Profile in Brief

Leo Stassinopoulos
Medal Winner

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Cooley Law School grad Leo Stassinopoulos was honored at the recent convocation ceremony with the Medal of Excellence from the American Bankruptcy Institute.

“I was very grateful,” he says. “I know I’ve worked hard during law school and receiving the award has meant a lot to me — it’s a meaningful way to show my academic achievement at Cooley.  I was fortunate to have a dedicated bankruptcy professor that challenged us and expected a lot from us each class.”

Stassinopoulos is the first Cooley grad to receive the award, which is presented annually to one student at each participating law school. Recipients — who also receive a one-year membership in ABI and a certificate — are selected by bankruptcy law faculty and deans.

“Leo’s academic achievements are especially noteworthy given his work and family commitments,” says Cooley Law School Dean John Nussbaumer. “Together with the real-world business experience he brings to the table, he’s an excellent prospect for any bankruptcy or business-oriented firm.”

A Farmington Hills native and 2003 grad of North Farmington High School, Stassinopoulos, graduated in 2007 from the University of Michigan with a double major in History and Political Science.

He has always worked in the family business, Leo’s Coney Island, started by his father in 1972. Stassinopoulos serves as COO and Director of Franchising, and handles general marketing and advertising, location development, interviewing of prospective franchisees, and franchisee relations. But he knew he wanted to someday attend law school. 

“I felt I needed additional challenges in my life, and that I should take advantage of the opportunity to continue my education,” he says. 

His family encouraged him to pursue his dreams. 

“I’ve always had political aspirations, and knew a law degree would certainly help should I choose to enter into politics,” he says. “I also enjoy the challenging aspects of school, and I felt law school would certainly fulfill that challenge.”

Stassinopoulos enjoyed his time at Cooley, which offered him the most flexible program to attain his law degree. 

“The flexibility has allowed me to not only get married during my program, but my wife and I recently had our first child — I’m glad I was able to grow my family during the process of obtaining my degree,” he says.  “Cooley’s flexibility was also extremely important in allowing me to continue working for Leo’s Coney Island.”

Stassinopoulos was attracted to Bankruptcy Law as an interesting niche.

“Living in Michigan, we hear in the news about all these automotive related companies that have filed for bankruptcy in recent years. I’m very interested in the reorganization efforts of these companies,” he says. “I felt that understanding bankruptcy law would certainly go a long way in my interests to represent businesses in their reorganization attempts.”

Stassinopoulos did an internship with the U.S. Department of Justice in the U.S. Trustees Office, where his supervisor was trial attorney Leslie K. Berg, also his bankruptcy professor at Cooley.

“Apart from the classroom, I really enjoyed working at the U.S. Trustees Office,” he says. “I was given interesting research assignments and I was also fortunate to be involved in a large Chapter 11 filing. I enjoy the complexities of the issues involved in handling business filings.”

Next stop is the bar exam, after which Stassinopoulos would like to practice corporate and bankruptcy law as it relates to businesses. 

“I feel my unique perspective growing up in a family business will assist me in helping my clients lay the foundation to a successful business and navigate the legal issues that arise during their operations,” he says.

Stassinopoulos, his wife, and 8-month-old daughter call Birmingham home, where he enjoys cooking, reading, and golfing.