The Boat Left the Dock and You Were Left Behind

WMU-Cooley Professor Gary Bauer

WMU-Cooley Professor Gary Bauer

Professor Gary Bauer has been a member of the full-time faculty at WMU-Cooley Law School since 1998. He now teaches Estate Planning to third-year law students and a directed study class he created called Solo By Design. Professor Bauer’s blog, found at, provides law students, recent solo practitioners, and seasoned professionals who wish to go solo, with information and resources to be successful in the legal business. This blog post was first published on June 5, 2015.

Are you looking for business in all the wrong places? Sometimes you are doing a great disservice to your clients if you aren’t offering a maintenance agreement in conjunction with their estate planning services.

A True Story

A number of years ago while I was working as a regional sales manager for a Japanese company, it was necessary for me to travel extensively often exceeding 100,000 miles a year on the road.  I wore out a lot of vehicles. In 1979, while driving a brand new Buick Century on one of my calls, the radio quit working. Since it was under warranty, I took it to the nearest dealer for a repair.

Now, at that time, credit cards were not being used as much as they are today. You couldn’t charge your meal at a drive thru like you can today. So, it was necessary to carry a lot of cash on me.  Waving too much money around was a major concern.  Hiding money in a place that would allow me to access funds without carrying large sums of cash in my wallet necessitated covert action. The Buick Century had a panel on the lower surface of the dash that was flush and could be easily removed. Four, one hundred dollar bills fit neatly within that compartment where no one would ever discover it.

Back to the repairs at the Buick dealership. I was told to wait in the customer lounge while a mechanic made the necessary repairs provided under warranty. Within a short period of time, my name was called and told that the repair had been made and that it was only a blown fuse. There was no charge for the repair. So, once again, I was on my way.

About 10 miles down the road it hit me! A fuse! Checking under the panel where the money was hidden uncovered only fuses. Now what? Call the police and have them investigate? It was my word against the mechanic. What proof did I have that there was money in there in the first place? Back at the dealership the owner listened to my concerns and expressed doubt that his mechanic would be a thief. We met with the mechanic that did the repairs. He denied seeing any money under that panel. This was a very expensive lesson for me. I didn’t have the time to fool around contacting the sheriff and seeking a warrant for this man’s theft. Besides, he seemed shaken and nervous about the turn of events.

I said, “Perhaps the money slipped down below that panel where we couldn’t see it. Would it be possible for him to remove the lower panel and check it out? In the meantime, the owner and I would go up front and get a cup of coffee while we waited. Soon the mechanic came to the lounge and said, “I found it! Just as you suspected, the money had slipped below the panel and here it is.” I thanked him for his assistance and never placed money in that location again. I also learned a valuable lesson about allowing someone to save face. It wasn’t that he was a bad person. The temptation was just too much and when confronted, he felt the pangs of guilt and regret and the possible consequences of discovery. I found a way to allow him to walk through the door that gave him permission to undo the damage and save face. It was a win for both of us. Afterwards, I investigated further and there was no way for the money to slip below the fuse box due to the design of that panel. Had the sheriff been called, it could have had serious repercussions in that mechanic’s life. I didn’t want that.

Keep your eyes open to the possibility of a win, win for you and your clients. Particularly in estate planning, it is easy to loose sight of ways that you can enhance your client’s position and at the same time, help your bottom line. Don’t write off a client who walks out the door after your services have been rendered. Look for a creative way to maintain that relationship at a higher level.

We often look outside our client base for business. But how often do we miss the mark and fail to encourage a continued relationship with our existing clients? If you do estate planning for a client, how many of you have an additional service maintenance plan that you offer your clients? For an agreed upon amount, say $500, you offer to do an annual review of your client’s documents with consideration for changes in the law and their circumstances. That fee could cover 5 years of review and each year you could charge $100 against your trust account for those services as earned fees each year providing you with a continued and predictable stream of income.

If upon your review, you found it necessary to make changes, those services would be in addition to the fees paid for the annual review. In addition to an annual review, your client’s would be entitled to subscribe to your monthly or quarterly newsletter to help alert them to changes in the law that might affect them. This keeps your firm’s services fresh and on a continuum. You can tailor this program in any way you wish consistent with the rules of your jurisdiction. This type of program helps meet their goals and ensures that their estate plans are properly funded and kept current. The cost for them is reasonable and predictable. For you, it is a continuous and predictable revenue streams as well.

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Top Ten Things Law Students Should Know About Western Michigan University

miller_nelsonBlog author Nelson Miller is the 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. He also is now teaching law classes on the Kalamazoo, Michigan campus of Western Michigan University.

1. Now that the law school is holding elective courses on WMU’s Kalamazoo campus, where are the law classes? For now, Western Michigan University is sharing with the law school Room 1412 in its Health & Human Services (HHS) Building on WMU’s East Campus off Oakland Drive, behind (south of) the football stadium and sports complex on Stadium Drive. The HHS Building location makes sense in that the law school already has a dual JD/MSW degree program with the College of Health & Human Services’ School of Social Work. The HHS Building is a spectacular, first-class facility with wonderful natural-light design, a cafeteria, lots of relaxed seating, and convenient parking. Room 1412 is a team-based learning room with cart-available distance-education technology.


2. What is the medieval-looking bell-tower-like structure next to WMU’s HHS Building where the law school holds classes? The HHS Building is next door to the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital. Its tower is not, as rumored, to restrain the insane, but for the better part of a century supplied the hospital’s water. At one point in the tower’s storied history, its water saved Kalamazoo from burning when the city’s own water system failed as firefighters attempted to douse a severe downtown fire. Although the water tower is a historic landmark, locals not too long ago made an effort to have it razed, relenting only when private funds donated for maintenance exceeded the six-figure cost of its razing.

3. What is the heart of WMU’s Kalamazoo campus? Where does everyone go? Bernhard Center, located roughly in the middle of WMU’s Main Campus, houses the bookstore, Bronco Mall, cafeteria and food court, financial-aid office and other student services, student-organization offices, and large conference spaces. While the building’s exterior is a little older, WMU has renovated many of its interior spaces, making it both very comfortable and also a showcase.

4. Where should one park on campus? Depends on where you’re going. The best practice is to order a $5 daily visitor pass online before you go, then use the WMU Interactive Campus Map, choosing the Parking Lots option from the Layers link in the Map’s upper right. The $5 daily visitor parking pass grants you access to the R Lots where both visitors and WMU employees park. Commonly used R Lots are (1) on the west side of the Main Campus by Schneider Hall for convenient access to the business school or a short walk to the center of Main Campus, (2) at the south side of the Main Campus by Miller Auditorium for convenient access to the College of Arts & Sciences, and (3) alongside the Health & Human Services Building on East Campus. For a single short-term visit, you may choose instead to park at a visitor meter, although you’ll need lots of quarters (the cost is a quarter for every 12 minutes or so). Metered parking can also be paid by a cell phone through Instructions are listed on each campus meter.Here is the parking map, with the R Lots in yellow:

5. Where can you eat on campus? Lots of places. While the Bernhard Center has the well-developed food court with national fast-food chains, a Biggby coffee shop, traditional cafeteria, and lots of comfortable seating, several other buildings also have public cafeterias including the HHS Building housing the law classes, Schneider Hall housing the Haworth College of Business, and Sangren Hall housing WMU’s large College of Education. The Plaza Cafe, located on the Fine Arts Plaza in front of Miller Auditorium, is also open to the public. To locate food on campus–Go to the WMU Housing and Dining map to get the precise locations of the buildings with cafeterias.


6. Who are WMU’s most-distinguished alumni? Tim Allen, anyone? The popular film and television actor is on its Distinguished Alumni wall in the Bernhard Center (see the wall on the second floor for a great way to get to know WMU’s national leadership). WMU’s most-recent distinguished alumni awardee is former U.S. Attorney and WMU-Cooley adjunct James Brady, whom the law school honored recently with the Marion Hilligan Public Service Award. (The other 2015 awardee was the CEO of the world’s largest tire and wheel retailer.) Other lawyer/judge WMU distinguished alumni include former ABA President Dennis Archer, Sixth Circuit Judge Richard Griffin (son of Senator Robert Griffin), Richard Whitmer, former State Bar of Michigan President Nancy Diehl, and of course WMU-Cooley graduate and board member Ken Miller. Other distinguished alumni include former Detroit Tigers owner John Fetzer and former Tigers and Marlins and present Red Sox general manager Dave Dombrowski.

7. Tell me about the WMU library and its resources. With more that 4.5 million items, including thousands of electronic subscriptions, the libraries provide access to a wide variety of materials in support of its many educational programs. Over twenty reference librarians, many with subject specialties, are ready to assist students with their information and research needs. The library has recently initiated an experimental telepresence robot to aid in research interactions between students and librarians. Four floors of newly renovated state of the art facilities provide comfortable spaces for collaboration, research, and study.

8. What’s your favorite location on campus? Whether or not you have business there, consider visiting Sangren Hall in the center of WMU’s Main Campus. One of President Dunn’s many initiatives has been the improvement of WMU’s physical facilities. Sangren Hall, home to WMU’s oldest college–the College of Education–is the spectacular centerpiece of that initiative.Sangren-Hall-SHW-Group-6

It has every feature of a next-generation higher-education facility including state-of-the-art team-based-learning classrooms with distance-education technology and wide, spacious, and well-lit public areas with abundant comfortable seating and study areas, not to mention a great-looking library and convenient cafe. It even rivals the spectacular new WMed facility downtown (WMed built with substantial private and corporate contributions). WMU has constructed several other large, inviting, and very attractive facilities that make you feel very much a part of the latest and best in higher education.

9. For what does the public know WMU? What distinguishes it? WMU was initially a teacher’s college, and its College of Education remains its largest program. That history and emphasis may have influenced its mission and vision as a learner-centered university combining clinical education with research focus. Students matter, but so does research and expertise. Many of WMU’s Ph.D.-level faculty are recognized national and international experts in their fields with heavy demands for their expertise. WMU is also diverse, recruiting heavily from Southeast Michigan and other urban areas. It has had a global reach for decades, with faculty from around the globe and international students from 100 other nations.  A Carnegie-designated national research university, WMU is in the U.S. News top tier of public research universities. Many also know WMU for programs as diverse as its nation-leading aviation program and its internationally recognized offerings in creative writing, medieval studies, behavior analysis, blindness and low vision studies, integrated supply chain management and jazz studies. WMU also has a decades-long reputation for a commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship that won it the U.S. Building Council’s award in 2014 as the best green higher-education school in the country.

10. Okay, but how’s the football team doing? Great. WMU has a Division I (top division) football program competing with the best collegiate programs in the nation, including playing both MSU and Ohio State in 2015. WMU is in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) with in-state rivals Central Michigan University and Eastern Michigan University, and out-of-state schools like Toledo, Northern Illinois, and Bowling Green.


While WMU has long been known more for its hockey team than for football success, WMU’s football teams have been to bowl games the past two years, winning the Bahamas Bowl just this year, and has had the MAC’s top-rated recruiting class the past three years. WMU’s football program is thus gaining national attention, as is its sought-after Coach P.J. Fleck. The program has a state-of-the-art indoor practice facility and a football hall-of-fame building, both adjacent to the stadium with a large indoor president’s box seating 100. Apologies to WMU-Cooley Board Chair Larry Nolan, a WMU hockey-program veteran, for not touting WMU’s outstanding hockey team, which is part of the toughest hockey league in the nation–the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. See WMU’s sports Hall of Fame for WMU’s long list of stellar college and professional athletes.

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Thunder from Down Under – Law student from Texas takes in Sydney’s New Year’s Eve Fireworks and more

“This is the stuff of bucket lists, mine anyway. Being a weekend-only student and commuting from Texas to Michigan each week following a 40+ hour a week full-time job for the last four years, I jumped at the opportunity to fulfill a life dream of traveling to Australia. New Zealand was an added bonus” – WMU-Cooley Study Abroad Program student Stephanie Samuels

Stephanie Samuels and her mom living the dream Down Under!

Stephanie Samuels and her mom living the dream Down Under!

And talk about a bonus trifecta – this trip just happened to coincide with the world famous,  much watched, New Year’s Eve fireworks of the planet’s first celebration each year in Sydney, Australia! Since the New Zealand classes started on January 4, with my mother in tow, we decided to leave the United States a few days early to arrive in Sydney just in time for New Year’s Eve. Sydney had two firework displays.

One was at 9:00 p.m. and the other was at midnight, which was the BIG one that everyone can catch on television. We were lucky enough to book a last minute harbor cruise, and from a boat in the middle of the harbor, in the shadow of Darling Harbour Bridge, live and in-person, we experienced the ushering in of 2016 amid the thunder and glare of fireworks bursting all around us. It was all that, and more.

Our visit to Sydney, Australia was amazing. The weather was perfect. The water and sky could not have been more blue and the landscapes more brilliant green.


Our travels to see Bridal Veil Falls in Raglan, New Zealand was equally magnificent. Viewing the Falls was an easy walk up to two viewing platforms, both with spectacular views of the plunging white falls. I owe ‘livin’ the dream’ to the WMU-Cooley Down Under Study Abroad Program.

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

WMU-Cooley Study Abroad student Stephanie Samuels

WMU-Cooley Study Abroad student Stephanie Samuels

Stephanie Samuels

JD Candidate, Jan. 2017

WMU-Cooley Study Abroad Program student Stephanie Samuels

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Students Dig into Courses and Get to Know Kiwi Lawyers

In the course of several weeks, WMU-Cooley Down Under law students already completed one law course and started a new one. In their UN Rights of Indigenous People course, students completed their studies by presenting positions on the 2015 COP21 UN agreement on climate change through the lens of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Student presentation in Professor Toki's Indigenous Rights UN course

Student presentation in Professor Toki’s Indigenous Rights UN course

The students demonstrated how, after an intensive introduction to the subject by the talented Valmaine Toki, they were able to frame legally appropriate arguments regarding two important United Nations protocols. Students were introduced to new concepts in a course on International Trade Issues by Professor Alberto Alvarez-Jimenez. Students were treated to two guest speakers in their Introduction to New Zealand Law course. Terry Singh spoke about the criminal defense system and R. Bennett-King, a District Manager for Police Prosecution Services, discussed the role of prosecutors (who are by and large NOT attorneys in New Zealand). Finally, this week brought a whirlwind tour of Contract, Tort and Property law in China and New Zealand in Professor Liao’s course.

Students further explored the natural beauty of Aotearoa, New Zealand by traveling to the Pacific coast, seeing waterfalls and rain forest along the way. The white sand beaches of Tauranga and the extinct volcano of Mount Maunganui provided a day of respite and repose. Students also got to spend a beautiful day poolside with professors and classmates.

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 Kimberly E. O'Leary

Kimberly E. O’Leary

WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Kimberly E. O’Leary is directing the law school’s foreign study program in New Zealand and Australia. She and her students will be sharing their experiences throughout the Hilary 2016 semester.


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WMU + WMU-Cooley Affiliation Advances with Signing Agreement and 134 New Initiatives

The progress WMU-Cooley has made in implementing the Western Michigan University affiliation over the past 18 months has been strong.  The partnership has already spawned 134 initiatives – in just over a year and a half – through the efforts of everyone, from the administration to the faculty to the students.

Now with the first two law classes underway on WMU’s Kalamazoo campus, Western Michigan University President John M. Dunn and WMU-Cooley Law School  President and Dean Don LeDuc met with officials on Jan. 19, 2016 to sign three new agreements that covered facilities use, courses and programs, and parking.  The classes in employment and environmental law will also pave the way for a group of first-year law students to begin basic legal education on the WMU campus in fall 2016.

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Both Dunn and LeDuc had great praise and mutual respect for the affiliation and the ideas generated by both institutions. For students, this latest agreement lends support and excitement to the many opportunities it opens for them, in addition to endless possibilities for the faculty and staff of both institutions.

“This is a great affiliation with a very fine law school,” said Dunn at the signing. “It is also, for the people of Michigan and locations well beyond, a great example of how to work our way through challenging times and expand opportunity for our students in a powerful way without relying on state resources.”

“With WMU now looking to use space at our other campuses, and the law school now active in Kalamazoo, the synergy is evident and the opportunities are abundant,” stated LeDuc. “The rewards have already included a joint major grant to the Innocence Project for $418,000 obtained through the initiative of WMU-Cooley Professor Marla Mitchell-Cichon. Our affiliation with WMU is a great long-range priority, and it is already producing short-range benefits.”

New opportunities that are a result of the agreements signed Jan. 19 include the following initiatives.

  • Accelerated programs that will allow WMU students to complete both an undergraduate and law degree in a time frame shorter than the traditional seven years — saving the students time and tuition dollars.
  • Cross-listing of courses that will allow WMU graduate students to take law classes and law students to take graduate courses, with each earning credits toward their respective degree programs.
  • Dual courses that will be team-taught by faculty at both schools.

Watch the Jan. 19, 2016 WMU/WMU-Cooley Jan. 19, 2016 Signing Ceremony

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Military Feature Angela Tormey: Just a small town country girl looking to make her mark on the world

WMU-Cooley, as a Military friendly and designated Yellow Ribbon School, talks to its military students, faculty and graduates about their journey from the military to law school and about their career goals. WMU-Cooley 2L student Angela Tormey is the first in a monthly series featuring those in our WMU-Cooley military family who have served or are stilling serving our country. 

Military rank and title: Master Sergeant (E7), United States Air Force.

Why did you decide to go to law school and why did you choose WMU-Cooley: When I was contemplating my post-military-retirement plans, heading back to school was a very attractive option for me.  I knew I would be able to use my Post-9/11 GI Bill to pay for some or all of my tuition, as well as a housing stipend, so long as I was a full-time student. I also knew that the job market for the skill set I obtained while on active duty was highly competitive. It was going to be a challenge to find full-time, meaningful employment, especially since I was new to the area. In the interim, I thought that going to school would allow me to earn an income to help support my family while I waited for the military pay system to catch up with my new status as a retiree. When researching schools, law school never really occurred to me until I one day I noticed that a law school opened up near my home in Florida. I also learned after speaking to the folks at WMU-Cooley that they were very familiar with the ins and outs of billing and reporting with Veterans Affairs  (the people who maintain the GI Bill funds). I figured it was worth a shot to see if I qualified. Brianne Myers was the first person I met at Cooley, and my first impression of Cooley and law school.  For anyone who hasn’t met her, she is the perfect person for her position.  She is extremely patient, genuine, kind, and goes out of her way to make sure you get answers to your questions.  She gave me a tour of the Tampa Bay campus and by the end of the tour, I wanted to go to Cooley, and only Cooley. In fact, I only applied to Cooley.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that not only did I qualify to attend Cooley, I was also eligible for a scholarship.  From there, the rest is history. Cooley gave me an opportunity I never knew existed and I am forever grateful.


Career Description: I was active duty Air Force. Early in my career, I worked in Satellite Communications where I ultimately became an executive travel communicator for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. It was a pretty awesome assignment. My military travels have taken me all over the United States and overseas.  I have been stationed in Korea, as well as deployed to several locations in the Middle East. I eventually re-trained into Public Health. When I was offered the option to retire early as part of a force tailoring initiative, I jumped on the opportunity and retired in 2014.


Career goals: Law is a second career for me. One of the benefits of being in the service (military) is that we are taught early on to live by the phrase “Semper Gumby”… it means, “always flexible.”  So, presently, my career aspirations regularly change, which is common for many of my colleagues, but I’m not worried. While I would love the opportunity to work with the military as a civilian, or assist former military in routine matters, I don’t feel a strong need to go in one direction.  I learned early on in my military career that a person should be willing to grow where you’re planted.  I know, no matter what, everything will work out just fine!


Tell us a little about you: This is actually a hard question for me. What do I say? I was born in Georgia. I have three step-sisters, two step-brothers, two half-brothers, and two half-sisters. It has often been said that I left home, just to get some space. Although that may be true, to a degree, I am happy with my life.  I’m married to my best friend, Tommy, and we have two children and a big ol’ dog.  We enjoy running, working out, and cooking (more cooking now that I discovered Pinterest!). Ultimately, I am just a small town country girl looking to make my mark on the world.

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Law students settle into New Zealand life, land and law classes

“It is the beginning of a new year and an academic adventure for WMU-Cooley students in our Down Under Program!” – Down Under Director Kimberly O’Leary


It’s been a great 2016 so far! Law students arrived at the beginning of the year, and they have settled nicely into their rooms on the campus of University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand. Our first class was held on January 4, but unlike Michigan, the New Zealand landscape is full of fragrant flowers, green ferns and flourishing trees. It is in the prime of summer Down Under!

Students happily launched into their courses, such as Introduction to New Zealand Legal System with local co-director Cheryl Green, Comparative Chinese & Common Law Systems, with Professor Zhixiong “Leo” Liao, Indigenous Rights in Action with Valmaine Toki, while I teach Equity & Remedies to the law students. After just one week, our understanding of parliamentary, Chinese civil code/Communist party and indigenous systems has blossomed, just like the beautiful local flora!

We have also learned about a democracy where the Constitution isn’t written down and the importance of conventions and customs. In addition to studying and participating in classes, students have had time to explore Hamilton, including the outstanding Hamilton Gardens, the Riverwalk and the Hamilton Zoo. The students especially enjoyed feeding lemurs and a white rhinocerous at the zoo!

Over a weekend, students, faculty and family members fit in an excursion to Raglan, one of the best surfing beaches in the world and home of the famous black sand. After traveling through mountains to arrive, we viewed Bridal Veil Falls, which put on quite a show after holiday rains, and then we took a harbor cruise into the Raglan Bay, where we were served fish and chips. ­­The local co-director, Cheryl Green, has taken on a special role shepherding this American flock as we navigate through Aotearoa – the Maori name for New Zealand – which means, “land of the long white cloud.”

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 Kimberly E. O'Leary

Kimberly E. O’Leary

WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Kimberly E. O’Leary directs the law school’s Study Abroad program in New Zealand and Australia. She, along with her law students are sharing their experiences throughout the Hilary 2016 semester.

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