By Jo Mathis
There's something about Tom Lynch, Director of Mission Advancement at Ann Arbor's Thomas More Law Center that says "military" even before you know he's a former Army Ranger.
It's part perfect posture, part straight talk, part attitude.
In any case, Lynch says those 28 years in the military served him well for his new career.
"Our army is our attorneys," says Lynch, sitting in a conference room at the spacious TMLC offices located at Domino's Farms. "Our ammunition is the dollar, the money we raise. If I can't raise the money, then we can't take on more cases and hire more attorneys. So basically, the buck stops here."
The Thomas More Law Center is a national public interest law firm with a mission to "preserve and promote America's Judeo-Christian heritage and moral values, a strong national defense, and an independent and sovereign United States of America."
As a 501(c) (3), the TMLC does not charge for its services, and is supported by donations from individuals, corporations and foundations.
It's largely up to Lynch to make sure those donations continue.
Isn't that a lot of pressure?
"I grew up in New York, and playing basketball, it was, `No autopsy; no foul,'" he says. "So you take that mentality, with the West Point education, serving in the Rangers, and 28 years in the military ...
But he's quick to say that he's not just raising money; he's educating people.
"We're a lean, mean organization here," says the Bloomfield Hills resident, who has also worked for corporations and private businesses. "Our job is to litigate. We currently have 91 cases in 23 states, with several more in the exploratory stage and we don't have a large organization. But we get it done."
More than 700 attorneys in all 50 states help file briefs or paperwork for TMLC on a pro bono basis. But the litigation is all handled by the handful of full-time TMLC attorneys, with pro bono attorneys serving as local co-counsel as required.
He'll hear about a situation, talk it over with TMLC President and Chief Counsel Richard Thompson, who may or may not agree to pursue the case.
"Tom plays a crucial role in the accomplishment of our mission, says Thompson. " His commitment to America's founding principles coupled with his military background provides him with a keen sense of mission, initiative and zeal in our battle to promote and restore America's Judeo-Christian heritage."
Lynch says he gets a lot of job satisfaction from getting a new case, or getting someone to open the checkbook because they believe in the cause.
"When it's all said and done, it's like the old adage in the military: Tactics are for amateurs, logistics are for professionals."
Lynch said he's happy to be part of the "cultural war" taking place in the country and the courtrooms because his concern for the future of his three children and 30-plus nieces and nephews motivates him to raise money for TMLC.
"It's important that we maintain what our founding fathers wanted," he said.
On a typical morning, he makes the long commute to the center's sleek, spacious quarters at Domino's Farms, where he checks out the news stories that might be applicable to the work done at the center, and updates social media. In one year, he's built up 21,161 followers on Twitter (@trumpetman), and likes to provide them with relevant stories. (He used to blow the bugle at Army games, which is where he got the moniker.)
He stays in contact with donors and looks for future major donors.
Although Tom Monaghan founded the organization in 1998 with Thompson, since 2004 he has put his resources into Catholic education and no longer financially supports the center.
"The ACLU has folks like George Soros who gave $50 million to the Texas ACLU to change the culture down there, so I'm kind of looking for the George Soros on the conservative side," he says.
Sometimes he feels as if he's worked an 18-hour day.
"There is always something going on and a lot of work to be done," says Lynch. "You have to maintain a balance between family, taking care of your health, and not getting consumed by your job. But this isn't for someone who just wants a 9 to 5 job. If you don't believe in what the institution is about, then it's probably not the place for you."
Travel is a big part of the job, and he gives frequent talks to potential donors.
Do people think he's a lawyer at those presentations?
"Not when I start to talk," he says, smiling. "My philosophy has always been KISS: Keep it simple, stupid. I couldn't sit down and read that much to get a law degree. But I try to explain in layman's terms the work we're doing, and what the cases are ... People are just amazed at some of the cases we have, so it's an education. People in this country do not realize we were founded to get away from the rule of kings and now we're being ruled by judges who get lifetime appointments."
"When people talk about the separation of church and state, it's found nowhere in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. What our founding fathers were trying to say was that they didn't want one religion for everyone, but that they could practice their religion freely. And those things are being challenged in the courts."
Lynch received his Regular Army commission in 1982 from the United States Military Academy at West Point, earning a degree in engineering.
He served on active duty upon graduation for six years, serving as the graduate assistant soccer coach at West Point prior to starting his career as a field artillery officer at Fort Hood, TX. He was then selected to join the 75th Ranger Regiment as a Fire Team Chief and then served in field artillery battery and battalion positions.
In 1988, Lynch resigned his active duty commission and after a short stint with the National Guard, completed 21 years of service with the U.S. Army Reserves.
In 2009, he was brought back on active duty to be the executive officer and recruiting operations officer for the University of Michigan's Army ROTC Program. Two years later, he accepted the job at TMLC.
Lynch is active in West Point alumnus work, and serves on several Detroit-area boards, including Leadership Oakland and Covenant House Academy Southwest, one of three Covenant House charter schools which has graduated in five years more than 800 kids who would have no other opportunity to get their High School diploma.
"We're the last bastion of hope for some of these kids," he said. "Many would be on the street."
Lynch said he's always eager to meet people who would like to know more about the work of the Thomas More Law Center.
"If you're interested in finding out what we do, call me," he says, before adding with a smile: "And bring your checkbook."
Published: Thu, Mar 21, 2013