Peter Cunningham Named Next Executive Director of SBM

Peter Cunningham Named Next Executive Director of SBM

Peter CunninghamJan. 21, 2022

Peter Cunningham was selected as the sixth executive director of the State Bar of Michigan by the Board of Commissioners on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Cunningham, who previously served as assistant executive director, will oversee the day-to-day operations of the State Bar, implement policies set by the Board of Commissioners and the Representative Assembly, and direct the efforts of State Bar staff in his role as executive director.

His appointment begins March 1. Cunningham succeeds Janet Welch, who is retiring from the position she has filled since 2007.

Cunningham joined the State Bar in 2012 as director of governmental relations and assumed the responsibilities of assistant executive director in 2015. He has an extensive career in public service in Michigan, including serving as chief of staff to the speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives. Immediately prior to coming to the Bar, Cunningham was executive director of the Michigan Campaign for Justice, a nonprofit created to promote improvement in Michigan's public defense system.   

SBM President Dana Warnez, who led the executive director search committee through an extensive 8-month national search process, said, "I am confident that Peter's experience, intelligence, integrity, and familiarity with state government and the legal community will serve the State Bar, our members, and the public well.” Warnez praised the search process and the high quality of the candidates for the position. “I am very grateful to the extraordinary efforts of the search committee and to the Board of Commissioners, who performed the difficult task of selecting the best candidate from a number of very impressive, highly qualified applicants,” 

As assistant executive director, Cunningham has served on the executive leadership team at the State Bar for seven years. He directly oversees operations and policy for the State Bar including the organization’s finance, governance, communications, government relations, and research teams. 

"I can't imagine any work more satisfying than helping improve our system of justice and the provision of legal services," Cunningham said. "The State Bar of Michigan has been a leader in those efforts, thanks to outstanding leadership, an engaged legal community, and an exceptional staff. I am humbled and excited to be able to contribute to that work as executive director."

Cunningham earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and government from Juniata College and his master’s degree in anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He moved to Michigan in 1996 to further pursue his studies in anthropology at Michigan State University.

Cunningham lives in Okemos with his wife, Cathy Bacile Cunningham, and their two children, Harper and Owen.