentive to my young son, Madison. I remember them discussing a book that particularly captured Browning’s imagination: Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near. That’s the one where Kurzweil posits that technology will soon let us live forever. Would that it had happened in time for Browning. He would have really liked that.
When Browning discovered some new tool or app, he couldn’t wait to share it. Browning’s enthusiasm for technology (and books and people and life) was infectious. He inspired multitudes to push past their trepidation and give something a try. I doubt he knew how many credit him with the signal leaps they took in their lives.
As Browning underwent treatment at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston these last months, I visited often and got to spend some cherished time with him. We spoke of many things besides e-discovery: his carefree sojourn in Europe as a young student, his peaceful service in Vietnam as a naval officer, his family and his road trips taken to combat the boredom of waiting for the medical nightmare to be over. Browning longed to be back to work and, though gaunt as Gollum with barely strength to stand, he never doubted he would return to the speaking circuit. Browning’s bright eyes were always on that great, big, beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day. Browning was ever a beacon of optimism, enlightening all in his kindly, gentle, humorous way.
Browning’s dad was also a naval officer and graduate of St. Paul’s Prep School. When the elder Browning died in 1975, the school obituary said, “A man of great dignity and humility, he was warmly respected by associates in all his endeavors.” Like father, like son.
Browning is survived by his wife Pat, daughter Kelly Clemeshaw, son Mark and two grandchildren, to whom I send earnest sympathies and condolences. He is also survived by several close friends, countless admiring colleagues and thousands and thousands of lawyers and others who are better for having heeded him.
Browning always left early to get what he called his “beauty sleep.” It worked. He was a beautiful person. He’s left early once more and forever. Rest in peace, ‘Uncle’ Browning. We’ll see you in the singularity.
Some of Chris Dale’s splendid photos of Browning. For a post that captures Browning brilliantly, please read Chris Dale’s tribute here. Also, Browning’s longtime partner in crime, Tom O’Connor, has written a touching and funny remembrance. published here. The comments below and those appended to the other tributes are but a small measure of the outpouring of admiration and loss so many feel at Browning’s death.
Browning’s family will convene a celebration of his life on Saturday, September 20 at 2:00 pm. Location: Westminster Presbyterian Church of Escondido. 1500 S. Juniper St., Escondido, CA 92025.
Jeff Grogan said:
I met Browning early in my eDiscovery career. I was at conference and didn’t know many there. As I sat down for lunch he wandered by and asked to join me and a colleague. What a treat!! He was a joy to talk with. I made it a point to follow his work and see him speak whenever possible.
We’ll miss him.
Isis Miranda said:
Incidentally, the phrase I most associate with Browning, because he said it every time I heard him speak, is, “When I grow up, I want to be Craig Ball!”
It wasn’t until my eyes misted over on hearing the news of Browning’s passing that I realized how important he was to me. I wish I had realized this before, as I would like to have been able to thank him.
I first met Browning when I was working in the IT department of a large company. I was invited to a meeting where Browning gave advice on setting up an in-house eDiscovery function. The meeting wasn’t long, but it was long enough for me to see that the lawyers who had setup the meeting clearly had great respect for him.
Several years later, I was invited to speak on a panel discussion at an eDiscovery conference. I was excited, but also nervous. Would I clam up in front of an audience? Did I have anything valuable to say?
When I learned that none other than Browning Marean, the Guru of eDiscovery, was going to be on the panel with me, my anxiety increased considerably. I felt like a fraud, like I was pretending to be someone I wasn’t. And what would Browning think when he learned that he, with his distinguished career, would be side-by-side with me, the young IT person who took notes while he spoke several years before?
I obviously didn’t know Browning. If I had, I would not have been nervous. He was warm and encouraging at the conference. Rather than taking on the role of mentor, he treated me like his equal. Rather than showing me the way, he made me feel that I knew the way. He helped me believe in myself.
When our moderator wasn’t able to attend, Browning was asked to take over that role. I will always remember his kind, encouraging, smiling eyes behind his glasses as he stood at the podium and asked me questions in front of the audience.
I felt like I was standing on the edge a rushing river at the entrance to a narrow, rickety, hanging bridge. And Browning was standing on that bridge, facing me and smiling, with one arm stretched out beckoning me to come over and cross.
Browning was many things, including a pioneer. But I admire him most for his character and grace. He treated everyone not only with equal respect, but with deep respect.
We are all fortunate to have had a real-life role model, as opposed to a fictional character, who taught and influenced others by being who he was. Thank you Browning.
I hope that when I pass, I remember the image of Browning beckoning me to cross.
Browning loved to tell stories and its fitting that we remember him with stories about Browning. Thank you Craig for bringing us together and providing a forum for us to share our stories.
Thank you. I confess that I sometimes thought Browning didn’t speak enough at events as he was always moderating or stepping aside in favor of other presenters. I’ve come to realize that Browning had the skills of a great conductor or director. He made each event better by helping everyone else be their best. Thank you also for recounting that Browningism about me. I hadn’t heard that before and am touched. When I die, I want to be worthy of a fraction of the regard Browning has earned.
Steven Brower said:
Browning had an incredible memory. As a moderator he made every person in the room feel like they had a valuable role. And he always made it clear that HE was having a good time, and wanted you to have one also. What a great guy.
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Cliff Shnier said:
At one of his presentations a couple of years ago, Browning mentioned how in a uranium case in 1989, a Canadian “blocking statute” prevented him from fulfilling his client’s discovery obligations in a case in US District Court in New Mexico. The result was judgment against his client for $2.4 Billion. His next sentence, delivered in earnest deadpan style: “Back then that was a lot of money!”
joAnn Fair said:
I did not know Browning personally, only of him – through ILTA and various e-discovery conferences and meetings, his writings and commentary. Yet, he touched me and inspired me personally and professionally. He’s the kind of person you instantly know as one of the best, not just brilliant and wise, but thoughtful and kind. He’s the kind of person that makes your eyes mist on hearing of his passing and again reading this beautiful tribute. Thank you Craig, and happy journey Browning.
Kay McCarthy said:
I was lucky enough to share a panel, and a meal, with Browning during my early days of ediscovery speaking and was like a giddy groupie. To my surprise, he was the first attorney to treat this paralegal as a peer. I was, and will always be, touched by his humanity for all people. He will be greatly missed.
Azure Hicks, CLSPM said:
I was fortunate enough to spend a few hours with Browning while finishing up my courses at Bryan University. It was an honor to “sit” before him and listen and learn. He will certainly be missed. Rest easy Browning…Your legacy will live on forever.
George H. Saltzberg, M.D. said:
Browning and I were best friends for 35 years. The thought of a world without Browning leaves an ache in my heart. He was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather Words cannot say how much I miss him.
cyndi parish said:
The world will miss him, I was part of the travel team, when he called he put a smile on our faces.
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