Helping Hands: Law professor co-chairs Detroit Metropolitan Bar Foundation



by Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Lisa DeMoss is passionate about helping others – and as co-chair of the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association Foundation board, she has plenty of opportunity to follow this passion.

“Providing service to our community and its less fortunate members is an important aspect of our professional responsibilities,” says DeMoss, a professor at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School and director of graduate programs in insurance law and corporate law and finance. “As lawyers, we all open our wallets from time to time to provide financial support for many worthy programs and initiatives.

“But, it’s much more satisfying to participate directly in the planning and delivery of programs that provide needed services. And, observing the impact of those programs on service recipients inevitably encourages a desire to do more because the need is so great.”

A member of the Detroit Bar Association for almost her entire career – the majority of which was spent in the legal department of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, DeMoss was asked to serve on the DMBA Foundation board after ending her tenure as DMBA president 1998-99.    

Previously serving as board secretary/treasurer, the Wayne Law School alumna has co-chaired the Foundation the past few years with Keith Altenburg, a senior vice president and general counsel at Comerica Bank. 

The Foundation raises funds to support the educational and charitable activities of the DMBA, and provides funding for the Inns of Court, the School Partnership Program with the DMBA Barristers Section, the pro bono Detroit Legal Services Clinic, the Pro Bono Mentorship Program with Cooley Law School, and financial support for access to justice projects within the community.

“Foundation members work hard to honor our commitment to provide justice for the less fortunate in our community,” DeMoss says.  

The Foundation helps wards of the Wayne County Juvenile Court through the “For the Seventh Generation” program, established in 2005 in cooperation with the Third Judicial Circuit Court and the Michigan Department of Human Services.

“Ten years ago, Kelly Ramsey, a Juvenile Court Referee and Foundation board member, encouraged us to provide financial support to this nascent program,” DeMoss says. “The Foundation board enthusiastically embraced the goals and adopted the FTSG program as one of its own.”

Over the past decade, the FTSG program has expanded its reach to include services and goods that are otherwise unattainable through private programs or government services. More than 1,000 families currently receive assistance for such things as clothing, bedding, cribs and beds. Social workers and their clients are able to shop for services on-line and for clothing and essential household goods at the FTSG Help Closet on Detroit’s east side.
Many people and businesses volunteer time, talents or merchandise. For example, dentists perform free dental care for one child each year; psychologists provide pro-bono services for one family each year. Dance schools give free lessons. Radio stations and sports teams provide free tickets to events. Bowling alleys and restaurants sponsor special events for deserving children. Businesses provide needed goods. Volunteers may mentor a child, coach a team, help a child learn to read or to draw and provide music lessons.

Funding for these services and goods is achieved through small grants and an annual fund-raising gala and silent auction, The Seventh Heaven, held this year on June 25 at the Park West Gallery in Southfield.

The majority of the funding for the Foundation is generated at an annual event, named after the first award recipient, former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer.    

“During this event, which we host at new and exciting venues around the city, we celebrate legal excellence by recognizing Michigan attorneys who exemplify service to the community of under-served residents of our state,” DeMoss says.

Previous recipients of the Dennis W. Archer Public Service Award include Dennis Archer (2003), Daniel Mulhern (2005), Sen. Carl Levin (2006), Judge Damon J. Keith (2007), Eugene Driker (2008), Saul Green (2009), former Gov. Jennifer Granholm (2010), former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan (2011), U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts (2012), Judge Harold Hood (2013), Congressman John D. Dingell Jr. (2014), U.S. District Judge Gerald E. Rosen and U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven W. Rhodes (2015).

This year, the Foundation plans to recognize Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.