Grand Rapids native Spielmaker wins Ingham Liberty Bell Award


From Cooley Law School reports

Heather Spielmaker, director of Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s Center for Ethics, Service and Professionalism, received the Ingham County Bar Association’s (ICBA) Liberty Bell Award for her work helping members of the military receive legal assistance through Cooley Law School’s Service to Soldiers: Legal Assistance Referral. Spielmaker founded the program in 2007 and continues to oversee it.

The award was presented at the ICBA annual dinner on Nov. 2. The Liberty Bell Award is the bar’s highest honor given to a non-lawyer. It recognizes those who have given outstanding service by giving their time and energy to strengthen the effectiveness of the American system of freedom under law, in keeping with the spirit of our Constitution. The ICBA award qualifies Spielmaker for the State Bar of Michigan’s Liberty Bell Award competition.

“I’m honored to receive the Liberty Bell Award,” said Spielmaker, a Grand Rapids native who now resides in Charlotte. “The Service to Soldiers Program would not be the success that it is if it were not for the countless hours that so many attorneys and Cooley faculty, staff and students have donated to benefit those who serve our country.”

The nationally recognized Service to Soldiers Program uses law students under the supervision of licensed attorneys to assist judge advocates general and military staff, who brief deploying service men and women on their rights under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Service to Soldiers  trains attorneys to offer pro bono services to members of our military.

The program also secures no-cost legal representation for low-income military personnel who have risked their lives for our country. To date, more than 300 returning Michigan service men and women have received free legal representation through this program, and more than 3000 legal documents have been drafted at no cost to soldiers who are being or have been deployed. In 2011 the Service to Soldiers Program expanded into Florida.

“Heather epitomizes the criteria for this award,” said Frank Reynolds, attorney, Foster Swift Collins & Smith PC, who nominated her. “Because of the excellent reputation Heather has built for Cooley’s Service to Soldiers Program and the collaborations she has fostered with the American Bar Association’s Military Pro Bono Project, she has evolved into a leading educator on law school military assistance.”

“I can think of no better person to receive this award,” said Amy Timmer, associate dean and professor, Cooley Law School. “...[W]ithout Heather’s commitment, hundreds of Michigan service members would not have received the help they have.”