In private practice, US Army veteran Sam Nuxoll, ’16, relished being “the family’s lawyer.” Today, as an associate general counsel at U-M, his work supports a much bigger family: his alma mater and the myriad people, programs, and projects that are bolstered through gifts from its alumni and friends.

Nuxoll first came to Ann Arbor as a summer starter at the Law School following nearly a decade of military service. He initially went into private practice and later took on a yearlong post with the US Army Reserve overseas, before returning to U-M this year as an associate general counsel. 

Michigan became a home base for Nuxoll and his wife, Eliza, to raise their three children after many years of military-related travel. Nuxoll, who came from a military family, joined the US Army in 2005 and became an intelligence officer. He spent 15 months in Iraq and one year in Afghanistan over the course of nine years on active duty. 

A veteran-friendly home at Michigan Law

Nuxoll decided to leave active service and study law in 2014. He chose U-M in part because of its friendliness to veterans, including its participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which pays graduate school tuition and fees that are not covered by the current GI Bill. Once he was accepted, the family decided to stay in Michigan for the long term, finding the area and the general “vibe” to be exactly what they were looking for. 

Finding a new way to serve through trusts and estates practice

As a student, Nuxoll interned in U-M’s Office of the Vice President and General Counsel, where he was first exposed to the type of legal work he wanted to pursue: trusts and estates. Upon graduation, he eschewed both transactional law and litigation work in favor of the trusts and estate practice at Miller Canfield. 

For a service-oriented individual, the work resonated. “One of the things I found really rewarding about the practice is this idea of being the family's lawyer,” said Nuxoll. “They invite you to their house, and you sit around their table and you talk about their life, their kids and grandkids and what they value. They bring you into their circle of trust in a way that's really meaningful to me and that I really enjoyed.”

From the US Army Reserve to U-M’s Office of General Counsel

In 2021, the Army Reserve asked Nuxoll to take on a limited-term assignment in the United Kingdom. While overseas, he found that while he had missed certain aspects of government service, he was ready to return to civilian life. When he was contacted by his former colleagues at Michigan about a position that opened up, he jumped at the opportunity. 

Fresh on the job as an associate general counsel, Nuxoll uses his estate planning knowledge to advise U-M development professionals working with donors and alumni to document their charitable gifts to the University. “One of the things that I love about the University of Michigan is all the history that it has and its incredibly strong and passionate alumni base around the world,” he said. 

“And especially now where so little of our funding comes from the state, so much is dependent on support from alumni and other donors: they really are the lifeblood that makes it all possible,” Nuxoll added. “It makes it really easy and exciting to show up to work every day and do what I can to support the schools and programs in the innovative work that they're doing.” 

Representing donors’ interests through cross-campus collaboration

Charitable giving at the University requires a coordinated effort, and much of Nuxoll’s daily work is related to risk management. Collaborating with system-wide fund development teams, he ensures that the donor’s purpose and intent are clear, so that the gift can be properly administered—even decades into the future. To aid with proper expenditure of the funds, his office liaises with deans from various colleges, finance professionals, and other stakeholders, as well as external lawyers who represent the donor’s interests. 

“Any time I go to a new position, I want to leave it better than it was when I found it. I’m excited to look at our systems and processes with a fresh eye, and figure out how we can make them work better for everyone,” Nuxoll said. “In the military, I was accustomed to taking on a new role every 15 months. But I expect to be here a lot longer than that.”