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MLaw grad helps Detroit forge ahead

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

After starting a video production company in Michigan and a Santa photo program in Ontario, Donovan McCarty became interested in how the law interacts with small businesses.

“That’s what finally pushed me to go to law school,” says McCarty, who earned his undergrad degree in film production from Loyola Marymount University.

Now an attorney with Miller Canfield’s Public Law/Municipal Finance Group in Detroit, McCarty earned his J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School, where he appreciated the opportunities to use his legal training in the service of others—opportunities that not only influenced his legal career, but also the work he does in his community.

“Given my interest in Detroit, I was excited to be a part of the Community Economic Development Clinic, which assists nonprofits around the City with legal work,” he says.

In early 2014 McCarty interned for Judge Elizabeth Hines at the 15th District Court in Ann Arbor, and that summer clerked for U.S. District Judge George Steeh.

“They are the kind of legal professionals I will strive to emulate,” he says. “They taught me how to take a complex set of facts and law and focus in on the key questions.

“I’m grateful to them for mentoring me, but what I admire most is that they treat everyone they meet, in and out of the court, with dignity. That’s the most important lesson I took away. The courtroom—and the legal profession in general—is foreign to many of the people who encounter it on a daily basis. Judge Steeh and Judge Hines taught me that it’s our job to make those encounters as comfortable and respectful as they can be.”

McCarty volunteered at the Tax Foreclosure Prevention Project of the United Community Housing Coalition; and also worked with Michigan Legal Services to assist people with homes in probate.

He spent six months clerking for the Detroit Land Bank when it was in its infancy. “It was an exciting time to be there, and I particularly enjoyed using that opportunity to familiarize myself with the neighborhoods and better understand the discussion around land use in the city,” he says.

McCarty, who worked as a summer associate at Miller Canfield after his 2L year, finds Public Finance Law is the perfect blend of government/public interest issues and transactional legal practice. “I particularly enjoy the research aspect and driving around the state to see projects I’ve worked on come to fruition,” he says. 

A co-leader of Miller Canfield’s business development partnership with New Economy Initiative and Osborn Business Association, assisting people in establishing businesses in Northeast Detroit and providing legal advice, he also has recently been working on immigration matters and assisting in asylum applications.

A native of Waterford in Oakland County, who has also previously lived in Troy, McCarty now makes his home in southwest Detroit, with his wife Courtney, a video production specialist at Edward C. Levy Company.

“We love the community, and we love that it’s so close to so many other vibrant communities—being close to work is a plus too,” he says. “Detroit is on the precipice of change, and there’s a wonderful opportunity to build a city that finds innovative ways to emphasize diversity and inclusion. I’m excited to be a part of that.”

In 2013, he was the videographer for the “Duggan for Detroit Mayor” campaign. “It was very exciting because it was the first campaign I worked on,” he says. “I was attracted to his vision for the neighborhoods of Detroit, and I’m glad to see him follow through on those campaign promises.”

Recently appointed to the Citizens Advisory Committee of the Regional Transit Authority, McCarty was disappointed when last November’s millage failed. “I think one of the reasons was because not enough people really understood what transit could mean for our region,” he says. “I believe a better transit system is necessary to both make the region more attractive to businesses and get people to and from their jobs.”

McCarty, whose parents own the Children’s Theater of Michigan, enjoys two primary hobbies of music and movies. A member of a metro Detroit-area band in high school and college, after earning his degree in film production he had several internships in the film industry before returning to Michigan.

“Both of those passions have stuck with me over the years,” he says. “I still play music, and I’m currently working on a couple of screenplays—albeit very slowly. Last year I finished a children’s web series based on characters created by my parents, which we will release soon.” 

His undergrad film studies also resulted in a Fall 2008 study abroad through the Beijing Center for Chinese Studies, where he gained insight into culture and history on his travels around China. His time there coincided with the Olympics.“My brother and I were selected to perform a few songs at a diversity event in the Olympic Village, which was really cool,” he says.

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