Dual role-- UDM-Law Associate Dean finds academia to his liking

By John Minnis

Legal News

Gary Maveal, associate dean and tenured professor at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, has made a startling discovery:

"Students are getting younger and younger."

Or perhaps Maveal, 56, is just getting older.

He has also made another observation:

"What is striking is how expensive law school is and how much students take in loans these days. Nowadays, students can be in hock up to $100,000," says Maveal, who graduated summa cum laude from UDM School of Law in 1981 while supporting a new family. "It was less dicey back then."

Maveal hadn't intended on a career as an academic.

Born in Monroe as one of eight children, Maveal grew up in Allen Park. While at Wayne State, he married his high school sweetheart in 1974 and graduated with a degree in political science in 1977. He enrolled in the U-D School of Law, where he spent his last year clerking for Wayne County Circuit Judge Susan Borman, attending night school while his wife expected their first child.

After earning his law degree in 1981, he clerked for one more year for Borman before moving on to U.S. District Court Judge James Churchill's court, where he clerked for two years.

"It was a great eye-opener working for Judge Churchill," Maveal says. "He was a great guy."

He then joined the U.S. Attorney's Office in 1984 under Leonard Gillman, working his first two years in the appellate division. While with the U.S. Attorney, Maveal became an expert in the emerging field of drug forfeiture.

"That was a growth industry in the late 1980s with the Department of Justice," he recalls, noting that as an instructor he traveled all over the country teaching forfeiture procedure.

Maveal worked under three U.S. attorneys: Gillman, Joel Shere and Roy Hayes. He also had some good bosses.

"I had two great supervisors there," he says, "Maura Corrigan - I learned a lot about writing and editing from Maura--and Mike Wicks, longtime chief of the criminal division here in Detroit."

After four years, Maveal became restless.

"I started looking around at law firms," he says. "I fell into teaching when I came to the law school to talk to professors about firms to go to."

When he started teaching at UDM School of Law, Maveal's first office was that vacated by G. Mennen "Soapy" Williams, who died Feb. 2, 1988. The former governor's books and personal items had not yet been removed.

"It was pretty awesome to land in his office," Maveal recalls. "It was great."

Along with teaching civil procedures and evidence, Maveal served as dean of student affairs for three years before becoming director of the Urban Law Clinic for a couple of years. The experience had a lasting impact.

"That was a very eye-opening experience for me, working with the legal agencies in the city," he says. "It changed the way I teach my classes. Since the clinic experience, I share much more with my students about the real world out there and the lack of legal services (for the poor), which has not changed for the better, I think."

Some years later, in 2006, he wrote a history of the Detroit Legal Aid Bureau, which was published in The Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice. He hopes that by sharing his experiences, some students might be inclined to provide civil assistance to those who can't afford an attorney.

"It's not like criminal cases where you have a right to an attorney," he says. "I hope it impacts the students to help provide people with lawyers on the civil side."

Maveal also finds satisfaction as faculty advisor to the student chapters of the American Constitution Society and the National Lawyers Guild.

"I try to put a faculty face on that group and encourage students who have that bent to join," he says of the progressive National Lawyers Guild. "That's a fulfilling exercise because all students aren't out for a business practice."

Since 1990, Maveal has administered the American Inns of Court Program at UDM School of Law. Monthly, volunteer lawyers and judges, including federal Judges Julian Cook Jr. and Patrick Duggan, take third-year law students through court procedures, civility and client relationship issues.

"A lot of lawyers get a kick out of helping students," Maveal says. "It is strictly voluntary on the lawyers and judges' part."

Maveal takes pride in his role as "honorary coach" of the UDM law school's ice hockey team. For four or five years the UDM and Wayne State Law School ice hockey teams have competed in the Skate for Justice Tournament in March. The winner gets the coveted "Justice Cup," and proceeds from ticket sales go to the State Bar of Michigan's Access to Justice program.

"Our boys have a good time with that," Maveal says.

Even though law school is much more expensive these days, Maveal believes students are getting much more in the way of practical education, including four law clinics, the Law Firm Program that offers courses that simulate law practice settings and the Joint Degree Program with the University of Windsor School of Law.

"It's a unique, if expensive, three-year program," says Maveal of the Joint Degree Program with Windsor. "It's part of the culture here."

Among Maveal's four children "in various stages of education," only one, his first son, wants to be a lawyer. He is in his second year in night school at the UDM School of Law. His second son is an undergraduate at UDM's McNichols campus. The oldest daughter is a nurse, and his youngest is in her first year at Marquette University. Maveal's wife is a parent teacher and storyteller in the library and schools in their hometown of Chelsea.

Maveal says among the best things about UDM School of Law are the students' access to faculty and the students themselves.

"The faculty's offices are right next to the classrooms," he says of the downtown Detroit campus. "We're blessed with a good student body. We have good camaraderie around here. It's competitive, but we have pretty good morale across the student body."

It doesn't hurt that professors like Maveal are passionate about what they do.

"It's a great privilege to stand before a classroom of students," he says. "It's humbling. You have to not allow your political views to take over. You can't allow that to infect the class."

As for his role as associate dean of academic affairs under Dean Lloyd Semple's leadership, Maveal has high praise for the head of the UDM School of Law.

"Lloyd is a very skilled administrator," Maveal says of the former chairman and CEO of Dykema Gossett. "When he needs my help, I'm here."

Published: Mon, Feb 8, 2010