Alumnus J. Michael Hennigan and Family Contributes $1M in Support of ‘New Day in Court’ Initiative at UArizona Law

Dec. 12, 2023
Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony

Donning his signature bow tie, a nod to the late Dean Ares, Michael Hennigan celebrates his Lifetime Achievement Award with family and Dean Miller at the College of Law ceremony in 2017.

University of Arizona alumnus J. Michael (Mike) Hennigan (JD ’70, BA ‘66), a proud double Wildcat, and his wife Phyllis Hennigan have generously donated $1 million to bolster the James E. Rogers College of Law’s advocacy program. Their impactful contribution fuels the initiative known as "A New Day in Court," dedicated to enhancing student courtrooms, establishing an endowed faculty chair of advocacy and fostering student experiential learning.

Upon completion of the construction phase, the J. Michael Hennigan Courtroom will emerge as a modernized space for students to practice their advocacy skills. For the Hennigans, this philanthropic gesture marks a poignant full-circle moment, evoking a profound sense of pride.

“The law school has always been a priority to Mike, because if it weren’t for the school, he would not have had the career he’s had,” noted Phyllis. “He has always felt that his professors should get the credit for inspiring him to be a lawyer with integrity for his clients. To support this project felt like a perfectly natural fit.”

Hennigan is a founding principal of McKool Smith Hennigan where he specialized in the litigation and trial of complex commercial cases. As lead counsel in more than 45 major jury trials in state and federal court, and lead trial counsel for plaintiffs, Hennigan has litigated judgments and settlements of more than $8 billion for his clients.

Mike Hennigan on a horse

Mike Hennigan ropes a calf as he participates in an amateur rodeo event, one of his many hobbies.

A fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, Hennigan has been consistently identified in prominent legal publications as one of the country’s top trial lawyers, including Chambers USA, Chambers Global, Who’s Who in American Law, and The Best Lawyers in America. Chambers USA ranks him among the top litigators in California and the country, describing him as a “classic trial lawyer” who is able to “see very well which elements will resonate and use the arguments to good effect.”

An active member of the University of Arizona Law community, in 2017 the college awarded him a Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his outstanding career and in 2022, he delivered the annual Peter Chase Neumann Lecture on Civil Justice where he shared lessons from his time as a top-tier trial lawyer. Hennigan also serves as a member of the College of Law’s Board of Visitors.

“To have a highly respected and skilled advocate like Mike and his family join us as a supporter speaks to the importance of creating top-of-the-line advocacy spaces for our students,” said Barbara Bergman, director of the advocacy program at University of Arizona Law. “With this remarkable gift, he is not only investing in the physical renovation of our courtroom spaces but also in the growth and development of our students' skills and opportunities. We are deeply thankful for his dedication to our program and our students' success."

“I am grateful to the Hennigans for their transformational gift to the College of Law during the Fuel Wonder campaign,” said John-Paul Roczniak, President and CEO of the University of Arizona Foundation. “By supporting the renovation of spaces within the College of Law and the expansion of its advocacy program offerings, the Hennigans are providing students with educational experiences they simply cannot find anywhere else. This gift will create opportunities and resources that will shape the academic and professional futures of students for years to come.”

The project also includes renaming the program to the Thomas Mauet Advocacy Program, in honor of Professor Emeritus and renowned trial expert Thomas Mauet, who retired as advocacy program director in 2016.

University of Arizona Law’s advocacy program prepares students for careers in the courtroom and representing clients, with a strong emphasis on experiential classes that allow students to act as litigators and try cases against each other. The program also teaches core advocacy skills such as client interviews and fact gathering that are essential for any attorney, both in and out of the courtroom.

“My hope is that current students are able to share in the rich experience I gained at Arizona Law,” explained Michael. “While much of my own training occurred outside the law school and in the courtroom, I am enthusiastic about the prospect of bringing more comprehensive preparation into the classrooms at Arizona Law.”

University of Arizona Law will officially break ground on the project in January of 2024 with an expected completion in the Fall of 2024.