David Lee is a 1981 summa cum laude graduate of the University of Detroit’s Liberal Arts Honors Program. While at U of D, he was a top varsity tennis player. Before becoming an attorney, he worked as a tennis instructor and managed several Detroit area bands and musicians. David received his law degree from Wayne State University in 1986. While in law school, he was a member of Wayne’s National Trial Team and a recipient of the Barris Award for excellence in trial advocacy. He was also elected by his peers to serve on the law school’s Student Board of Governors.
David began his practice after law school clerkships at top-notch Detroit criminal defense firms. As a clerk, he worked on matters such as the “Pizza Heroin” case in New York City, United States v. Ganci, et al., 1984-CR-00236 ED NY, and the well known “Young Boys Incorporated” matters of the mid-1980’s. Both cases became models of the “mega trial”, multi-defendant drug and white collar prosecutions that would later be prevalent nationally and are now commonplace.
Upon his admission to the bar, David began taking assigned cases in what was then known as the Recorders Court of the City of Detroit. In the late 1980’s he took both retained and assigned work in Detroit’s Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, and in 1989 was appointed as a panel attorney for the Federal Court in the Eastern District of Michigan, a select group of highly-screened, well-vetted and accomplished attorneys led by Ms. Miriam Siefer, Chief Defender for the district. David proudly serves on this panel that represents indigent defendants to this day.
Throughout the 1990’s, David’s practice grew and included much more federal work, including representing defendants in dozens of multiple-defendant, multiple-count complex indictments. Many of these cases involved large-scale drug conspiracies. Others have been in the area of health care fraud, money laundering, mortgage fraud and numerous cases involving illegal immigration and marriage fraud. Many of these matters result in attempts of forfeiture and seizure of assets by the government. From 2000 through 2009, David served as the criminal defense attorney and consultant for all criminal law matters in the office of legendary Detroit attorney, A. Robert Zeff.
As David said, “Ninety percent of my work goes unnoticed. The overwhelming majority of my work is done with only my client, and maybe his or her family paying attention.” “However,” he continues, “a few times a year media attention becomes inevitable. I don’t do this to get on television or in the newspapers. The government always holds the first press conference. No one I’ve ever represented wanted to be famous for what they’re accused of, but sometimes a lawyer’s job is to deal with the press in an affable way to portray your client in the best light possible. Some of my best work may be keeping individuals out of the newspapers prior to being charged or indicted at all through early contact with state or federal prosecutors.”
David has been involved in numerous local charities throughout his career. He has organized several benefit events for Detroit’s Capuchin Soup Kitchen, acted as a fundraiser for the Michigan Association for Children with Emotional Disabilities (MACED) and has served since his career began as a pro bono legal advisor for Detroit’s Motor City Blight Busters, an organization dedicated to rebuilding Detroit’s northwest community. He is also a strong supporter of the University of Detroit as a member of the Titan Club and the President’s Cabinet.
David, who is single, spends his spare time playing and occasionally teaching tennis, and listening to all forms of music, particularly jazz, rhythm and blues and rock and roll. “It’s funny, but I’ve learned a lot about verbal communication through the music I was brought up with, and my friends that play music, act or entertain for a living.” He says, “Musicians and artists know how to use time, space and silence. I think an aware trial lawyer can apply those skills in a courtroom. Sports, especially tennis, taught me not only discipline and dedication, but how to lose and go on when things don’t go your way. There is always another point, another game, another match and another tournament. You learn to move on and continue to do your absolute best, no matter what, that’s what a good lawyer does every day, especially when you’re in trial.”
“Although I was far from a world-class tennis player, playing and teaching helped me to get an education and learn about people and places I would have never seen or known. I was fortunate and honored to participate, especially when it came to representing my school. I would not be a lawyer today without the game and those who taught me to play it, especially my coach, Al Aaron. My first law office in downtown Detroit was with two of my friends from juniors, Jeff Collins and John Brusstar, both fine lawyers I see all the time. In fact, many of my closest friends are the guys I play tennis with, some I have known for 35 years. I hope they will keep playing with me, he says laughingly, especially after they read this.”
“When it comes to music and art,” David continues, “I was literally born into it, although I have no artistic or musical talent whatsoever. I guess my identical twin brother, Matt, got all of that. My parents, aunt and uncle raised us in an environment filled with all sorts of music, books, museums, live performances, and in appreciation for artistic and intellectual freedom. Also, a love of the artists themselves and the creative process, I try to take that with me wherever I go. It has formed my life and work in tremendous ways.