University of Michigan Law School - September 2010 Amicus


Reinstating the death penalty in states like Michigan that have banned it doesn’t take account of the estimated 3-5 percent of convicts later proven to be innocent, Prof. Bridget McCormack, Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs and co-founder of the Innocence Clinic, tells FOX2 News.


Edgy Law School information campaign emphasizes Law Library resources -- and alumni can benefit, too.

Prima Facie

One highlight of a busy summer construction season: July 1’s topping out ceremony for the Law School’s new academic building.

Distinguished Alumni Program

Michigan Law is starting a Distinguished Alumni Award program. Nominations are being accepted now. For details, or to nominate someone, please visit the DAA site.

Where in the World Are You?

Dora-Maria Sonderhoff, assistant director of admissions for the advanced legal studies degree programs, is launching a new newsletter by and for Michigan Law’s international alumni. Whether you started life overseas or found yourself there after law school, she wants to hear your stories. Email ideas to

A Hunger for Munger
Law School benefactor dispenses candid wisdom during "A Conversation With Charlie Munger"

By John Masson, Amicus editor

An appearance by Berkshire Hathaway vice-chairman Charlie Munger drew several hundred people to campus September 14 for a two-hour dose of a Munger specialty: the unvarnished truth.

Never known for his reticence, the force of nature behind Poor Charlie's Almanack and key advisor to Warren Buffett left the crowd of mostly law and business students laughing. But he also left them with some sobering ideas to chew on: Employment isn't likely to improve in the near term, in his opinion, and the real estate situation probably will get worse, at least in some sectors. The housing crisis was orchestrated by "idiots and knaves ... making a fortune on shoddy mortgages." Meantime, the "adults" in the room at the time (that's you, accountants) didn't act.

"It's their duty under God, and they failed us terribly," Munger, 86, said of the green eyeshade crowd. And the crooked dealmakers on Wall Street? "You can't blame the tiger for being a tiger. But we need a gamekeeper."

The conversation was moderated by CNBC anchor Becky Quick and punctuated with questions from some of the several hundred students, faculty, and interested onlookers who crowded Blau Auditorium at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. Munger, whose $3 million gift in 2007 paid for lighting and electrical upgrades throughout Hutchins Hall and the Reading Room, was introduced by Law School Dean Evan Caminker. University President Mary Sue Coleman spoke briefly, and Ross School Dean Robert Dolan, fund manager and investor Li Lu, and business leaders John Conlin (MBA ’83) and Peter Kaufman also were in attendance.

Clearly, though, the star of the show was Munger. Like partner Warren Buffett, the 86-year-old investment wizard draws what he calls "groupies," shareholders who fly in from all over to hear what he has to say.

Among the assertions: Sure, the idea of making fuel from corn was "asinine," but that doesn’t mean renewable energy – especially solar energy – isn’t the future. And there’s still time for Americans to embark on "the biggest infrastructure campaign imaginable" to build what we need for the shift to solar power. Even borrowing the money to create the necessary infrastructure is a worthy idea, Munger said, because it's obviously better than "just shoveling money at people." 

Some of Munger's statements were decidedly counterintuitive, coming from someone so near the top of the economic food chain. For example: "I think my taxes are a little too low." Others seemed surprising based on Munger’s self-identification as a Republican:  "My only objection to (Wall Street uber-watchdog) Elizabeth Warren, who is not in my political party, is that she's not tough enough."

Other assertions were just, well, righteous: "I don't believe in hoarding gold. Even if you succeed, you're a jerk." 

The ultimate question for many revolved around the anemic state of the current economy. Munger's answer was characteristic: Do what generations of Americans have always done when the economy sours: "Keep your head down and do your best."

It fell to an anonymous 2L near the end of the program to ask the question at the back of everybody's mind: Is this generation up to the task of rebuilding American prosperity?

Yes, Munger answered. It's a different mix of people in America these days, but they're plenty smart enough for the challenge.

Oh, and one more thing: "This is hog heaven compared to the 30s.

Video of the remarks; or check out a slideshow of the event.

Here Comes the Sun

Solar power is a family affair for Sam Field, a 1977 Law School grad – and so is the University of Michigan, where his wife and son also studied. Field’s Kalamazoo-area solar farm – Michigan’s largest – was documented in a recent edition of Michigan’s LSAWire, an online publication of the School of Literature, Science, and the Arts. More...

Alumni Profile: Roopal R. Shah, ’95

By Becky Freligh, Law School Development

When the University of Michigan hosts a 50th anniversary celebration of the Peace Corps on campus next month, the speakers on international service will include Roopal R. Shah, '95.

It probably wouldn't surprise Shah's classmates that the inaugural recipient of the Dean’s Exceptional Service Award keeps service at the center of her life. But she insists the process of committing to service as a career path has been gradual, and not without internal resistance.

Still, she adds, "I realize that the direction I'm headed is the direction I need to be going."

Shah's most recent professional venture is Indicorps, an eight-year-old nonprofit organization that brings young people of Indian origin to India to work on community development projects. She co-founded (and co-funded) Indicorps with her sister, Sonal, and her brother, Anand, as a natural extension of their family's tradition of giving back to the community.

With the motto "Service for the Soul," Indicorps is aimed as much at personal transformation for its participants as at doing good in India.

"What we do best is to get young people to see their potential as change makers and attempt to do something about it," says Shah. "Even if they go back to a traditional career, it's having them think differently about what's possible."

Dedicated as ever to Michigan Law, she took the Law School's Alumni Service Day program international last May, leading a group to clean a park in Ahmedabad, India. Though Shah was the only participant with a Michigan connection, she viewed the day as a success and says she'll try again next year.

Shah came to law school with political aspirations—not to become President of the United States, because she wasn’t born in the U.S., "but to get as far as I could," she recalls. "While I was pretty nontraditional as a student, I was really traditional in terms of what I understood my options to be."

Former dean of students Susan M. Eklund, '73, says the former Law School Student Senate president was as compassionate as she was competitive. "Roopal was one of those law students who were really open to understanding the other person’s point of view," says Eklund, with whom Shah worked to establish Service Day as part of the 1L orientation program.

After graduation, Shah did a judicial clerkship in Hawaii, litigated in the Washington office of Shearman & Sterling, and worked as a prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney's office in San Diego. Outside the office she continued to pursue her passion for community service and, while in California anyway, surfing.

Twice during her years as Indicorps' executive director, Shah has returned to the U.S. to try more traditional legal work, and both times, feeling unfulfilled, she has returned to India. On August 1 she stepped down from the Indicorps post, open to whatever comes next, whether that’s running a surf shop or a grass-roots project in India.

"I'm excited," she says, "because for the first time in a really long time, I don't feel the pressure of proving myself. I don't feel like I need to make an upward career move. I see it as a real learning opportunity."

When Shah speaks of values, Gandhi's name surfaces with some regularity. But asked about people who have inspired her, she's as likely to mention the judge she clerked for, her parents, Eklund, former law-firm colleagues, even the custodial staff at the Law School.

"There's a lot of goodness out there, and a lot of good to learn from, but I don't need an icon," she says. "I need to find my own way. Each of us has our own path to truth."

In the News

The New Republic turns to Prof. Nina Mendelson to explain the recent stem cell ruling.

The Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog takes a close look at the scholarly work on online privacy done by Ryan Calo, ’06, a senior research fellow at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law.

The Detroit Free Press seeks Prof. Eve Brensike Primus’ take on the recent Supreme Court decision affecting Miranda.

Venture capital firm of Chris Rizik, ’86, raises $50 million in private money for reinvestment in Michigan.

1991 grad Bryan Christy sheds light on a notorious wildlife smuggler in September’s National Geographic magazine.

Third Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Anthony J. Scirica, ’65, honored by U.S. Supreme Court, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Prof. Jim Hathawayargues in an op-ed in Canada’s National Post that governments act dishonestly when they vilify non-coercive human smuggling.

Prof. Reuven Avi-Yonah tells The Wall Street Journal that higher taxes for companies may not mean an inevitable cut in dividends.

Prof. Jill Horwitz talks in USA Today about converting non-profit hospitals into for-profit enterprises.

Prof. Vivek Sankaran helps explain to why most of us aren’t allowed to intervene and take a child from someone we think is an abusive parent.

Prof. David Uhlmann, in an AP story about the BP spill, says the magnitude of the disaster means a quicker end to the investigation – but don’t expect findings until sometime in 2011.

The Philadelphia Inquirer talks to Michigan law grad and Vietnam vet Christopher Walters ’67 about what motivates him to provide pro bono representation of Guantanamo prisoners.

1993 LLM grad Lourdes Serena appointed to Supreme Court in the Philippines.

1985 grad Chuck Greenberg teams up with retired fireballer Nolan Ryan to buy the Texas Rangers, ESPN reports.

Prof. Steve Sanders, a Mayer Brown appellate and Supreme Court associate and Michigan Law adjunct, interviews a John Paul Stevens biographer for SCOTUSblog.

The Indiana Lawyer reports that 1948 graduate Irving L. Fink is still hard at work in Indianapolis.

1984 grad and Michigan law adjunct Prof. Len Niehoff elected to board of National Association of College and University Attorneys.

Construction Update

HALFWAY HOME: The Law School’s construction projects made great leaps over the summer. Read about what’s next here.

Coming Up

There’s still time to sign up!

Sept. 24-26: Classes of 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, and 2005.

Oct. 15-17: Classes of 1960, 1965, 1970, 1975, and 1980 and all classes from 1959 and earlier.


Oct. 1-2: MLaw and Peking University present 5th Annual Tax Conference.

Oct. 22-23: "Antitrust and the Wider Economy," co-sponsored by MLaw and Tilburg University.


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.