LONG GONE: Foundation pulls the plug on the fall Signature Event


Sharing a smile at the 2019 Signature Event were (left to right) OCBA Past President James Derian, Jennifer Lord, and Robert Sawson.
– Photo by John Meiu

By Tom Kirvan

Legal News

A rite of spring has turned into a fall passage for the 2020 Signature Event presented by the Oakland County Bar Foundation.

Recently, OCBF officials announced that their “cornerstone event” would be cancelled for 2020 due to the continued spread of the coronavirus. Originally, the event had been postponed from its customary April date to September 10 in the hope that the pandemic would be in the rearview mirror by then.

So much for such thinking, said David Plunkett, the new president of the Foundation.

“There has been a great deal of deliberation over the last month about whether to hold the event or to modify it in some way that would be suitable and safe,” Plunkett said. “In the end, the only decision that made sense was to cancel it for this year. It hurt all of us to do it because it is such an important event on the social-legal calendar for the community.”

Held annually at Oakland Hills Country Club, the Signature Event traditionally draws a crowd of more than 400 members of the legal community, Plunkett indicated, generating ticket sales of approximately $56,000 in 2019.

The revenue from tickets virtually offsets expenses, according to Plunkett, thereby allowing sponsorship money to flow directly to funding a host of “worthy programs” that the Foundation supports.

“We talked about having the event outside at Oakland Hills or tented, but with the ongoing renovations to the South Course we would have been limited to a space for 100 people,” Plunkett explained. “Then the question becomes who is included in that 100.

“We also briefly considered some sort of virtual event, but none of the options we discussed offered a good solution, so we made the difficult decision to cancel for this year,” Plunkett said.

In the meantime, Foundation officials have been contacting sponsors to see if they will convert their sponsorship pledge into a donation to the OCBF.

“And so far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive in that regard,” said Plunkett. “If it continues to flow that way, we will be able to maintain our funding commitments without dipping into our investments.”

Last year, the OCBF supported such programs as Legal Aid & Defender, Jewish Family Services, CARE House, Lakeshore Legal Aid, and Beaumont (Patient Legal Support Program) to name a few, according to Plunkett. The 2019 version of the event raised approximately $238,000, as a sellout crowd attended the festivities at Oakland Hills.

In 1999, an alliance with the Oakland County Bar Association created the current OCBF organization, setting in motion the means for a greater fund-raising profile and the Signature Event of today.

In the spring, then OCBF President Lynn Sirich stressed the positive impact that the Signature Event has made on the community.

“In the last five years alone, the Foundation has raised more than $1.5 million at this event because of the generous support of the many sponsors in Oakland and surrounding counties,” Sirich said, noting that the OCBF has contributed more than $2.65 million to legal assistance and legal education programs since 2002.


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