University of Michigan Law School - March 2011 Amicus


NO COUNTRY FOR BOY FRIENDS: Prof. Len Niehoff encourages his evidence class to learn more about a case by turning it into a country song.


BPeeved: Nearing the first anniversary of the oil spill, DOJ moves its investigation from the environmental to the criminal division. Prof. David Uhlmann helps NPR's "Morning Edition" explain.

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Prima Facie

MARCH MADNESS: It's not just on the basketball court anymore. Here are highlights from the busiest month of the academic year at Michigan Law.

$20 million gift jumpstarts renovation at M Law's Lawyers Club
Berkshire Hathaway vice-chair Charlie Munger will enhance law students' housing

By John Masson, Amicus editor

One of the largest gifts ever made to Michigan Law will help revitalize living spaces within the 86-year-old student-housing portion of U-M's iconic Law Quadrangle.

The $20 million gift from Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charles T. Munger (HLLD LAW '10) will pay for the majority of a renovation project inside the Lawyers Club housing complex. The remaining $19 million of the estimated $39 million cost to complete the work will come from central university investment proceeds and the Lawyers Club, which is run by a separately incorporated, self-sustaining nonprofit organization.

The project will bring badly needed upgrades that will transform student rooms and other living areas inside the buildings while preserving the historic Collegiate Gothic exteriors that make them an integral part of a law campus recognized around the world for its beauty. Taken in combination with the soon-to-be-completed $102 million project to build the new academic building on the corner of State and Monroe Streets, along with the breathtaking Robert B. Aikens Commons, the Lawyers Club project will enhance significantly the student experience.

Munger's generosity stems from his long history as a university friend and adviser. As an undergraduate mathematics student at U-M in the 1940s, Munger appreciated the Law Quad's beauty. He went on to graduate from Harvard Law School in 1948 and founded the Los Angeles law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson. He became vice chair of Berkshire Hathaway in 1978.

Munger never forgot about Michigan, or its Law Quad. In fact, this latest gift extends Munger's philanthropic relationship with the Law School, which began in 2007 with a uniquely practical $3 million gift for lighting improvements in public areas of the Law Quadrangle. Now complete, that project has turned the formerly dim interiors of Hutchins Hall and the landmark Reading Room into showcases of Collegiate Gothic grandeur (View a slideshow).

But Munger's relationship with Michigan has always been more than simply philanthropic. He has lectured at various U-M schools and has advised the university on its investments.

Like the gift for lighting, Munger's new gift is designed to improve fundamentally the student experience. While the buildings were described in 1930 as possessing "every modern convenience which has become known to architects and engineers," in those days such conveniences included luxuries like running water and showers—in all-male communal bathrooms. Planners are approaching the renovation project with the idea of taking the buildings into the future, while retaining their strong connection to the Law School's storied past.

The university already is at work on conceptual plans and feasibility studies for the project. In the two dormitory buildings—the Lawyers Club dorm and the east wing of the John P. Cook dorm building, both on South University Avenue—the work will include extensive interior renovations, technology upgrades, new roofs, fire safety features and energy performance measures targeted to exceed national energy efficiency standards by more than 30 percent. In addition, the project will replace the roof and upgrade fire safety features in the Lawyers Club Lounge and dining hall, located on South State Street.

"Charlie Munger has a powerful vision of world-class facilities that will match a world-class law school at the University of Michigan. The Law Quad is an icon of U-M's excellence in legal education, and its prominence is now ensured for future generations because of Charlie's generosity," said U-M President Mary Sue Coleman. "I am particularly pleased because this gift directly benefits the living-learning experience for our law students."

The renovated residence portion of the Lawyers Club will be named "The Charles T. Munger Residences in the Lawyers Club” in honor of the gift.

"Taken together, this group of construction projects represents by far the most dramatic improvement in the student environment since the first part of the Law Quadrangle was dedicated in 1925," said Law School Dean Evan Caminker. "Our new academic building and Commons areas will enable us to provide contemporary educational and community space, while the residence renovations will increase comfort and convenience for law students who wish to live in the Quad. We're extremely grateful to Charlie Munger for his foresight and generosity in revitalizing the distinctive Lawyers Club."

The Lawyers Club and residences are two components of the Law Quad, built with a visionary gift from William Wilson Cook, which also includes the William W. Cook Legal Research Library and Hutchins Hall. Together, the Collegiate Gothic buildings of the Quad and its dramatic courtyard have become an integral part of the Michigan Law experience for generations of students.

Construction is expected to begin in early summer 2012 with a goal of completion by fall 2013. The university will appoint Hartman-Cox Architects in association with SmithGroup for the project.

Eric Stein Tapped for Leading International Law Prize
ASIL awards Manley O. Hudson medal for lifetime achievement

By John Masson, Amicus editor

The American Society of International Law has awarded its top honor, the prestigious Manley O. Hudson Medal, to Emeritus Prof. Eric Stein for his lifetime of significant contributions to international and comparative law.

Stein, 97, has been expanding international and American legal scholarship almost since his arrival in the United States as a member of a generation of distinguished legal scholars who escaped the wave of fascism rolling across their native Europe.

Scholarship wasn’t Stein’s only service to his adopted land. He also served in the U.S Army during World War II, earning a Bronze Star, then served in various roles in the State Department after the war was over. Among other tasks, he advised the American delegation to the United Nations General Assembly, the Security Council, and the International Court of Justice. He also helped create the International Atomic Energy Agency.

During his subsequent academic career, he led in advancing the role of comparative analysis, including through influential works examining comparisons between American federalism and the institutions of modern Europe. His 1964 article "Assimilation of National Laws as a Function of European Integration" is the most frequently requested article in the American Journal of International Law’sarchive; his "Lawyer's, Judges, and the Making of a Transnational Constitution," published in the same journal in 1981, was an instant classic that defined a new approach to the study of European integration. Stein published an influential book on the breakup of Czechoslovakia well into retirement and remains an active scholar to this day.

Stein’s work has been marked by humanity, insight, and careful craftsmanship, ASIL noted. His scholarship and achievements in the law have been recognized by many awards and honorary degrees. However, according to ASIL, his greatest testimonial may be the respect and affection accorded to him by generations of law students, scholars, statesmen, and diplomats on both sides of the Atlantic.

"The list of recipients of this award makes clear how significant an honor it is," said Michigan Law Dean Evan Caminker. "Equally clear is that Eric is absolutely at home on that list."

The medal, awarded during ASIL’s annual meeting March 23-26 in Washington, D.C., commemorates the life work of Manley O. Hudson, a former president of ASIL. More information is available at

Making Sense of Ranking Season
Now No. 7, MLaw is top-ranked public school; other rankings also strong

By John Masson, Amicus editor

The recently released 2012 U.S. News and World Report rankings of U.S. law schools—which saw Michigan jump from ninth to seventh place—may mark the official peak of ranking season, but other surveys show the Law School's continuing strength, as well.

While the U.S. News rankings are perhaps the best recognized—measuring a number of factors such as per-student expenditures, median LSAT scores, post-graduation employment rates, and faculty-to-student ratios, among others—some of the other surveys that show Michigan's strengths also provide valuable information.

For example, a joint Best Lawyers/U.S. News ranking of law schools by law firm recruiters placed Michigan Law in a fourth-place tie with Columbia, behind only Harvard, Stanford, and Yale. The survey asked law firm hiring officials to rank the schools on a five-point scale; its organizers say the results are "strictly reputational," based on how recruiters perceive each school's quality.

Another survey, and perhaps the simplest, was conducted by the National Law Journal. It showed that Michigan is number 10 in the number of graduates hired at the nation's top 250 firms; more than 42 percent of Michigan Law's 2010 graduates took that route, according to the magazine.

In other words, while the Best Lawyers ranking reflects the strength of Michigan Law's reputation, the National Law Journal tally is more a measure of the career choices the School's students make after law school.

The School's own data show those choices take graduates all over the country (see map for details).

Finally, an unusual "crowd-sourced" ranking by The Conglomerate blog recently placed Michigan fifth among American law schools. The methodology had rankers vote on head-to-head comparisons of two law schools, then aggregated the paired comparisons. More than 300,000 votes were cast, the survey organizers said.

The most important message, say law school professionals such as Michigan Law's Assistant Admissions Dean Sarah Zearfoss, is for prospective students to make sure the rankings they're paying attention to measure results they actually care about.

"It's easy to remember that a particular school is number one, or number two, or number eight," said Zearfoss a 1992 Michigan Law grad. "But it's crucial for people thinking about law school to know the reality these numbers are actually meant to measure."

Annual Student Funded Fellowships Auction set for March 31
Celebrity Tae Kwon Do, chili, and bowling among items up for bid

By John Masson, Amicus editor

It’s hard to tell exactly when a copy of the Uniform Commercial Code, autographed by legendary Michigan Law Prof. J.J. White, might come in handy—but it’s impossible to imagine a world where it won’t happen someday.

Fortunately that’s the kind of rare and valuable item that’s available to those who attend this year’s Student Funded Fellowships auction March 31. The SFF auction is the main fundraiser for the Michigan Law student group that works all year to help send students to summer public service jobs that pay little or no salary.

Other items up for bid at the live auction include the chance to sample the outcome of a desperately intense chili cook-off pitting professors Scott Hershovitz and J.J. Prescott; the chance to craft a Zingerman’s Deli sandwich that will bear the winner’s name; or a two-hour lesson in Tae Kwon Do from Professor (and third-degree black belt) Len Niehoff. Those who fail to be seduced by those items may find a week-long stay in Maui, also available to the highest bidder, a better fit.

A silent auction for some items will begin at 6:30 p.m. The live auction runs from 7:30 until about 10 p.m., when the silent auction also closes.
Last year the evening—which this year features Michigan Law celebrity auctioneers such as Admissions Dean Sarah Zearfoss, professors Len Niehoff, Sherman Clark, Eve Brensike Primus and Gil Seinfeld—raised more than $65,000 to help support Michigan Law students doing summer public service work. And it’s just one method the SFF student organization uses to generate contributions. Combined with other methods, such as asking summer associates to donate a day’s pay or forego a cab ride once in a while, the group raised enough money to fund more than 70 students last summer.

"The shameful truth is, I would look forward to the SFF auction as one of my favorite nights of the year even if it accomplished nothing for anyone," Zearfoss said, only half joking. "It’s just a lovely little bonus that the trash-talking, dancing on the tables, and general horsing-around is all in service of a great cause."

More information about the Student Funded Fellowships is available on their website at

Wish You Were Here…
Share Your Law Quad Postcards With Us

We're having a great time at the Law Quad. We wish you were here. We saw this card and thought of you.

Why the postcard clichés? Because we are looking for old postcards to publish in an upcoming issue of the Law Quadrangle magazine, and we need your help. We have some old-fashioned postcards, such as the one pictured here, but we know a lot of other vintage postcards exist. If you have real-photo, linen, chrome, or other old postcards that picture the Law Quad, please contact us at Or contact us at the Law Quadrangle, 625 S. State St., Suite B38, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215. All cards will be returned once we have scanned them. Thank you for your help!

Alumni Profile
Michael J. Thomas, '96

By Becky Freligh, Development and Alumni Relations

Ever feel like the bar admission system could use an overhaul? Mike Thomas does. But for the moment, he's content with having made a small difference in Michigan.

Michigan-born Thomas passed his home state bar exam after Law School graduation, then opted to live and work in the sunnier climate of the Southwest.

Thomas thought he'd never be back. But in 2008 he returned to his undergrad alma mater, Wayne State University in Detroit, to earn an LL.M. in taxation and to help his mother. And he figured he'd pick up some legal work to help pay the bills.

Then he learned he'd have to take the Michigan bar exam—again.

The issue: Thomas had resigned from the Michigan bar in 2003, due to a new rule from the Michigan Supreme Court requiring all members—even those listed as inactive practitioners in the state—to pay an annual membership fee. The rule also stated that anyone who resigned would have to pass the bar exam again to be readmitted.

And that rule, Thomas learned in 2008, trumped a rule from the Michigan Board of Law Examiners allowing lawyers with sufficient practice experience in other states to be admitted to the bar on motion alone.

"I thought it was illegal," says Thomas, who had practiced for 12 years by then. "It just didn't seem right to me that someone with more practice experience than the rule requires and who had already passed the bar should have to take it again."

Ironically, Thomas had not only passed two other bar exams (Arizona and New Mexico), he had published a journal article in 2000 calling for a national bar exam as the next major reform of the bar admission system. He had also graded essays answers several times for the New Mexico Board of Bar Examiners.

So in February 2009 he retook and passed the Michigan bar. In June 2010 he filed suit in Federal court against the State Bar of Michigan and the Board of Law Examiners, claiming the Michigan Supreme Court rule resulted in an unconstitutional violation of equal protection.

The case ended in December, not with a bang but a stipulated order giving the Michigan Supreme Court the chance to revisit the rule, which will happen in May following a comment period. Thomas, now a senior attorney with the Carrillo Law Firm, P.C., in Las Cruces, New Mexico, says the order followed an entirely amicable conversation he had with counsel for the Michigan state bar and the assistant state attorney general. He predicts the Michigan Supreme Court will change the rule, and he's happy with the result.

"I feel it was worth doing," he says. "Even though it only affected a few people, I wanted to remind them that anytime they amend a bar rule, even for a good motive, they need to make sure it's legal."

In the News

Prof. Mark West quoted in Slate story on myths, realities behind Japanese poise amid multiple and simultaneous catastrophes.

Just when a reporter from The Wall Street Journal anoints him boss of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Prof. Michael Barr bursts the bubble—and adds a warning.

1986 grad Lettie Carr tells The Washington Examiner what it's like to be the only full-time chaplain at the 800-inmate Maryland Correctional Institute for Women.

1987 grad Nancy (Hammar) Torresen nominated to federal bench in Maine.

Barbara McQuade, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan and a1991 MLaw grad, writes in Detroit Free Press about health care fraud.

Prof. Nicholas Bagley puts some honey in's Hive, on the effect listing calorie counts inside chain restaurants will likely have on the ever-growing American bottom, er, line.

Oregon Court of Appeals Judge Darleen Ortega, '89, honored for promoting minorities in the legal profession.

The Detroit News quotes Dana Thompson in story about warming centers.

Construction Update

Wondering how construction on the new academic building is progressing? Take a look at our up-to-the-second webcam.

Distinguished Alumni Program

Michigan Law invites your nominations for its Distinguished Alumni Program. Visit us online for more information.

Coming Up

March 31: Student Funded Fellowships annual auction

April 1-2: "We Must First Take Account:" A Conference on Race, Law, and History in the Americas

May 7: Senior Day, featuring Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, '84


Have a story of interest to fellow alumni? Contact Amicus editor John Masson, Media Relations Officer for Michigan Law, at or call 734.647.7352.