Steady Hand: OCBF president helps build upon organization's success

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By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

Some four months into her presidency of the Oakland County Bar Foundation, Lynn Capp Sirich is now “carrying the torch” for an organization that over the past year has awarded more than $330,000 in grants to various worthwhile legal causes in the community.

The torch, in fact, is symbolic of a re-branding effort by the Foundation to “increase public awareness of who we are and what we do,” according to Sirich, a partner with Dickinson Wright in Troy, where she specializes in family law.

“The torch is part of our logo and is evidence of our commitment to continue the important work of providing access to justice and to developing a better understanding of the law among citizens,” said Sirich. “We’re also becoming more active in social media to create greater awareness of our work and our mission.”

The Foundation’s chief fundraiser each year is its “Signature Event,” a gala reception and strolling dinner staged annually in the spring. Last year was the 20th edition of the event, which generated more than $238,000 in revenue from sponsorships and ticket sales. Since 2002, the Foundation has contributed more than $2.5 million to legal assistance and education programs.

“Traditionally we have received tremendous support for the Signature Event from the legal and business communities,” said Sirich. “Their generosity has enabled us to expand our grant-making to help fund various programs and legal initiatives.”

Among the 2018-19 grant recipients, Sirich indicated, were the Legal Aid & Defender Association, CARE House, the Family Law Assistance Program (FLAP), Michigan Center for Civic Education, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law clinics, the Estate Planning Clinic, and the Southwest Detroit Immigrant and Refugee Center (SWDIRC).

“Oakland County is a critical location for SWDIRC as Oakland County has the highest percentage of immigrant residents of the five counties comprising Metropolitan Detroit,” Sirich wrote in the October issue of LACHES, the Oakland County Bar Association’s monthly publication.

Sirich noted that the Pontiac office of the SWDIRC serves a “high proportion of Hispanic individuals and many members of the staff and volunteers speak Spanish,” enabling them to assist with visa and asylum matters.

“The clinic also handles family law matters including custody and parenting time, and also assists with obtaining passports,” Sirich added. “The Pontiac Legal Clinic will serve approximately 240 clients in 2019 and provide follow-up service to approximately 50 percent of those clients.”

The OCBF, which traces its roots to the 1930s when it helped fund a law library for Oakland County, has enjoyed a strong partnership with the Oakland County Bar Association since 1999. Over that time, the Foundation has continued to develop its Fellows Program, which annually attracts upward of 40 new members, providing another stream of revenue for the organization, Sirich indicated.

An OCBF “Fellow,” according to Sirich, is designated by a pledge of $1,000. Other levels of giving, ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 payable over a 10-year period, also help fund the Oakland Bar Foundation’s many worthwhile programs.

In addition, the OCBF has made strides in recent years to develop a legacy program, where it becomes a designated beneficiary in estate plans. The program is seen as a key element in helping the OCBF build its endowment fund, Sirich said.

An alumna of Michigan State University, Sirich will play a key role in the 26th Annual Youth Law Conference, scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 12 at the MSU Management Education Center on Square Lake Road in Troy.
The program helps educate high school juniors and seniors “about career options in the legal profession,” while also exploring the general legal process and issues especially pertinent to students. Among this year’s topics are “10 Things to Remember When Confronted by Police,” “Healthy Relationships and Dating Violence,” “Changes in Michigan’s Marijuana Law,” and “Careers in the Courtroom.”

Sirich’s career path may have been forged as a teenager, thanks in large part to her mother, Mickey.

“My mom is one of the smartest people I know and is not easily fooled,” said Sirich, who earned her juris doctor from the former Detroit College of Law. “I had a knack for arguing my case growing up, but I seldom got the better of my mom.”

As a case in point, Sirich pointed to a time when she and several friends told their parents that they planned to head over to Detroit’s Greektown for dinner one evening. In fact, it served as cover for their real plans to cross the border into Windsor, where the legal drinking age was lower.

“When I got home, my mom started grilling me about our ‘dinner’ in Greektown, asking me all sorts of questions about our night out and whether anything unusual happened while we were there. When I said ‘no,’ she told me all about one of the Greektown restaurants burning down that evening and that the story was all over the nightly news. Needless to say, I had a lot of explaining to do over that.”

Now in her 27th year of private practice, Sirich has carved a well-earned reputation as one of the finest family law attorneys in Metro Detroit. Among her admirers is former Oakland County Circuit Judge Wendy Potts, who now serves as a mediator with the Detroit office of JAMS (Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services).

“On my first day after retiring from the bench, I received a call from Lynn,” Potts related. “She invited me to join her for lunch. We spent several hours together as she helped me focus on my plans for life going forward. She had excellent suggestions and, of course, also made me laugh a lot. Lynn is fun to be around and her joy is contagious.”

Sirich, said Potts, also possesses a special “skill of solving a problem and meeting it head on” for the benefit of her clients.

“I have observed this firsthand as she advises and comforts her divorce clients who have complex problems and are at a fragile time of their lives,” Potts added. “The Bar Foundation, Lynn’s clients, and her family are in the hands of a very capable and exceptional person.”

A native of Grosse Pointe and one of three children, Sirich was raised in a family with a strong Italian heritage. Her father, Benjamin Capp, and her uncle, Stanley, helped run Wolverine Stone Co., a business founded in 1923 by Sirich’s grandfather. The company is now headed by Sirich’s brother, Ron, the third generation of her family to lead the business.

While a student at MSU, Sirich worked for a time in Congressman David Bonior’s office when the well-known Democrat served as Minority Whip. The experience served her well when she enrolled in law school, where she was a member of the law review at DCL, which is now known as Michigan State University College of Law.

Upon graduation from law school, Sirich spent the first eight years of her career working for firms in Mt. Clemens and Grosse Pointe before joining Miller Canfield for the next 17 years. She has been a partner with Dickinson Wright for the past 2-1/2 years.

“I really love what I do, since my practice touches so many different aspects of the law,” said Sirich. “I really enjoy being able to help people navigate their way through what can be the most difficult and stressful time of their lives. It’s very satisfying to know that I have made a difference.”

For such work, Sirich has been elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and in August was named a “2019 Women in the Law” honoree by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. In addition, she has served as president of the Wayne County Family Law Bar Association for two terms and three times has chaired the OCBA’s Golf Outing Committee.

Liz Luckenbach, a partner at Dickinson Wright who serves on the OCBA and OCBF boards, has the perspective to view Sirich in a special light.

“Lynn is my Louise and I am her Thelma,” said Luckenbach. “We are kindred spirits and other than my husband, the person I’d call for anything, anytime and she’d deliver. And, that trait isn’t reserved just for her friends and family, which is why she’s perfectly suited for the role of president of the OCBF. She is a giver and she does it, always, with a smile and the commitment to make things better in every life she touches.

“There couldn’t be a better personality for a family law attorney than Lynn’s,” Luckenbach added. “She has the kindness, compassion and instincts that people going through divorce need – the mastery of the substance is a given. She knows when to fight and when to push to settle.

“She’s one in a million.”

 

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