In his varied career, Michael Zeka has handled the legalities of big real-estate transactions for clients in industries ranging from health care, to food, to retail.
But if you ask Zeka what he’s most proud of in his 33-year career, he’ll tell you about a local cause that’s close to his heart—Hunger Task Force, a hunger relief agency in Milwaukee.
Zeka, a partner at Quarles & Brady, first got involved with Hunger Task Force in the late ‘90s, when Quarles & Brady took on the non-profit as a pro-bono client. In 2012, Zeka helped Hunger Task Force secure a 30-year lease with Milwaukee County to operate a 200-acre farm on south 68th Street in Franklin. The farm has since produced 750,000 pounds of fresh produce to feed the hungry.
“It’s my favorite effort because of what it does,” Zeka said. “It gets the food where it’s supposed to go. And it’s decent food. It’s not ramen noodles.”
Zeka now serves as chairman of the board at Hunger Task Force. At Quarles & Brady, he also serves as a mentor to new real estate lawyers.
“Zeka (as he is affectionately called) goes above and beyond to help the next generation of attorneys navigate their careers and the law,” said Isaac Roang, a partner in Quarles & Brady’s national real estate practice group. “He spent countless hours with me going over career strategies, helping guide me to practical and reasonable legal solutions and treating me as a valued member of the profession.”
Zeka said the time he spends helping others gives him a fresh perspective on his own work.
“It benefits me every bit as much as it does the mentee,” Zeka said. “I know that sounds corny, but it does.”
Outside work, Zeka enjoys spending time with his wife, daughters and grandchildren. After nearly 27 years at Quarles & Brady, he says his love for the work is what keeps him motivated.
“I love what I do. My kids get on me because I work five-and-a-half days a week, at least,” Zeka said. “I make a point of calling them from the office on the weekend, and they say, ‘Why are you at work?’ and I say, ‘Because I like it,’ and I do. That’s what keeps me going.”