OCBF President helps build upon organization's success


By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

With less than a month to go in his presidency of the Oakland County Bar Foundation, Patrick McCarthy can reflect on the past year as a time of “continued success” for an organization that has awarded more than $2.27 million in grants to various worthwhile legal causes over the past 15 years.

That kind of generosity is at the heart of the OCBF’s mission, said McCarthy, who has taken up the mantle of “providing access to justice and developing a better understanding of the law” among citizens in the greater Oakland County community.

The latest chapter in that continuing effort took place in late April at the 19th Annual Signature Event, the fund-raising gala that the OCBF champions each year at Oakland Hills Country Club. This year’s event generated more than $267,000 in funds, money that the OCBF uses towards grants for various programs and organizations such as the Family Law Assistance Project, Legal Aid for Children and Families, Michigan Center for Civic Education, Southwest Detroit Immigrant and Refugee Center, the Troy Historical Society, and other deserving recipients.

“These programs can be transformative by giving people a better sense of how the law is part of everyday life, and as we head into our 20th anniversary for the event next year, we are proud to be positioned to help people learn more about different ways the law can impact them,” McCarthy said in the aftermath of the Signature Event.

McCarthy, the Litigation Group Leader of Howard & Howard in Royal Oak, has been an OCBF board member since 2013, continuing a career-long pattern of community service. His involvement with the Bar Foundation was encouraged by noted Bodman attorney Tom Tallerico, a past president of the OCBF and of The American Constitution Society’s Michigan Chapter.

“Tom was instrumental in getting me involved at a greater level,” said McCarthy, a Michigan State University alum who graduated magna cum laude from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law in 1993. “He helped set a high bar in terms of leadership for the Foundation, and it’s been an honor to serve as president of such an important organization.”

Like his presidential predecessors, McCarthy has been a strong supporter of the  “Fellows” program for the OCBF and now is helping spearhead a “Legends in the Law” initiative to formally recognize those who have made a significant impact on the legal community over the course of their careers.

“This is a project that is taking shape, and will serve to honor lawyers and non-lawyers who have made outstanding contributions to the legal community over the years,” McCarthy said.
“We envision it as a sort of legal ‘Hall of Fame’ with a class of honorees each year.”

In recent years, McCarthy has supported efforts to help the OCBF deliver its message to a wider audience through the publication of an annual report, a document designed to highlight the work of grantees. He also helped OCBF trustees through a strategic planning session to further establish the Foundation’s brand and mission for many years to come.

“We want to emphasize the importance of access to justice programs and the need to recognize how the rule of law touches our lives everyday,” McCarthy indicated.

A native of Plymouth, McCarthy seemingly was destined to become a lawyer, learning about the legal landscape from his father, James, a sole practitioner whose practice focused on probate matters and estate work. A graduate of Purdue University, he began work as an engineer with Ford Motor Co. before shifting gears to study law at Wayne State University.

“He was my mentor,” McCarthy said of his late father, whose legal career spanned 36 years, including time as a justice of the peace in Plymouth. “He was a lawyer’s lawyer.”

In a sense, the same could be said for McCarthy’s mother, Florence, who still resides in the family’s longtime home in Plymouth.

“She was my dad’s right-hand person in the law office,” McCarthy said with a gleam in his eyes. “She did everything you could do without a ‘P’ number.”

McCarthy’s older brother, James Jr., also attended Purdue, earning his Ph.D. in engineering from the Big Ten university in West Lafayette, Ind. He now serves as Chief Engineer – Vehicle Technologies and Innovation for the Vehicle Group at Eaton Corp.

 Consistently ranked among “The Best Lawyers in America,” McCarthy met his wife Beth at MSU. The couple has four sons, Daniel, Jonathan, Michael, and Andrew.

“Two (Daniel and Jon) are at MSU, while we have one (Michael) in high school and one (Andrew) in middle school,” McCarthy related. “We stay busy keeping up with all their activities.”

McCarthy played basketball, baseball, and golf in high school at Plymouth Christian, where he learned the athletic ropes in a small school setting. He remains an avid golfer, playing to a single digit handicap at Barton Hills Country Club, a renowned Donald Ross course in Ann Arbor.

Upon graduation from law school, where he was Editor-in-Chief of the Law Review, McCarthy served as a law clerk for Dorothy Comstock Riley, a two-term justice of the Michigan Supreme Court.

“It was a great two years,” McCarthy said of his clerkship. “The opportunity to work for Justice Riley was a wonderful way to begin my legal career.”

The clerkship served as a springboard to a job with Howard & Howard in 1995, then a 70-lawyer firm that has more than doubled in size today.

“We have upward of 150 attorneys now with two offices in Michigan, two in Illinois, as well as in Las Vegas and Los Angeles,” McCarthy said. “It’s been a great firm to be with as it has grown, providing me the opportunity to appear in state and federal courts across the country on behalf of our clients.”

McCarthy, former chair of the Plymouth Township Zoning Board of Appeals, heads the firm’s Litigation Group, while also serving as the Managing Member of its Ann Arbor office. His practice focuses on business and intellectual property litigation.

“I’ve learned from some of the best, which has helped sharpen my courtroom skills,” McCarthy said. “I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with some very bright lawyers over the years, and they continue to inspire me to keep learning and growing.”


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