UDM School of Law Announces New Downtown Facility for Renowned Legal Aid Clinic



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DETROIT —  University of Detroit Mercy School of Law finalized the purchase of a historic Detroit firehouse today, which after fully renovated, will serve as the new home for its renowned clinical program.  The School plans to open the new facility in December 2012 in conjunction with two significant milestones:  the 100th anniversary of the School’s founding, and the 47th anniversary of its first Urban Law Clinic.

The two-story facility will provide more than 6,000 square feet of space for the School’s ten legal aid clinics in downtown Detroit. Last year, UDM clinics represented 1,450 clients. In 2012, there are now ten clinics representing clients: Urban Clinic, Immigration, Mortgage Foreclosure, Veterans/Project SALUTE, Veterans Appellate, Criminal Trial, Criminal Appellate, Juvenile Appellate, Youth Justice, and Mediation Clinic.

UDM’s School of Law is the only law school in the nation to have a mobile law office that travels through Michigan and the nation, assisting veterans through Project SALUTE.

The facility is conveniently located on Larned Street, a half block from UDM’s Riverfront Campus, housing the School’s Dowling Hall. The building underwent a massive renovation that culminated in a rededication ceremony in November of 2011.

Funding for the purchase of the property, as well as the upcoming extensive renovation of the building, comes from a principal gift made by UDM alumnus Anthony A. Asher, managing partner of the law firm of Sullivan, Ward, Asher, & Patton, P.C., based in Southfield, Michigan.  Anthony Asher made the gift in memory of his brother, George J. Asher.

As the eldest child of Syrian Catholic immigrants in Detroit, George Asher became head of a large household at age 16 when both of his parents died.  Anthony, then 10 years old, looked to George as his surrogate father, and he was humbled by the sacrifices that George made for him and their siblings.

George Asher had to quit high school in order to support his family.  He earned his General Education Development degree (G.E.D.) and became a highly successful non-lawyer union negotiator for a local law firm.  At the urging of the attorneys at the firm, he completed high school and began law school at the University of Detroit in the evening program.  George died tragically in 1963 as a result of complications from hemophilia, while Anthony was a first-year law student and George was just months shy of graduating from the School of Law.  Anthony continued his studies with George’s inspiration spurring him towards success.  He went on to become the leader of one of metro-Detroit’s premier law firms.

In recognition of Anthony’s gift and the tremendous spirit and dedication of his brother, UDM will name the clinical program in the new building the George J. Asher Law Clinic Center.

Additional support for the purchase and renovation of the building came from the heirs of Walter Buhl Ford III, who were the immediate past owners of the building, and the McGregor Fund.  The building will be known as Walter Buhl Ford III Hall.  The School is in the midst of a campaign to garner additional funds for the renovation and operation of the Center.

The firehouse was built in the early-1900s and served as the base for the Detroit Fire Department’s Engine 2 for many years.  Although the building was used for many other purposes after it was sold by DFD, its historic character was preserved through spiral staircases, exterior red fire doors, and a lookout tower.  UDM Law will enhance this historic theme in its design plans.

The interior of the facility has been cleared, leaving a blank canvas for the School’s architects.  After interviewing the School’s clinical faculty, staff, and students for countless hours, they have developed a sound plan to transform the building into a state-of-the-art legal aid and education facility.  Mindful of the need to be environmentally responsible and energy efficient, the School will seek LEED certification for the Center.

“Service is one of the pillars of University of Detroit Mercy’s mission, and for 47 years UDM’s School of Law clinics have made a significant impact on the lives of many individuals in this community and across the country,” said UDM President Antoine M. Garibaldi, Ph.D. “And, as a result of this new facility, more pro bono legal services will be able to be provided through the clinics due to the generosity of donors, many of whom are dedicated UDM alumni,” he added. 

“The entire School of Law community is thrilled that we will finally have an excellent facility to house one of the oldest and best clinical programs in the country,” said UDM Law Dean Lloyd A. Semple.  “We are grateful to Anthony Asher, the children of Walter Buhl Ford III, the McGregor Fund, and others for providing the resources to undertake this wonderful project.” 

Commenting on the new facility, the director of the clinical program, C. Michael Bryce, stated, “The University of Detroit Mercy School of Law is committed to students learning how to be lawyers by giving assistance to the less fortunate.  Since 1965, clinic students have been assisting in many areas of the law with significant results.  Today, UDM Law has ten clinics and, with the addition of this wonderful legacy building, even greater assistance will be provided to the community.”

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