Source of pride: Cooley ever ready to lend a hand to Signature Event

 By Tom Kirvan

Legal News
John Nussbaumer, dean of the Auburn Hills Campus of Cooley Law School, is wary of the downward trend in legal aid funding across Southeastern Michigan.
“Funding for legal aid organizations that provide most legal services for those in need is at the lowest level I’ve seen in decades, because of recent federal fund cuts to legal aid organizations, declining state IOLTA (Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts) revenues, and Southeast Michigan United Way’s need to divert their shrinking dollars to more basic human needs,” Nussbaumer said. “This has resulted in significant layoffs in many legal aid organizations, which were not adequately staffed in the first place.”
Which is all the more reason that Cooley-Auburn Hills has agreed to be among the principal sponsors of 13th Annual Signature Event at Oakland Hills Country Club on April 20. The Signature Event, sponsored by the Oakland County Bar Foundation, serves as a key funding component for such legal aid programs as the Family Law Assistance Project, the University of Detroit Mercy Mobile Law Office, Legal Aid Mini Clinics, and Beaumont Hospital Legal Aid for Children.
“Cooley is proud to be a $10,000 Platinum Level sponsor of this event for the ninth consecutive year because we know how important these dollars are to those who are less fortunate than ourselves,” said Nussbaumer, a 1976 honors graduate of the University of Michigan Law School.
The Signature Event, which will run from 7 to 10 p.m. on Friday, April 20, and features a strolling supper, has been in a record-setting mode of late, according to Patrick McCauley, president of the OCBF. Two years ago, the fund-raiser netted more than $160,000 for the Foundation’s programs, while last year it topped $188,000, McCauley indicated. Organizers are hopeful that the 2012 proceeds may surpass last year’s total.
In 2011, the OCBF received grant requests totaling nearly $300,000, more than $110,000 over the funds generated from the Signature Event.
“The number of people in need who can’t afford basic legal services is at the highest level in decades because of macro-economic conditions that continue to challenge us,” Nussbaumer said. 
“The Oakland County Bar Foundation has stepped up to this challenge by awarding more money directly to legal aid organizations than it ever has, but last year they were unable to fund many worthy grant requests because those requests substantially exceeded the funds that the Foundation was able to raise.”
Those interested in purchasing tickets to the April 20 event can contact Lisa Stadig Elliot, executive director at the Oakland County Bar Association, for more information, (248) 334-3400. Sponsorship opportunities also are still available by contacting Stadig Elliot or by visiting the OCBA website at
“Law firms, businesses, and individual lawyers can help us reduce this funding gap by opening their hearts and their pocketbooks this year to support the Foundation through its Signature Event, which not only raises funds for this worthy cause, but is also hands-down one of the best bar association social events of the year,” Nussbaumer proclaimed.