Ushering in a new era Foundation president sees room for continued growth

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By Tom Kirvan

Legal News

Once seemingly was not enough for Patrick McCauley, recently sworn in as the president of the Oakland County Bar Foundation, an all-volunteer organization dedicated to supporting legal aid work and educational programs in the greater legal community.

McCauley, an attorney with Gasiorek, Morgan, Greco & McCauley in Farmington Hills, has been "down this road before," formerly serving as president of the Foundation, which is governed by a 20-member board. His first stint as president, which was a one-year assignment, came more than a decade ago as the organization began to embark on a more aggressive fund-raising approach to support its charitable and educational work. His second phase as president, which began in July when he succeeded Tom Tallerico as head of the OCBF, comes at a time when the Foundation may be entering new fund-raising territory again.

"We've seen some significant growth in our fund-raising efforts over the past decade and I would like for us to be in a position to take that to the next level," said McCauley, a University of Michigan Law School graduate who specializes in governmental law. "The need for legal aid services continues to grow and it is our goal to better support it financially."

The Foundation's chief fund-raiser each year is its "Signature Event," a gala reception and strolling dinner at posh Oakland Hills Country Club. Last April, the event raised upward of $200,000, a record amount.

"We received an amazing response from the legal and business communities, especially considering the difficult economic climate in the region," McCauley said of the success of the 2011 Signature Event. "It served as testimony to the generosity of our supporters and their belief in our mission to improve the availability of legal services to those in need. But with all of the economic challenges that people in this area are facing, we want to be able to do more."

As such, McCauley is hoping to expand the Fellows Program for the OCBF, while also developing a "legacy program" for the organization.

"The Fellows Program, which annually attracts 20 to 40 new members, provides a steady stream of income for our operations," McCauley indicated. "It would be nice to attract even more new members each year, thereby broadening our fund-raising base."

According to McCauley, an OCBF "Fellow" is designated by a pledge of $1,000. A Charter Fellow is designated by a pledge of $5,000 with all proceeds earmarked for the Oakland Bar Foundation's many worthwhile programs.

"Our next point of emphasis needs to be in developing a strong and long-lasting legacy program, where we become a designated beneficiary in estate plans," McCauley said. "If we are going to take our fund-raising to another level, the legacy program will be key element in helping us build a possible endowment where interest income can be used to help fund ongoing as well as special projects. We will be working over the next year to create a plan and then to market it those in the legal community."

McCauley's devotion to volunteer work for the public good comes naturally. His father, John, who lost an arm in the D-Day invasion at Normandy during World War II, was an attorney with a distinguished history of civic service.

"My father was an amazing man, serving as the mayor of Wyandotte, on the Wayne County Board of Supervisors, and then in the State Senate," McCauley said. "He also was part of Con-Con (the state's Constitutional Convention in 1961-62) as a delegate. Public service was in his blood from an early age. He was a wonderful role model for me in many respects."

McCauley's father nearly lost his life on D-Day Plus Two when his tank was struck by a German artillery shell, killing all aboard but one.

"He was the only one to survive the blast, although his arm had to be amputated after the incident and he suffered severe burns," McCauley said. "He was pulled to safety by a man who later was awarded the (Congressional) Medal of Honor for heroism and bravery under fire. My father said that it was a miracle that he survived."

One of the sponsors of legislation that established the State Lottery, Senator McCauley died of a heart attack during his third term in office at age 51. His son found out about his father's death while listening to the news on the car radio between legal appointments.

"Needless to say, it was quite a shock to hear that kind of news," McCauley said. "I literally couldn't believe what I was hearing. Of course, this was in 1975, long before cell phones, so as soon as I heard the report of his death I pulled over to a pay phone to call my mom. It was a surreal experience."

While Senator McCauley was a successful attorney and a dedicated public servant, who served as Democratic Caucus chair at a time in the State Senate when he counted Coleman Young and Basil Brown among his colleagues, he was "like the shoemaker who had no shoes" in terms of estate planning, according to his son.

"He died without a will, which obviously made it much more difficult to settle his estate and to make sure that my mother was taken care of financially," McCauley said. "Fortunately, I was able to navigate our way through the probate process."

His mother, Jeanette, was a longtime school teacher who now lives on Grosse Ile. She was "very supportive" of McCauley's desire to pursue a law degree after he excelled in his undergraduate studies at Michigan State University.

After earning his law degree from U-M, McCauley was offered a clerkship with State Supreme Court Justice G. Mennen Williams, who served as Michigan's governor from 1948-60 and would later become chief justice of the high court.

"It was a marvelous experience to work for Justice Williams," McCauley said of one of the state's foremost political and legal figures. "He had a tremendous intellect and yet was very people oriented. It was a true honor to work for him."

His first job in private practice was with a small Detroit firm headed by Robert Nederlander, part of the show business family whose holdings included the Fisher Theatre. McCauley spent nine years with the firm, in which Jack Dodge also was a partner, crossing paths with such notable clients as Liza Minelli, Joel Grey, Harry Chapin, ZZ Top, and film director Mike Nichols, whose credits include Oscar-winning movies "The Graduate" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

Nederlander eventually moved to New York, asking McCauley to join his practice in the Big Apple, an opportunity he declined. Instead, McCauley went to work for Sommers Schwartz in Southfield, handling commercial litigation, entertainment law, and municipal matters, spending 24 years with the firm. In April 2010, McCauley joined the Gasiorek Morgan firm in Farmington Hills, bringing with him a number of his municipal law clients.

While with Sommers Schwartz, McCauley met his future wife, Linda, a legal assistant who earned her bachelor's degree from Valparaiso University in northern Indiana. They were married in 1986 and have two grown children, Caitlin and Sean, both graduates of MSU. Caitlin received her master's degree from Pratt Institute in New York, one of the top private art schools in the nation, and currently is pursuing a career in art therapy as a high school teacher. Her brother, who like his sister is a graduate of Seaholm High School in Birmingham, has plans to become a teacher.

They both, said McCauley, have come to appreciate his love of car racing, whether it be of the Indy or NASCAR variety.

"I've been to the Indy 500 for the past 25 years, as well as to Talladega, to the Monaco Grand Prix, and just find the sport to be exciting and fascinating," McCauley said. "There is just something about speed and racing that appeals to me. It's really in my blood."

Published: Wed, Sep 7, 2011

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