Dropping in on WMU-Cooley’s Foreign Study Down Under – Literally!

Katie O'Grady taking the dive in New Zealand!

Katie O’Grady taking the dive in New Zealand!

Katie O’Grady loves a challenge.  And really loves a challenge that includes an adventure! What could make law school more challenging and more exciting? How about taking a semester with law students in WMU-Cooley Law School’s Down Under foreign study program! For Katie, law school never looked this good. Learning the law was a thrill a minute in Australia and New Zealand.

Katie joined up with WMU-Cooley Law School students last winter (Australia and New Zealand’s summer, BTW), and didn’t have time to miss winter in the Windy City – even a little bit.

Surf's up! Who's with me?

Surf’s up! Who’s with me?

She was too busy. Yes, there was class. “The International law courses were fabulous! Especially my Competition Law class in Australia, and the professors were great!”

And there was no shortage of things to do and to experience outside of class. “It was great meeting new people … and I am still friends with my roommate Candace (from WMU-Cooley Law School).”

Here are some of the things Katie most enjoyed during her study abroad Down Under:

  • She loved bungy jumping – at the third largest jump in the world. Did you know that bungy jumping originated in New Zealand?
  • Horseback riding in Queenstown, New Zealand around the Misty Mountains where Lord of Rings was filmed
  • White water rafting in the north island of New Zealand.
  • Diving in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef
  • Swim with wild dolphins in Perth.
Meet my twin, Kanga Roo!

Meet my twin, Kanga Roo!

“It was a lifetime opportunity where I was able to do things I never would have been able to do had I stayed in Chicago.”

Katie wanted to bring back something to remind her of her unbelievable time Down Under. What did she bring back, you ask? Exactly. Something everyone would bring home – a Sugar Glider from Australia! Everyone should have a pet Sugar Glider.

Check out Katie’s pet Sugar Glider in her video – so cute and adorable!  













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WMU-Cooley Graduate Continues to Excel in Advocacy for Wounded Veterans

As Americans from coast to coast celebrate the 4th of July today, WMU-Cooley Law School salutes all the active duty, reserve, and retired military personnel who have given so much so that we may continue to enjoy the freedoms that are a hallmark of our country.

Many WMU-Cooley students and alumni are, or have been, affiliated with the military. One such graduate, Zaneta Adams (Todd Class, 2014), is notable not only for her service to our country but for the many lives she’s touched along the way and the perseverance she continues to demonstrate in her quest to make the world a better place for us all.

Zaneta Adams

Zaneta Adams

Last year, Adams formed the group Women Injured in Combat, or WINC. The group seeks to provide care and support for, and awareness of, the nearly two million female military and combat veterans in the United States. Last week, WINC launched a campaign called “2 Million Strong and Rising” to increase awareness of the role of women in the military.

Adams comes by her knowledge first-hand. She is a disabled U.S. Army veteran, having joined the Army Reserves in 1998 and served actively until 2004. In 2005, while on the inactive reserve list, she was summoned back to active duty and began preparation for Operation Iraqi Freedom. During that preparation, however, tragedy struck when Adams fell 11 feet from the back of a truck and paralyzed a nerve in her back.

She spent a year in a wheel chair. “It was difficult,” she recalled. “I couldn’t take a shower or get out of bed by myself. I couldn’t even pick up my children. I no longer felt like myself.” After two major surgeries, Adams was able to discard her wheelchair and use a cane. Though she had reclaimed most of her mobility, she still had to deal with the partial loss of sensation in her legs.

Adams struggled during those days. “A lot of it was mental,” she said. “As a woman, you want to feel attractive, and I was unsure of myself with the cane.”

Her attendance at an athletic competition for wounded veterans changed all that. “I saw people out there who were missing limbs and they were doing amazing things,” she said. “I told myself, ‘I may not have full use of my body, but I could probably do some of these things.’ I started participating in athletic events and eventually was able to find the strength to walk on my own again.”

In the fall of 2011, Adams found a new way to help others and began her studies at WMU-Cooley Law School. “I have always been interested in the enforcement of law,” she said. “In high school, I was on the mock trial team and I loved it. But with my family, the military and my injuries, the dream of going to law school kind of disappeared.”

However, after joining with Challenge Aspen, an organization that provides recreational, educational and cultural experiences for individuals with disabilities, Adams began to find a new lease on life. “I began to recruit veterans for Challenge’s retreats,” she said. “The organization offers unique rehabilitation opportunities like skiing and snowboarding – the types of events that help people like me feel normal again.”

Through Challenge Aspen came opportunities from Challenge America and the Department of Defense, including writing a blog about her personal experiences as a wounded veteran for Challenge America, serving as a spokesperson for the organization, and reviewing for the Department of Defense Peer-Reviewed Orthopaedic Research Program proposals that would affect severely wounded service members and help determine if they should be applied to the military.

Adams’ commitment to these programs and to her fellow veterans reignited the passion she had to attend law school. “There are lawyers who deal with veterans’ rights and benefits, and a lot of people want to help,” she said. “But if they have not served or do not have first-hand knowledge, they don’t truly know what we go through. I had to personally fight for my benefits and it was hard. . . . I want to be the lawyer veterans can look to for relief.”

While at WMU-Cooley, Adams won the Distinguished Student Award and the Student Great Deeds Award. She served as president of the Cooley Veterans Corps, with an agenda of starting a pro bono program to assist veterans on a monthly basis at the local Veterans Administration office. She also worked on learning how to start a Veteran’s Court in Kent County. She was also instrumental in establishing a Veterans Day Program at WMU-Cooley, including a luncheon attended by homeless veterans, members of the legislature, and others, all showing support and appreciation for military service and those who serve our veterans.

Adams was also president of the Black Law Students Association at WMU-Cooley’s Grand Rapids campus, served as a graduate assistant in the Academic Resource Center, a Cooley Ambassador, and a Graduation Marshal. She participated on the Mock Trial Board, and in the national trial, mock trial, and moot court competitions, winning a First-Year Mock Trial Competition.

Shortly after graduation from WMU-Cooley, Adams demonstrated the diversity of her talents with a performance in the Veteran Talent Showcase at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual Mackinac Policy Conference. Prior to the showcase, Adams and several other veterans were honored during the conference by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. Adams utilizes her talents as a singer and songwriter to raise awareness of the needs of our nation’s returning service men and women. In 2010, she traveled throughout the county as a representative of the Wounded Warrior Project, singing the National Anthem. She has also opened live concerts, and recorded with Grammy Award winners Amy Grant, Vince Gill, Charlie Daniels and Gretchen Wilson.

Adams and her husband Joe have six children, and live in Muskegon, Mich.


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U. S. Supreme Court Cites Justice Thomas McIntyre Cooley in Same Sex Marriage Decision

Associate Dean Nelson Miller

Associate Dean Nelson Miller

Author Nelson Miller is Associate Dean and Professor at WMU-Cooley’s Grand Rapids campus. He practiced civil litigation for 16 years before joining the WMU-Cooley faculty. He has argued cases before the Michigan Supreme Court, Michigan Court of Appeals, and United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and filed amicus and party briefs in the United States Supreme Court. He has has many published books, casebooks, book chapters, book reviews, and articles on legal education, law practice, torts, civil procedure, professional responsibility, damages, international law, constitutional law, university law, bioethics, and law history and philosophy.

While the reference won’t make any headlines other than the one immediately above, alumni should be glad to note that the law school’s namesake Justice Thomas McIntyre Cooley continues, well over a century after his death, to impress members of the United States Supreme Court.

Justice Thomas M. Cooley

Justice Thomas M. Cooley

Justice Scalia’s dissent in the Supreme Court’s gay-marriage stand cites Justice Cooley at the head of the historical list of great legal luminaries, “minds like Thomas Cooley, John Marshall Harlan, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Learned Hand, Louis Brandeis, William Howard Taft, Benjamin Cardozo, Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, Robert Jackson, and Henry Friendly….”

That Justice Cooley continues to receive recognition as a leading member of the jurist’s pantheon should surprise no one.  Over the past century and more, the Supreme Court has cited Justice Cooley and his opinions and treatises so many times that he will forever retain his status as a profoundly effective, even though unusually humble, guardian of the law and Constitution.

Yet this most-recent Supreme Court reference to the great jurist bears special note, placing Justice Cooley at the head of the list before Holmes, Hand, Black, and Brandeis.  Chronology may have had something to do with that prominence, given that Justice Cooley is the oldest of the references.  Yet Justice Scalia could have started his list of great jurists anywhere but decided to start with Justice Cooley.

We here at the great old jurist’s school celebrate Justice Cooley’s continued reputation as the nation’s premier jurist.  Let us all hope that the Constitution that he so vigorously, effectively, and humbly defended will survive just as long as his enduring prominence.

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Law students learning how to see new legal challenges as opportunities

By Nelson P. Miller

Nelson P. Miller, Associate Dean for the Grand Rapids Campus and Professor of Law, explains why the firms that will prosper and the lawyers who will thrive are the ones seeing change and challenge as opportunities.
A recent Altman Weil survey confirms that law firms still face transition issues even while on the whole now recovering nicely from the Great Recession’s severe downturn. Forward-looking firms are embracing those transition issues as opportunities, just as the law school’s new Law Practice series of elective courses helps graduates to respond.

On the positive side, the law consulting firm Altman Weil’s recently released seventh annual Law Firms in Transition survey shows two-thirds of participating firms reporting 2014 increases in revenue and partner profits. One third of firms report that demand for services is back at pre-recession levels, while more than another third of firms expect to reach pre-recession demand levels soon.

On the challenges side, more than half of firms report that partners are not yet sufficiently busy, suggesting continued over-capacity at those firms. Part of the problem is that non-firm vendors, technology tools, and non-traditional firms continue to take business from traditional law firms. Two thirds of firms also report corporate clients moving more work to in-house law departments.

Interestingly, less than half of firms are implementing staffing, pricing, or efficiency strategies to improve their economic performance, even though the survey results show clear correlation between such reforms and improved economics. The survey’s authors suggest that the time remains ripe for strategic leadership within firms facing the current performance pivot point.

The law school is not leaving its graduates behind the firms’ new learning curve. Faculty members have designed the curriculum’s new Law Practice series of six elective courses to help graduates respond to these transition issues. The series’ courses include not just the new or updated Law Office Management, Transitioning to Practice, and Writing for Practice courses that serve as practice foundations but also new Technology, Lawyer Finances, and Business Development courses that point graduates forward to new opportunities in the delivery of legal services.

The firms that will prosper and the lawyers who will thrive in these changing times are the ones seeing change and challenge as opportunities. Individuals, corporations, charitable organizations, and government agencies need the creativity, problem solving, and sensibility of lawyers more than ever before. The law school remains committed to helping its students, recent graduates, and alumni find bolster traditional practices while finding new opportunity to serve.

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Campus law graduates control their own destiny in small firms

Associate Dean Nelson Miller

Associate Dean Nelson Miller

Several recent graduates of the law school’s Grand Rapids campus are forming, expanding, or merging their own small law firms, showing success in another sector beyond the campus’s placements with large and mid-size law firms. Campus Dean Nelson Miller has recognized for a long time that the Grand Rapids campus has had graduates joining premier small area law firms such as premier small area law firms such as Bos & Glazier having the largest medical-negligence verdict in the area, Willey & Chamberlain handling complex criminal litigation, and the 130-year-old Wheeler Upham representing clients from individuals all the way to Fortune 500 companies.  Campus graduates, though, have also formed and expanded highly successful small law firms of their own.

Jordan Hoyer

Jordan Hoyer

WMU-Cooley graduate Jordan Hoyer fairly recently formed her own firm, The Law Office of Jordan C. Hoyer, PLLC, focusing on commercial and financial services litigation. She also employed fellow graduate Erika Hunting, along with two other longtime area lawyers.  The Dallas law firm Talcott Franklin P.C. just recently acquired Jordan’s law firm and appointed her as the managing attorney for the regional office.

Erika Hunting

Erika Hunting

Jordan’s success attracted Talcott Franklin P.C. when the national securities-litigation firm was looking for a Midwest base to continue its tradition of sophisticated civil litigation.  Jordan, Erika, and the other lawyers in Jordan’s firm will now incorporate Talcott’s national work into their existing local and regional practice base, confirming Jordan’s extraordinary early success.

Andy Rodenhouse

Andy Rodenhouse

Jessica Kuipers

Jessica Kuipers

Campus graduates Andrew Rodenhouse and Jessica Kuipers formed their Grand Rapids law firm, Rodenhouse Kuipers, several years ago offering a variety of services with an emphasis on criminal defense, attorney grievance, and character and fitness defense. Their success led to the new firm’s swift expansion.

Jim Sterken

Jim Sterken

They recently named Jim Sterken, a campus graduate who focuses on civil litigation and estate planning, and Audra McClure, a Lansing campus graduate who focuses on domestic relation litigation, as additional partners due to their continued success at the firm. The firm also employs another recent graduate, Chris Newberg, who works with businesses in the fields of art, entertainment, advertising, communications, digital media, cyberspace, emerging technologies, and intellectual property creation.

Audra McClure

Audra McClure

Chris Newberg

Chris Newberg

The firm credits its success to the entrepreneurial spirit of its attorneys as well as the support that is continually given by the legal community.  “We started our own firm for a variety of reasons, but the most important reasons are the freedom to control our destiny, the ability to potentially influence positive change within the legal community, and the liberty to do what we truly are passionate about,” attorney Kuipers stated.  From being involved in a large multi-jurisdictional lawsuit to attorney Rodenhouse’s recent arguments  before the Michigan Supreme Court, expect big things in the near future from Rodenhouse Kuipers.

Ross Plont

Ross Plont

Campus graduates continue to establish and expand successful law practices. 

Campus graduate Ross Plont, who not too long ago formed the Grand Rapids law firm Newton Plont after having begun his career as an associate at the premier small firm Gruel Mills, recently announced the firm’s hiring of campus graduate Dan Fricke, whom Ross sponsored for swearing in after Dan just received welcome news of his having passed the bar.  Dan is the firm’s first associate as the firm continues to grow its litigation practice.

According to attorney Ross Plont, the “real-world” education at Cooley’s Grand Rapids campus “prepared me to hit the ground running in a fast-paced litigation firm where I handled complex civil-litigation claims. Working cases with recent law-school grads from other schools, particularly early on, really made me appreciate the education that I received at Cooley. The practical foundation that Cooley provided, combined with the real-world experience I gained from my mentors at Gruel Mills Nims & Pylman PLLC, enabled me to team up with my partner, Stephanie Newton, in the formation of Newton Plont, PLLC. Being my own boss was one of the objectives I had when I decided to go to law school, and the education that I received at the Grand Rapids campus of Cooley Law School was an integral part of achieving that objective.”


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Force. Fear. Coercion. How human trafficking victims fall prey and how to stop modern day slavery.

There are plenty of myths and misconceptions about human trafficking. Some believe that human trafficking does not occur in the United States. Others think that human trafficking victims are only foreign born, or that they are always poor. Some have the misconception that human trafficking is only sex trafficking. Nothing could be further from the truth.

WMU-Cooley law students listened to experts on the topic of human trafficking during an expert panel discussion called “The Slave Next Door: Stop Human Trafficking Today,” held on Thursday, June 18. It was hosted by WMU-Cooley’s Student Bar Association (SBA) and the American Bar Association Law Student Division (ABA/LSD).

Panel experts speak to WMU-Cooley law school students during "The Slave Next Door: Stop Human Trafficking Today" event on June 19, 2015.

Panel experts speak to WMU-Cooley law school students during “The Slave Next Door: Stop Human Trafficking Today” event on June 19, 2015.

Experts from The State of Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force convened at the law school to shed light on the serious crime of human trafficking and to describe how victims fall prey at the entry level, and how control — physical and/or emotional — through force, fear, or coercion, keeps individuals chained to what experts call modern day slavery. The task force is made up of over 90 member agencies committed to a collaborative effort to identify and rescue victims, prosecute offenders, restore victims, and educate those in Michigan of human trafficking, in both sexual and labor exploitation.

According to experts, victims fall prey when traffickers are able to exploit their insecurities, such as:

  • past sexual abuse
  • bad family past
  • feelings of low self-worth
  • feelings that this is the only way to save the relationship

These tactics, and many others, are tools that traffickers use to exercise control over victims.

“As a law student, opportunities and events like this one are so important in understanding the complex issues that we will be faces with as practicing attorneys,” stated WMU-Cooley ABA/LSD President April Alleman. “Having the ABA/LSD and the SBA able to get expert speakers on Human Trafficking leads to so much awareness in our school, which leads to more awareness in the community. I am so thankful that I get to be a part of it.”

Experts say that education and awareness are key to stopping human trafficking. If people understand and are aware of human trafficking, it can go a long way in decreasing the demand for human trafficking.  Go to The U.S. Department of State site to find out 20 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking.

The distinguished panel of experts for “The Slave Next Door: Stop Human Trafficking Today” event included:

Jane White: Director of Human Trafficking Task Force at MSU
Senator Judy Emmons: Works at the grass roots level with real-life survivors to craft legislation aimed at stopping this unthinkable crime
Kelly Carter: Assistant Attorney General, Senior Attorney Specialist, prosecuting human trafficking
Detective Amber Kinney- Hinohosa: Works and specializes in cases involving human trafficking and as a witness in multiple trials

WMU-Cooley Law School students April Alleman (far left) and Yanique Kennedy (far right) with Human Trafficking panel speakers (left to right) Jane White, Director of Human Trafficking Task Force at Michigan State University. Senator Judy Emmons, has been working at the grass roots level with real life survivors to craft legislation aimed at stopping this unthinkable crime. Kelly Carter, Assistant Attorney General, Senior Attorney Specialist, prosecuting human trafficking Detective Amber Kinney- Hinohosa, has worked and specializes in cases involving human trafficking and as been a witness in multiple trials.

WMU-Cooley law students April Alleman (far left) and Yanique Kennedy (far right) join “The Slave Next Door: Stop Human Trafficking Today” panel speakers (center, left to right) Kelly Carter, assistant attorney general – senior attorney specialist prosecuting human trafficking; Senator Judy Emmons; Jane White, director of human trafficking task force at Michigan State University, and Detective Amber Kinney- Hinohosa.


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Dads make the difference for daughters (and sons) in law school: A Father’s Day tribute

Once a year we are all called to reflect on “How our father has made a difference in our life.” For daughters going to law school, dad may have especially played an even larger role in that decision. For many, he may have been the source of their inspiration for following their heart, and the one keeping them focused on the dream of becoming a lawyer. The same goes for dads and sons.

Western Michigan University Cooley Law School students pay tribute to their dad and the difference he has made in their life and throughout their law school journey. 

View More: http://ashleyhansenphotography.pass.us/emrichfamily

Natalie Winquist with her dad.

“Even after 36 years in the profession, my father‘s desire and drive is contagious; his loyalty and ability to build lasting, meaningful client relationships and advocate on their behalf to the best of his ability has inspired me tremendously. His honesty, integrity, and respect within the legal community has made me proud, and his passion is something I strive to emulate, which, ultimately, led me to this profession – and for that I am thankful.” – WMU-Cooley law student Natalie Winquist

Zoya Shpigelman and her dad - Then and Now.

Zoya Shpigelman and her dad – then and now.

“Mere words would not do justice to describe this man. This is a man who always put his best foot forward to take care of his family. This is a man who taught me how to strive for success despite obstacles that may come in my way. This is a man who always provided and continues to provide love, security, understanding, and guidance for me throughout all stages of my life. He has encouraged me to pursue my legal education with fervor, passion, and gratitude. I’m so thankful for my father’s insight on everything I ever choose to do in my lifetime. He tells me every day how blessed he feels that I will be in a position to make a real difference in people’s lives because he truly feels attorneys should do their best to be advocates for human kind.” – WMU-Cooley law student Zoya Shpigelman


Syed Ali, father of Shahnaz Ali, embraces his grandchildren

“I am so grateful for my father, Syed Ali, and the important role he has played with helping me in my journey through law school.  He helps me with my kids so that I can commute, allows me to use his hotel discount, and is always asking me what I need.  I don’t know what I would do without him.  Happy Father‘s Day, dad!” – WMU-Cooley law student Shahnaz Ali


Erika Morgan’s dad

“My father has been so instrumental in my success in law school by always making sure that he prays for me – and he makes sure to tell me to get my “rest!”  He encourages me to do my best and he is my BIGGEST supporter on this law journey. His unfailing love and support is what keeps me going through this very trying process. He truly enjoys my journey, and for that DAD … I honor and love you! Happy Father’s Day!” – WMU-Cooley law student Erika Morgan


Kai Hullum’s dad

“My father is the hardest working man I know. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be in law school today. I am so happy to have him in my life. There isn’t enough I can do to show him how appreciative I am. I hope he has a wonderful Father’s Day.” – WMU-Cooley law student Kai Hullum





Rima Ali Yahfoufi with her dad - then and now.

Rima Ali Yahfoufi with her dad – then and now.

“You are one in a million. Words belittle the real meaning of how important you are. I can search the world and will never find a father like you – one who will sacrifice like you, and one who does all that you do for your family. You will always be appreciated because you have always cared. You will always be valued because you have always given us your time. You will always be respected because you have made us leaders. And you will always be loved because you always have given us the one thing we treasure the most – and that is you. You have inspired and motivated me my entire life. I want to thank you for believing in me. My future success carries your image as the dominant pillar holding me up, proud and strong. Your faith in me has been my foundation. Happy Father’s Day. I love you.” – WMU-Cooley law student Rima Ali Yahfoufi

DJ Remole and her parents on Graduation Day.

DJ Remole and her parents on Graduation Day.



Happy Father’s Day to the most amazing dad a girl could ask for! You have been a constant support to me through my years of schooling and have helped me achieve my dream. Thanks dad for everything! – WMU-Cooley May 2015 graduate DJ Remole




Let’s not forget sons says WMU-Cooley law student Willie Abney!
Willie Abney with his dad

Willie Abney with his dad

I am so blessed to have my father, Willie D. Abney Sr., in my life. He has been so influential, especially while I have been in law school. He is someone who is easy to talk to and is always there when I need him. A lot of my character traits I get from him. He is the friendliest man I know and he would give his last breath to help someone in need. As a pastor, I know he is very busy, but he always takes time out to make sure that the family is okay. What more can you ask? Thanks, dad, for everything.

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