A Great Research Tip for Law Students and New Lawyers

 cooney_markProfessor Mark Cooney teaches Research and Writing and Advanced Writing at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School.  He is editor-in-chief of The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, having previously served as an associate editor for four years. He has chaired the State Bar of Michigan’s Appellate Practice Section and has served as a plain-language consultant on the State Bar’s Standing Committee on Standard Criminal Jury Instructions. He is also a founding board member of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society’s Advocates Guild.

So, you have received your first research assignment.  But the issue you are to research doesn’t look like any you studied in law school.  You want to do a good job on the assignment, but you also don’t have all day and night to do it.  Maybe you’re not sure where or how to begin.


Well, Professor Cooney has published an article called Treatises: Let the Experts Serve You in the October 2014 edition of Student Lawyer, published by the Law Student Division of the American Bar Association.

In his article, he advises:  “don’t reinvent the wheel.”  Almost surely, someone more experienced on the topic than you has had a matter just like yours.  And maybe starting your research with a search across the case law is not the best way to begin as you can easily focus on cases that are outdated or miss larger issues you haven’t thought of.

Rather, try starting with a good treatise on the topic.  After all, it’s published by someone who not only knows a lot about the topic but who also has the incentive to research thoroughly and report with care. The author is already an expert.  So take advantage of that expertise.

Read Professor Cooney’s article and tell us what you think by leaving a comment below.

See us on the web at wmich.edu/law

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Students Learn from Appellate Court Session at Tampa Bay Campus

wmich_cooleylaw_verticalWMU-Cooley is a great place at which to learn how to be a lawyer.

One reason is that our students have uncommon ability to observe good lawyers and good judges at work by attending the many hearings of trial and appellate courts we host at our campuses.

(Left to right) – Asst. Professor Karen Fultz, Associate Dean Jeff Martlew, Hon. Chris W. Altenbernd, Hon. Charles A. Davis, Hon. Nelly N. Khouzam, Cooley student Nicholas Langenkamp, Asst. Professor Kathy Gustafson, and students Iris Timm and Jerrod Simpson.

The most recent example is a session of the Florida Second District Court of Appeal held at our Tampa Bay campus on September 23, 2014.  Chief Judge Charles A. Davis, Judge Chris W. Alterbernd, and Judge Nelly N. Khouzam presided over oral argument in three separate appeals.  Students witnessed the arguments and had the opportunity to meet and speak with the judges about the cases.   Click here for more about this session of court.

It’s no wonder that National Jurist magazine recently ranked WMU-Cooley as one of the nation’s best law schools for practical legal training.  In fact, we ranked higher than any other law school in our home states of Michigan and Florida.

See WMU-Cooley on the web at cooley.edu.

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Cooley’s Great Campus Locations: Grand Rapids

wmich_cooleylaw_verticalThe fact that WMU-Cooley’s campuses are located in cities considered among the best places to live in the nation may surprise some people, but it won’t surprise anyone at the Law School. The exciting cities of Ann Arbor, Auburn Hills, Grand RapidsLansing and Tampa surround our great campuses.  This post, the fifth of a series by Sharon Matchette featuring campus-area attractions, focuses on Grand Rapids.

Grand Rapids, the second biggest city in Michigan, is a unique blend of culture, education, museums, nightlife and family fun. And, even though it’s an inland city, Grand Rapids boasts the attractions of some of Michigan’s finest beaches with the west coast shoreline of the state only a half hour away.


Recently named one of the top 10 destinations to visit in 2014, Grand Rapids is an exciting place in with to live and learn.


One of Grand Rapids’ must-experience events is the annual ArtPrize competition and exhibit,  scheduled this year for Sept. 24-Oct. 12. More than 1,500 artists create works in a variety of media, decorating the community with their most creative efforts. During the first 11 days of the event, visitors tour the works, voting for the entries they think should win. In the next 5 days, people vote for their favorite of the Top 10 entries.  In addition, you should not miss the wonderful Grand Rapids Art Museum.

After seeing the city’s great art, take advantage of Grand Rapids’ thriving music scene. The free Jazz at the Zoo Series, now in its 14th season, features jazz each Monday evening, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the John Ball Zoo. The city’s GrandJazzFest brings a wide range of performers to town.  For Blues fans, the 97LAVFM Blues on the Mall Series is held through the summer. Not to be outdone, Thursday evenings each summer feature music as well with GRAM on the Green,  a series that includes live outdoor music and free museum admission. The music ranges from hip hop, to pop, to salsa, performed on the museum terrace.  In fact, many more opportunities exist to listen to great music in Grand Rapids. Visit the Experience Grand Rapids site to get a comprehensive list.


Experience Grand Rapids notes that “you can see and do more in Grand Rapids in one day, than you can in a week in other cities.” There are so many things to do, however, you just might need that week — or more.


From the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, to the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park to the Public Museum of Grand Rapids,and the John Ball Zoological Garden, Grand Rapids is a destination site for families who want interesting things to do and places to see.


Sports fans have much to cheer about in Grand Rapids as well. From the Grand Rapids Griffins hockey team to the West Michigan Whitecaps (affiliate of the Detroit Tigers), there is a calendar full of organized sports to keep fans busy.  And for shopping fans, there is a mix of local stores with one-of-a-kind finds to large malls, such as Woodland Mall and Rivertown Crossings with hundreds of brand-name stores.

Come and visit WMU-Cooley’s Grand Rapids campus.  We would be glad to show you around!

See WMU-Cooley on the web at cooley.edu.

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Cooley’s Great Campus Locations: Auburn Hills

wmich_cooleylaw_verticalThe fact that WMU-Cooley’s campuses are located in cities considered among the best places to live in the nation may surprise some people, but it won’t surprise anyone at the Law School. The exciting cities of Ann Arbor, Auburn Hills, Grand RapidsLansing and Tampa surround our great campuses.  This post, the fourth of a series by Sharon Matchette featuring campus-area attractions, focuses on Auburn Hills.

Students, residents, and visitors in the Auburn Hills, Mich., area, have a remarkable variety of attractions, eateries, sports and cultural events to fill their days.

Between Auburn Hills and Detroit a half-hour away, there is an abundance of shopping locations, including mega-malls and outlet centers, and entertainment centers such as The Palace of Auburn Hills.


Other great entertainment attractions include the historic Detroit Opera House, the fabulous Fox Theatre, the Chene Park Amphitheater located along the Detroit River, the Motor City Casino, the DTE Energy Music Theatre 15 minutes from Auburn Hills in Clarkston, Mich., the  Meadowbrook Music Festival on the nearby Oakland University campus, and much, much more.



For sports fans, the Detroit/Auburn Hills area is among the nation’s best major league venues, featuring the Detroit Tigers, the Detroit Lions, the Detroit Pistons, the Detroit Red Wings, and the Detroit Grand Prix.




Auburn Hills itself, home to slightly over 20,000 residents, features a thriving business community which includes Chrysler Corporation’s world headquarters and tech center, located literally across the street from our campus.

Auburn Hills also hosts several important educational institutions, including our Detroit area educational partner Oakland University and our next door neighbor, Oakland Community College.

Situated near the Clinton River, the Auburn Hills campus area features several nature centers, parks and trails, including the Clinton River Trail, Hawk Woods Nature Center, and the Dennis Dearing Jr. Memorial Park, featuring a fireman-themed area for kids ages 2-5, picnic area, swings, and more.


For nature fans willing to drive a few minutes from Auburn Hills, the outstanding Detroit Zoo, 15 miles away at Woodward Avenue and 10 Mile Road in Royal Oak features 125 acres of exhibits, including the astounding polar bear exhibit, the Australian Outback Adventure, and the Penguinarium, among many others. The zoo is home to more than 2,600 animals of 265 species, and is open 362 days a year, closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Further down Woodward Avenue in the city of Detroit is the one the nation’s great art museums, the Detroit Institute of Arts, whose center court displays world-famous murals by Diego Rivera.  And just down the street from the DIA, lovers of fine music can hear and watch the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the first in the world to be heard on radio and now billed as the most accessible orchestra on the planet.

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Area shopping is dominated by the upscale Somerset Collection in nearby Troy, one of the nation’s elite shopping venues, and the Great Lakes Crossing Outlets, Michigan’s only enclosed outlet mall, with 185 manufacturer’s outlets and traditional retail stores.


Good restaurants and bars abound, with too many to name.  Needless to say, the area around our Auburn Hills campus is a great place in which to live and learn.

Come and visit WMU-Cooley’s Auburn Hills campus.  We would be glad to show you around!

See WMU-Cooley on the web at cooley.edu.

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WMU-Cooley Grad Nick Lewis Recognized for Alaska Legal Services Pro Bono Volunteer Efforts

The Alaska Legal Services Corporation has named WMU-Cooley graduate Nick Lewis (2012 Ellsworth Class) as its pro bono volunteer of the month for the assistance he gives to low-income clients in the Anchorage, Alaska area.  The Law School proudly salutes Nick on his outstanding recognition.



ALSC’s marvelous Volunteer of the Month for August is Anchorage attorney Nick Lewis. As a volunteer at ALSC, Nick answers questions for the Landlord Tenant Hotline and handles various cases for low-income clients. Professionally, Nick has been working on legal issues affecting the mining industry with local attorney JP Tangen.

Why did you choose to volunteer with ALSC?

That’s easy. Of the organizations I considered volunteering with, ALSC provided me with great opportunities to help people in need while giving me valuable guidance on practical approaches to helping clients.

Volunteerism is one of the most important aspects of the profession; that was a sentiment of a lot of the professors and deans at my alma mater, Cooley Law School. It was particularly important to my friend and mentor, Dean Ann Wood. Her influence certainly nudged me to help out when I can.

How do you think your efforts help ALSC clients?

ALSC suggested I would make a good fit for the Landlord Tenant Hotline. Landlord or Tenant disputes can be very personal. Explaining the Landlord and Tenant Act and potential financial and personal risks involved in not resolving issues correctly can sometimes make a significant difference. I feel that I have helped ease some of these folks off the “ledge.”  By providing people with objective information and options concerning statutory requirements, I feel that I have empowered them to make more prudent decisions.

Taking on individual clients makes a difference by helping folks who couldn’t afford an attorney otherwise.

How do you think your experiences with ALSC will benefit you in the future?

Working with ALSC is its own reward. I enjoy working with other attorneys, staff, and of course, the clients.

What do you do when you are not volunteering with ALSC?

In other community involvement, I also volunteer with the Bar as Co-Chair of the New Lawyers Section and as a volunteer attorney with the Alaska Network for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. Our community is already pretty great but there is always room for improvement. ALSC, ANDVSA, and the Alaska Bar really make a difference for folks and I wanted to be a part of that “difference” if I could.

My favorite hobbies are probably wrenching on old cars, fast cars, or old trucks and learning the art of furniture making. I designed and built my own 5-piece office in law school. It was a great stress reliever and I had a beautiful craftsman-style 18 square foot executive desk to spread everything out on!

Also, I’m working on having more fun. I grew up in Alaska, spent a year at UAA, and spent the rest of my higher education out of state. Now that I’m out of higher education I intend on enjoying my home state the way an Alaskan should! I’ve never done much camping, hiking, skiing, hunting, berry picking etc… but I’m really looking forward to it! I’ve already started hiking in the various areas around Anchorage with a weekly hiking group (which I’m not very faithful to!) and I’m trying to get healthier by enjoying the Coastal Trail.

 This story is republished with the permission of the Alaska Legal Services Corporation.



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Cooley Law is now Western Michigan University Cooley Law School

wmich_cooleylaw_verticalAugust 13, 2014 – KALAMAZOO, Mich.–After reviews by the Higher Learning Commission and the American Bar Association, an affiliation agreement in the works for more than a year has led to a new identity for the nation’s largest law school–the Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

Completion of the arrangement between the private nonprofit law school and the public research university drew officials from both schools to the WMU campus this week to announce that the affiliation is now effective. They also used the occasion to roll out the law school’s new visual identity and reveal a number of initiatives that will benefit current and future students of both schools as well as the communities they serve.

Initiatives unveiled included an announcement that WMU Cooley Law will offer first-year law classes on WMU’s Kalamazoo campus in fall 2015. In addition, faculty at both schools have begun the work of developing both a law minor and a 3+3 program at WMU that will allow students to earn both a bachelor’s degree and a law degree in just six years.

“We were delighted that our respective accrediting bodies have given the nod to the affiliation between Cooley and Western Michigan University,” says WMU President John M. Dunn. “This move will broaden the range of opportunities available to students, expand the collaboration and research options available to faculty members, and improve the range of services to students, employees and our respective communities.”

The affiliation agreement won the approval of both schools’ governing boards last year and was signed and awaiting only the review of the accrediting agencies. The agreement is expected to enable initiatives that will leverage the common commitment both institutions have to educational access, diversity, applied research and professional preparation. Under terms of the agreement, both schools retain their independent governance structures and separate fiduciary responsibilities.

The affiliation agreement builds on a decade-long relationship between the two schools that includes three existing graduate dual-degree programs and, for a time, shared physical facilities in the Grand Rapids area. Cooley and WMU’s joint degree programs currently lead to these degrees: a Juris Doctor (J.D.)/Master of Public Administration, a J.D./Master of Business Administration and a J.D./Master of Social Work. In addition, preliminary discussions have begun on the potential for leveraging such shared areas of expertise as ethics, health care, life sciences, intellectual property, entrepreneurialism, homeland security, tax law and sustainability.

“Now is a great time for our schools to affiliate in a deeper relationship. I have been excited about this from the start,” says Don LeDuc, president and dean of Cooley. “WMU just affiliated with its medical school and has had an interest in adding a law school affiliation. We have been looking to expand and deepen relationships with a university, and WMU is the right choice for Cooley because of the similarities of our missions, operating philosophies, academic programs, student bodies and locations.”

Since the board approvals last year, faculty and staff from both schools have met a number of times to begin the process of identifying areas of potential in which an affiliation could have the biggest impact. Preliminary discussions have revealed a number of mutual interests that could develop into future joint programs. The Aug. 13 gathering at WMU also signaled the launch of two campuswide committees–one to manage operational issues and another for faculty members to discuss curriculum development.

Moving forward, Western Michigan University Cooley Law School will continue as a private, independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) entity. Employees at both schools will continue their respective employment status. Law students must still be admitted separately to the law school, and students in dual- or shared-degree programs must be admitted by both schools independently. Tuition at both schools is unaffected by the affiliation.

While no plans are in place to build a law school facility on the WMU campus, planning is already underway for Cooley to offer a handful of first-year courses at WMU next fall. Cooley also has Michigan campuses in Lansing, Grand Rapids, Auburn Hills and Ann Arbor, and the name change outlined in the agreement extends to those campuses. Changing the name of Cooley’s fifth campus in Tampa Bay, Florida, is subject to the additional approval of the Florida Commission on Independent Education, which meets next in the fall.

Founded in 1972, Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School is the largest, most diverse law school in the nation, with an enrollment of more than 2,400 students.

WMU, founded in 1903, has regional facilities in Battle Creek, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Muskegon, metro Detroit, Benton Harbor and Traverse City.

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Cooley’s Great Campus Locations: Lansing

The fact that Cooley’s campuses are located in cities considered among the best places to live in the nation may surprise some people, but it won’t surprise anyone at Cooley. These exciting cities are near all of Cooley’s Michigan and Florida campus locations, whether Ann Arbor, Auburn Hills, Grand RapidsLansing or Tampa Bay.  This post, the third of a series by Sharon Matchette about Cooley’s great campus locations, focuses on Lansing.

Cooley’s Lansing-based students, faculty, and staff have access to the one of the nation’s most vibrant university communities that also happens to be the seat of state government.


As Lansing’s annual Common Ground music festival gets underway, residents and visitors alike are reminded just how much there is to do in the state’s capital city.  Common Ground has been part of the Lansing entertainment scene since 2000 and features six days of national acts on various stages in Adado Riverfront Park. Such familiar and popular acts as Earth, Wind and Fire, the Violent Femmes, and 311 grace the main stage, while two other stages provide an equally lively entertainment line-up. Music runs each night 5:45-11 p.m.


Occurring during the Common Ground Week is the annual Color Run, otherwise known as “The Happiest 5K on the Planet.” This event features runners dressed in white who are splashed in color on their way to the finish line. The event, which takes place July 12, raises money for charities; in 2014, the organization has partnered with Kelleigh’s Cause and the Sparrow Children’s Center. The start-line window opens at 9 a.m. with waves of participants going every few minutes. Come on out and watch the colorful fun.


Ongoing things to do in Lansing include the Impression 5 Science Center with its interactive exhibits to spark families’ interest in science, the Michigan Historical Museum, Potter Park Zoo, the historical State Capitol Building; the Lansing River Trail, a scenic trail that stretches from Jolly Road on the south end of town to Old Town on the north end. Hikers can also pick it up at Potter Park and walk all the way over to Michigan State University. In all, about 13 miles of paved trail meanders through numerous parks, natural areas, and downtown Lansing.


Because of the proximity of Michigan State University “next door,” East Lansing is considered an equally accessible location for attractions, events, eateries, and nightlife. The area’s visitor website highlights the fun in both Lansing and East Lansing, as well as in surrounding areas.


For sports fans there is the Lansing Lugnuts baseball team, playing at Cooley Law School Stadium in Lansing, and the full roster of Michigan State University sports active during the academic year. For professional sports fans, Detroit — featuring the Lions, Tigers, Pistons, and Red Wings — is about 90 minutes away. For those not wishing to make the drive, however, many pubs and restaurants in Lansing and East Lansing show the games on TV.

Even going to the movies in Lansing has some special twists. In addition to the standard movie theaters, Celebration Cinema has Studio C in Okemos, featuring Oscar’s Bistro where patrons can order their food and take it into the auditorium or just eat in the café, or, for those who ante up for the premier seats, the wait staff will assist you during the show with your food and drink orders.

Come and visit Cooley’s Lansing campus.  We we be glad to show you around!

See Cooley on the web at cooley.edu.

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