Western Michigan University Cooley Law School is an American Bar Association accredited law school. Cooley has four campuses. Its main campus is in Lansing, Michigan and its satellite campuses are in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Auburn Hills, Michigan, and Tampa, Florida. It has an employment score of 22.9%.

An affiliation between Cooley and Western Michigan University went into effect on August 13, 2014.


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The law school is named in honor of Thomas McIntyre Cooley, who was a prominent 19th-century jurist and Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. Cooley was also a dean of the University of Michigan Law School and visiting faculty at Johns Hopkins University. Thomas E. Brennan, also a former Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, led a group of lawyers and judges in establishing the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in 1972.

On July 28, 2014, the ABA and The Higher Learning Commission gave their approval to the affiliation between Cooley and Western Michigan University.

On August 13, 2014, this affiliation became official and included Cooley changing its name from "Thomas M. Cooley Law School" to "Western Michigan University Cooley Law School."


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Cooley prepares its graduates for entry into the legal profession. While most students work toward a Juris Doctor degree (J.D.), Cooley also offers the Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree. In partnership with Oakland University and Western Michigan University, respectively, Cooley offers joint degree programs in Master of Business Administration (J.D./M.B.A.) and Master of Public Administration (J.D./M.P.A.).

Degree types

Cooley awards the following types of degrees:

  • J.D.
  • J.D./M.P.A.
  • J.D./M.B.A.
  • J.D./LL.M.
  • LL.M. - Corporate Law and Finance
  • LL.M. - Homeland and National Security Law
  • LL.M. - Insurance Law
  • LL.M. - Intellectual Property
  • LL.M. - Self-Directed
  • LL.M. - Tax
  • LL.M. - U.S. Legal Studies for Foreign Attorneys


J.D. students are able to select from several concentrations (specialized areas of legal study):

  • General Practice
  • Litigation
  • Business Transactions
  • Administrative Law
  • International Law
  • Environmental Law
  • Constitutional Law and Civil Rights
  • Taxation
  • Intellectual Property
  • Canadian Practice
  • Self-Declared
  • Undeclared

Legal study outside the United States

Cooley operates programs allowing ABA-approved foreign study credit in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In addition, students are able to study at ABA-approved programs through partner law schools, including U.S. law schools operating programs in: London, England (University of Notre Dame); Oxford, England (Florida State University); Madrid, Spain (College of William and Mary); Montreal and Quebec, Canada (Pennsylvania State University); and Paris, France and Muenster, Germany.


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Cooley has been accredited by the American Bar Association since 1975 and by The Higher Learning Commission since 2001.

Clinical programs

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Cooley offers clinical programs at each campus. Students who participate in any of the Michigan clinics are allowed to practice law in Michigan under the Michigan Court Rules by representing clients in court, drafting client documents, and giving legal advice under the supervision of faculty. The Innocence Project is nationally recognized in the United States for helping free persons wrongfully incarcerated by obtaining DNA evidence and providing pro bono legal advocacy to overturn their convictions. Cooley also offers an elder law clinic, Sixty Plus, Inc., which provides free legal services to senior citizens, as well as two Public Defender's clinics, which allow students to work in the Public Defender’s office with indigent clients who are accused of committing a crime. The Access to Justice Clinic provides a general civil practice, focusing on family and consumer law. Free legal help in family law and domestic violence matters if offered at the Family Legal Assistance Project. And evening and weekend students can gain experience in the Estate Planning Clinics or the Public Sector Law Project, which provides civil legal services of a transactional, advisory, legislative or systemic nature to governments.

Cooley offers externships throughout the United States at over 2600 approved externship sites. Student externs work under the supervision of experienced attorneys, with the guidance of full-time faculty.

Cooley is currently the Executive Office of Scribes: The American Society of Legal Writers.


Cooley has a library at each of its five campuses. Legal research can be conducted at the libraries through a variety of media, including print, electronic, and multimedia sources. Reference librarians are present at each campus. The libraries have a total of about 60 staff. CoolCat is the online library catalog. The Cooley libraries collectively house roughly 670,000 volumes with an annual growth rate of more than 17,000 volumes. Cooley Law has a reciprocal agreement with both Western Michigan University and Oakland University allowing access to the materials in each institution's collections.


Cooley's Latin motto, In corde hominum est anima legis, was written in the 1970s by its founder, former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas E. Brennan. Dean Brennan had originally described the meaning as "the spirit of the law is in the heart of man"; when a female organization called the Cooley Action Team argued that the motto should also refer to "the hearts of women", Justice Brennan agreed and changed it to "The spirit of the law is in the human heart".


The total cost of attendance (indicating the cost of tuition, fees, and living expenses) at Cooley for the 2013-2014 academic year is $63,772. Law School Transparency estimated the debt-financed cost of attendance for three years to be $258,232.

Ranking and reputation

In 2006 the school received the E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award from the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Professionalism, for its program "Creating a Culture of Professionalism in Law School."

Post-graduation employment

According to data provided by Thomas M. Cooley Law School to the American Bar Association (ABA), Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, for purposes of adhering to accreditation standards set forth by the ABA, only 311 out of 1079 (28.8%) 2012 graduates obtained full-time, long term positions requiring bar admission (i.e., jobs as lawyers), 9 months after graduation. According to Cooley's official 2013 ABA-required disclosures, 22.9% of the Class of 2013 obtained full-time, long-term, JD-required employment nine months after graduation. Cooley's Law School Transparency under-employment score is 46%, indicating the percentage of the Class of 2013 unemployed, pursuing an additional degree, or working in a non-professional, short-term, or part-time job nine months after graduation.

Additionally, 215 of the 311 (69.1%) were employed in firms consisting of one to ten lawyers, 44 were employed as solo practitioners, and 171 were employed in firms of two to ten lawyers. A total of 13 graduates (1.2%) had found employment in firms of more than 100 lawyers, and two graduates (0.2%) had secured federal judicial clerkships.

Branch campuses and ABA accreditation

In 2002, when Cooley was expanding, Cooley filed a lawsuit against the American Bar Association for delaying the accreditation of its satellite campuses in Grand Rapids and Auburn Hills. Cooley was working to gain ABA accreditation since the satellite schools opened in June 2002, but had faced delays caused by disagreements on standards, resolved by a settlement of Cooley's lawsuit with the ABA, resulting in the ABA's acquiescence.

In May 2012, Cooley opened a new branch campus in Riverview, Florida, in the Tampa Bay region.

After suffering a 35% decline in enrollment across its five campuses between 2012 and 2013, Cooley announced on July 2, 2014, that it would not be enrolling first year students on its Ann Arbor campus for the Michaelmas (fall) 2014 term, but that current and transfer students could continue their studies at that campus. The announcement also called for cuts in faculty and staff. Later that month, Cooley outlined a potential transition plan in the event of campus closure. On October 3, Cooley announced it would permanently cease operations at the Ann Arbor campus on December 31, 2014.

Starting for the Michaelmas 2015 term, Cooley will offer first year classes at Western Michigan University's Kalamazoo campus.

Ranking and Judging the Law Schools

Cooley is shown as "Rank Not Published" in the U.S. News & World Report listing of law schools. Cooley is ranked second in the twelfth edition of Judging the Law Schools, which is published by Cooley.

Cooley relies heavily on its library statistics in its own Judging the Law School rankings. Specifically, Cooley has 10 library-based statistics in its 2010 rankings, which included separate entries for the total square footage in the library, the seats available in the library, the amount of hours the library is open, the total number of volumes in the library, the total number of titles in the library, the number of librarians, the total hours that staff works in the library, and several other library-based criteria. Cooley has been subject to intense criticism and backlash for assigning equal value of these library-based statistics to far more important factors such as bar passage rate and percentage of graduates employed following graduation.

Defamation lawsuit by Cooley

In July 2011, Cooley filed a defamation lawsuit against the law firm Kurzon Strauss, LLP and four anonymous bloggers after they claimed the school was inflating its post-graduation employment statistics and was under federal investigation for its student loan default rate. The firm retracted the statements, but maintained the school used "'Enron-style' accounting techniques" to manipulate their jobs-placement data. In September 2013, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Jonker dismissed the lawsuit, stating that Cooley classified as a limited purpose public figure and did not provide adequate evidence the defendants acted with actual malice. The court further noted "the statement that 'Cooley grossly inflates its graduates' reported mean salaries' may not merely be protected hyperbole, but actually substantially true."

Class action against Cooley

In August 2011, a class-action lawsuit by 12 Cooley graduates was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan, alleging fraud and misrepresentation about Cooley's published employment information concerning its graduates. The school responded by filing a motion to dismiss. On July 20, 2012, Judge Gordon Jay Quist granted the motion, concluding: "The bottom line is that the statistics provided by Cooley and other law schools in a format required by the ABA were so vague and incomplete as to be meaningless and could not reasonably be relied upon. But, as put in the phrase we lawyers learn early in law schoolâ€"caveat emptor." The judge further noted that "it [was] unreasonable for Plaintiffs to rely on two bare-bones statistics" in deciding to attend Cooley as it is "widely accepted that American law schools, Cooley included, employ all sorts of legerdemain to boost employment rates in a contracting legal market."

Faculty and staff layoffs

In August 2014, Associate Dean James Robb announced that Cooley had begun laying off faculty and staff at all its campuses. A JD Journal article claims that the layoffs will exceed 50%, but James Robb denied this claim. Cooley had experienced a drop in enrollment of over 40% in recent years and had raised tuition by 9 percent.

Notable faculty

  • Spencer Abraham â€" former United States Senator and United States Secretary of Energy
  • Robert Holmes Bell â€" District Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan
  • John Warner Fitzgerald â€" former Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court (deceased)
  • Philip J. Prygoski â€" constitutional law expert and author, American Law Institute Member
  • John N. Scott â€" author of Evidence Illustrated: Cases to Illustrate How All the Rules Work
  • Joseph Kimble â€" author of Lifting the Fog of Legalese: Essays on Plain Language, named by the Burton Awards for Legal Achievement as a drafting consultant for the rewritten Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

Notable alumni

  • John Engler â€" former Governor of Michigan
  • Chris Chocola â€" former Representative from Indiana's 2nd congressional district
  • Jon Cooper â€" Head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Anthony H. Gair â€" New York City attorney who represented the family of Amadou Diallo in a case against the New York City Police Department
  • Mark Grisanti â€" Buffalo, New York New York State Senator, 60th District
  • Chris Hazel â€" Louisiana House of Representative since 2008
  • Joseph Lagana â€" New Jersey General Assemblyman
  • Charles Macheers â€" Kansas House of Representatives representing the 39th district.
  • Edward Mermelstein â€" New York City real estate attorney
  • Nicholas Scutari- New Jersey State Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman
  • Bart Stupak â€" former Representative from Michigan's 1st congressional district
  • Rashida Tlaib â€" the first Arab-Muslim woman elected to the Michigan House of Representatives
  • Ruby Makiyama - House of Councillors of the National Diet of Japan


External links

  • Western Michigan University Cooley Law School website

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