Law school aims to raise $200 million

 By Amy Spooner

U-M Law
The theme of the University of Michigan’s iconic fight song is now the rallying point for the Victors for Michigan fundraising campaign, which kicked off Nov. 8-9. The campaign, which seeks to raise $4 billion for the University, is the largest fundraising endeavor in U-M’s history and the largest in history for a public institution. The Law School’s campaign goal is $200 million.
Alumni enjoyed a series of events as part of the kick-off weekend, including an outdoor community festival on Friday evening and a Law School tailgate in the Robert B. Aikens Commons prior to Saturday’s football game. In addition, supporters from across the University gathered in Hill Auditorium on Friday night to hear the official announcement of the campaign goal as well as stories from students about why giving to Michigan matters.

Representing the Law School as a speaker was Lexi Bond. The 3L worked with the Michigan Innocence Clinic to free Victor Caminata, who was wrongfully convicted of arson, and she spoke of the importance of such experiential learning opportunities. “We got to feel what it was like to free an innocent man. We got to be part of an event that drove home why we’re going into this field,” Bond told the standing-room-only crowd. “When I heard that this campaign was called Victors for Michigan, I knew we had to tell this story, the story of our very own Victor (literally). Because of the Michigan Innocence Clinic, we got to be a part of such a rewarding experience and Victor got to go home to his family a free man.”

The Law School’s most recent campaign, which was called “Building On” and was part of the University’s Michigan Difference campaign, raised $135 million. The focus of the campaign was facilities support—most notably, to build South Hall. The campaign ended in 2008.

With the construction of South Hall, the renovations to the Lawyers Club, and the creation of the Robert B. Aikens Commons, now is the time to focus on the people and experiences that bring the Law Quad to life, says Dean Mark West. Within the $200 million overall goal, the Law School’s Victors for Michigan campaign seeks to raise $70 million for student support and $40 million for programs like the clinics and the Legal Practice Program, as well as funds for faculty support and the Law School Fund, which is the School’s annual giving program.

“Michigan has been and always will be one of the world’s leading institutions of legal education,” West said. “But as the legal profession changes, training students to think like a lawyer and to be a lawyer requires a combination of traditional and new approaches. Half a century ago, the Law School received 40 percent of its budget from the State of Michigan; today that figure is around two percent. Our ability to make Michigan Law accessible to students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds depends on private support.”

West also noted that for Michigan Law to remain a top school in a competitive market for legal education, it must continue to provide and improve opportunities that enrich students’ education and produce the practice-ready, holistic-thinking lawyers for which Michigan Law is known. In addition, the School must retain and recruit the best faculty from a broad range of backgrounds to train our students well, and to engage in research that aids their teaching and deepens our understanding of the law. Campaign gifts will be critical to achieving these goals.

The Law School’s campaign steering committee is being chaired by John Nannes, ‘73. Nannes is a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Skadden, Arps. He also conceived and generously funded one of the Law School’s most successful development initiatives, the 3L Challenge, which encourages recent-grad giving. Nannes recently made an additional substantial commitment to the program, and during remarks on Saturday he encouraged all alumni to join him in pledging their support to the Law School. “The Victors for Michigan campaign is critical to the Law School’s future, and it will take all of us to make it successful,” he said.

“No matter how many years have passed since graduation, alumni can recall professors and classmates who shaped their lives,” West told the crowd. “Our challenge today is to continue to make those interactions—and all the opportunities that Michigan Law provides—accessible to past, present, and future students.”

Learn more about the Law School’s Victors for Michigan campaign and read the School’s campaign case statement at


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