Choosing clients in Solo Practice: Is your client a “20 Footer?”

bauer_gary4WMU-Cooley Professor Gary Bauer, a recent ABA Solo and Small Firm Trainer award winner, teaches Estate Planning to third-year law students and a directed study class he created called Solo By Design. His blog, sololawyerbydesign.com, provides law students, recent solo practioners, 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 July 20, 2016.

And those were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music. – Nietzsche

Sometimes when you are faced with making a decision about whether to take on a client, you need to be careful to listen to the “music.” It takes a lot of experience to become adept at choosing clients who will be good clients and those who will dispute your fees or fail to listen to good legal advice and tell you how to practice law.


A True Story: Each Fall, I participate in an auto auction in which over 2,000 antique and classic cars were sent through the auction. It was one of those national auctions that are televised. And some of the cars that go through the auction are incredible. It can be a great way to buy a car, but, “buyer beware!” I would always employ a professional to help guide me in buying one of these vehicles.

About 20 cars at a time are moved to a staging area in anticipation of moving them into an arena and onto a turntable where they are auctioned off. I was one of the drivers who would upon command, start my chosen vehicle. After testing the brakes, I would drive it into one of the two elevated turntables to be auctioned off. So it was critical that I could stop the car lest it become embedded in the floor below. Once on the turntable, we were instructed to turn the engine off and wait as the auctioneer plied his powers of persuasion to foster a contest between two speculators turned buyers.

Being new to this driving experience, I found it to be quite a challenge as each of the cars or trucks had quite different characteristics. Some were “sticks,” some were “automatics.” Some were quite new, and exotic with “paddle shifters.” It was critical to find neutral and reverse to navigate safely to the stage, through a sizable crowd, and park each car after the gavel struck wood. After the cars took their turn on the turntable, we were instructed to wait as “pushers” would approach the vehicle from the rear and push it off stage down a ramp where we waited for a golf cart to lead us to the parking area.

As I sat in each vehicle in the staging area, potential buyers and kibitzers would come by and inspect the vehicles. Some would ask me to start them up to hear them run. “How many turns on the odometer?” Others would take magnets and flashlights checking for “bondo” (fiberglass filling rusted areas) or ripples in the metal, indicating inferior or amateur restoration techniques.

I sat in a late model Porsche 911 convertible, which as a novice, I had picked as as one of the more exotic and desirable cars. Soon a potential purchaser walked up to the car and checked it out. After some time, I asked him what he thought of the car. He said, “this is a 20-footer!”

I thought he was referring to the length of the car. But, he corrected me. “No,” he said. “I was referring to the fact that at 20 feet you might be fooled to think this was a nice vehicle.” However, upon closer inspection he saw that the seats and door panels had been recovered with vinyl covers instead of the original expensive real leather. It was not up to the standards that one would expect for a professional restoration. In addition, the convertible top cover was not in accordance with new specs and was a cheap replacement. As he examined the sheet metal, he pointed to flaws and areas where his magnet would not adhere which seemed to indicate “bondo” under the paint instead of metal.

He explained that most of the seasoned professionals had been “burned” more than once and had to learn quickly how to avoid costly mistakes or wouldn’t survive in the business. If I were to buy a car at auction, I would employ a professional to avoid a “20 Footer” or pay the “20 Footer” value. So too, in practice, be careful of the “20 Footer” client.

I can try to describe them. They just fired their last attorney. They try to control the process and your strategy. They question your fees and demand you drop everything and treat their matter as if it is the most important case in your caseload. They cause you to spend your time distracted from your good clients to serve their unreasonable demands.

Many of them will come into your office with “bondo” underneath. It won’t be detectable to the new practitioner. But the seasoned attorney will pick up on subtle cues that the new lawyer will never notice.

Try to find a mentor and do a “ride along” as often as you can. When you are just starting out, your time may be well spent observing a professional in action. Many solo practitioners tell me that learning to distinguish the good clients from the bad clients is one of the hardest lessons they ever learned. Observe them and ask them how they distinguish the good from the bad clients. What techniques do they use to identify who they decline to represent verses those they retain.

They say 20 percent of your clients will create 80 percent of your greatest headaches. Learn to turn them away in the first instance. And, if you find yourself entangled with someone who proves to be a “20 Footer,”get rid of them, consistent with the rules of professional responsibility, as they cost you time, money and emotional capital that is better spent on “authentic and quality” clients.

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Remembering What a Law School Does: Preparing Students to Make the World Work

As yet another school year starts, law schools would do well to remember what they do. And to know what a law school does, you have to know what lawyers do.

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Of course, lawyers do many things.  They serve as justices, judges, magistrates, referees, arbitrators, mediators, case evaluators, and negotiators, all to resolve disputes.  They serve as attorneys general, solicitors general, judge advocates general, district attorneys, prosecutors, public defenders, military lawyers, county counsel, agency counsel, and municipal lawyers, all related to government work.  They serve as plaintiff’s lawyers, trial lawyers, litigators, insurance-defense counsel, public-interest lawyers, family lawyers, divorce lawyers, probate counsel, guardian ad litem, trustee, and conservator, all trying civil disputes.

Lawyers also serve as chief legal officer, general counsel, senior counsel, associate counsel, corporate counsel, in-house counsel, and retained counsel, all doing corporate work.  They serve as estate planners, business planners, bond lawyers, tax lawyers, patent lawyers, labor lawyers, entertainment lawyers, and sports lawyers, all doing transactional work.

Lawyers also serve as presidents, governors, legislators, chiefs of staff, lobbyists, policymakers, board chairs, chief executive officers, chief operating officers, business owners, financial advisors, real estate agents, securities brokers, title company officers, nonprofit executive directors, university presidents, law professors, business professors, and sports agents, general managers, managers, and coaches.  And they serve in many other ways.

Yet at root, what all lawyers do is try to make the world work.  What all lawyers have in common is the will and skill to improve our common lot.

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Lawyers try to make governments, families, corporations, businesses, and charities work better.  They try to make communities, highways, workplaces, products, healthcare, and even military engagements safer.  They try to make promises, warranties, advertising, markets, franchises, and securities more reliable.  They try to finance roads, hospitals, arenas, stadiums, and schools more efficiently and equitably.

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Above all, lawyers advocate, counsel, coax, guide, caution, warn, persuade, and cajole individuals into making wiser, sounder, fitter, and more sustainable and moral decisions.  And when they fail in their counsel, they often invoke government authority to make persons do as they should.

As another school year starts, now is a great time to remember what a law school does.  Law schools help law students prepare to make the world work better.  Let’s all of us who make a law school including students, professors, administrators, staff, alumni, supervisors, and mentors, do our best again this school year.  Now is a great time to be a lawyer.


nelson millerBlog 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.

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Criminal defense lawyers must remember that they are impacting the lives of a real person

“Ms. (Valerie) Newman is an inspiration. She is passionate about her work, and her words will have a lasting impact on our students and how they approach their profession.” — WMU-Cooley Associate Dean Lisa Halushka 

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Valerie Newman, an attorney with the State Appellate Defender’s office, was honored with WMU-Cooley’s Integrity Award during its Integrity in Our Communities Speaking Series this summer. The award is presented to legal professionals who demonstrate the highest integrity in their profession.

“Valerie is very deserving of this award – her civility in the criminal justice system and her belief that the system works best when attorneys work together for the common goal of achieving justice,” shared Associate Dean Halushka to the group of faculty, students and community leaders. “She has always urged students to remember that when they practice, especially if they practice criminal defense law, they must remember that they are impacting the lives of a real person. She makes clear to students to never define their clients by their worst day, weakest moment, or biggest mistake.”

In attendance was also Devontae Sanford, a young man who was recently exonerated from a quadruple homicide he was wrongfully convicted of in Wayne County. Ms. Newman, who worked tirelessly to release Devontae from prison, invited Devontae on stage to answer questions from the audience. Devontae commented that Ms. Newman was like his second mom and provided hope to him while he was in prison. He told the audience that he hoped the law students in the audience would become lawyers who cared about their clients.

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A to Z: What a Law School Means to a University and a University to a Law School

WhenWestern Michigan University and WMU-Cooley Law School formally affiliated a year and a half ago, WMU President Dr. John Dunn and WMU-Cooley President and Dean Don LeDuc together decided it best to let the students, faculty, and staff of both institutions decide what to make of the new affiliation. In retrospect, that decision looks to have been just the right recipe to move the affiliation toward its goal of creating the most productively integrated university-law school relationship in the nation.
WMU-Cooley President Don LeDuc (left) and WMU President John M. Dunn signing a series of agreements to continue the expansion of legal education in west Michigan.

WMU-Cooley President Don LeDuc (left) and WMU President John M. Dunn signing a series of agreements to continue the expansion of legal education in west Michigan.

 The report summarizes from A to Z the remarkably broad, numerous, rich, and deep benefits that both the university and the law school have begun to garner from their affiliation. Any A to Z list is inevitably random, but this report’s perspective on the affiliation’s benefits is a great way to appreciate how surprisingly diverse are those benefits. The students, faculty, and staff of both institutions have done just as Presidents Dunn and LeDuc had hoped, which is to collaborate around their own special needs and interests.
As the A to Z report shows, the random affiliation benefits flow everywhere from a joint instructional-design project innovating at the core of the law school’s educational program to a joint justice project vastly expanding the reach and effectiveness of a prior law school program.

stands for better ACCESS and ASSESSMENT:  the law school and university have improved the university’s LSAT Prep course, promoting the law school’s practice-access mission.  University programs and personnel have helped the law school improve assessment through better-designed rubrics, objectives, and processes.

is for better BIOETHICS and BUSINESS:  law professors and law students presented at the university’s annual Bioethics Conferences.  A law school professor also developed a suite of law trainings, for offer by the law professor and law students, to supplement the university’s Bronco Force executive-education business program. 

is for better COMMUNICATION and COURSES:  a law professor taught university medical school students on the subject of communicating medical-treatment risks.  The law school also held its first elective courses, Employment Law and Environmental Law, on the university’s main Kalamazoo campus.

D is for better course DESIGNS:  a university College of Education professor led law professors and law school staff in a two-day course-redesign workshop, employing sound educational and instructional theory to supplement the law professors’ field and discipline expertise and law knowledge.

is for better ETHICS: law professors spoke at events that the university’s Center for Ethics in Society held to promote ethical and principled thinking and behavior among university and law students, faculty, and staff, while a law professor also joined the center’s board to contribute to future programs including developing a joint ethics course.

is for better FACILITIES and FACULTY: the university occupied classrooms and offices at the law school’s Auburn Hills campus, while the law school began using equivalent university classrooms and offices for Kalamazoo courses.  The law school and university also offered a tuition-reduction program for professors and staff to earn the other institution’s degrees.

is for better GERONTOLOGY: a law professor and university gerontology professor collaborated on instruction and instructional materials for the law school’s Elderlaw Clinic and a university course on Dementia, Elder Law, and Death, as a prime example of the inter-disciplinary enrichment that the law school and university offer one another.

is for better HEALTH: a law school professor invited a university healthcare professor to join the new Michigan Coalition on Health Literacy board to help interdisciplinary experts address risk-communication and health-literacy issues for the private healthcare industry and public healthcare providers.

is for better INCLUSION: law professors and deans worked with the director of the university’s Lewis Walker Institute for Race & Ethnic Relations to author, edit, and publish a book to support training for law students and lawyers on cross-cultural service, dedicating the book to the Institute’s inclusion work.

is for better JUSTICE: law professors and deans worked with university professors and administrators to win a substantial federal Post-Conviction DNA Testing to Exonerate the Innocent grant now administered jointly between the university and law school with law student and university student participation.

is for better KNOWLEDGE: law and university professors spoke as interdisciplinary experts in one another’s courses in political science, education law, higher-education law, and other fields, in collaborative efforts to expand and improve the knowledge base for doctrinal law school and university courses.

is for better LEADERSHIP and LIBRARIES: a law professor and university business professor, both of them retired brigadier generals, worked together to plan a joint leadership academy program for law and university students.  The law school’s library dean meets regularly with the university’s library leader to support joint library access.

is for better MEDIATION and MEDICINE: the director of the law school’s Center for the Study & Resolution of Conflict is collaborating with a university sociology professor whose research and teaching interests are on religious conflict and its resolution.  A law professor taught business organizations to university medical-school students.

is for better NETWORKING:  university President Dr. John Dunn hosted law school Board Chair Lawrence Nolan and law students, faculty, and staff, and medical students, faculty, and staff, at a joint affiliation celebration and football-game tailgate party, while the law school also held alumni mixer events for both university and law school alumni.

is for better OPPORTUNITY: university instructional-design and professional-training experts helped law professors write a bar-preparation book and develop instructional materials and programs to improve bar-passage prospects for law graduates, promoting access to professional opportunities through law licensure.

is for better PATHWAYS and PARKING: the university approved accelerated programs within its College of Arts & Sciences and Haworth College of Business to allow students to apply law school credits to complete undergraduate degree requirements.  The university and law school also signed a joint parking-services agreement for equal access to the other institution.

is for better QUALIFYING: law school professors, deans, and staff met and spoke with university pre-law students to help the students qualify for, prepare for, and gain admission to law school.  Both the law school and university share access missions, ensuring that the professions adequately represent the public.

is for better RESEARCH: law librarians helped a university medical school professor research laws regulating electroshock therapy and psychosurgery, for publication purposes, while a law student focused her law school research paper on the same subject, drawing on the knowledge and research resources of the university professor.

is for better SERVICE and SERVICES: law school and university professors involved law students and university students in public-service projects related to law, education, and disability rights.  The university and law school also entered into a joint student-services agreement for access to recreational, health, and other facilities.

is for better TEACHING: university instructional design professors and graduate students in instructional design, working with law professors, planned and implemented instructional reforms in first-year law courses to increase fluent recall and effective use of law concepts, as a catalyst for improving instruction across the law curriculum.

is for better UNDERSTANDING: a law professor recruited professionals from the university’s Specialty Program in Alcohol & Drug Abuse to speak at public events held at the law school to address understanding of addiction issues and to advocate for broader addiction services, connected with law reforms on the same issues.

is for better VISION:  university and law school leaders involved representatives of each other’s institution in each institution’s strategic planning initiatives ensuring that the missions and strategic visions of each institution addressed the interests and perspectives of constituents of the other institution.

is for better WI-FI:  the law school and university each joined the eduRoam network of colleges, universities, and research organizations, to provide one another’s students, faculty, staff, and leaders with secure wi-fi access across all campuses of both institutions, using their own school’s network authentication.

is for better eXPUNGEMENTS: law school and university professors planned and implemented an Expungement Fair to involve law and university students in a public service, clinical law experience, helping to prepare individuals who had been convicted of crime but completed their sentence, for re-entry into the workforce.

stands for better YOUTH: a law professor and dean worked with a university sociology professor to involve university students in middle school crime-prevention community education programs in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo with law-student assistance, working collaboratively with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

is for better k’ ZOO: Kalamazoo, that is. The law school is working to bring its many pro bono service and volunteer programs, such as its Service to Soldiers program, to support the university’s home Kalamazoo community.  The affiliation benefits the university and will continue to reach and benefit Kalamazoo for a long time to come.

Missions.  A university’s traditional mission is to generate useful knowledge, conveying it from generation to generation to improve human life and liberty.  A law school’s traditional mission is to generate useful knowledge specifically about structuring and maintaining human relationships, conveying it from generation to generation for a just society’s preservation and flourishing.  The missions of universities and law schools thus work in parallel, the university having the broader mission while the law school’s relationship mission touches on virtually everything that the university does through social purpose and relationship.

Visions.  Western Michigan University amplifies a university’s traditional mission through its particular learner-centered, discovery-driven, and globally engaged vision.  The university seeks to ensure a distinctive learning experience fostering student success, through innovative discovery and service learning, collaborative research, inclusive excellence, and sustainable stewardship.  In strikingly similar way, Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School maintains a practice-access vision, seeking to equip its diverse graduates with the knowledge, skills, and ethics to serve communities broadly and effectively.

Affiliation.  The affiliation between Western Michigan University and Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School that formally began in August 2014 has spawned 140 proposed or implemented initiatives involving 151 participants at both schools.  The large number of affiliation initiatives and participants makes increasingly unwieldy any fair summary of the affiliation’s depth and breadth.  Indeed, the affiliation has already come so far in its first two years that sampling its initiatives in the following A to Z format seems an appropriate way to give the reader a sense of its resounding success.  The affiliation is making the Law School better and the University stronger.  Consider the following A to Z examples of affiliation initiatives, including several visions for the affiliation’s future.

nelson millerBlog 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.

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Little Girls in Africa Project Inspires Judge and Law Student to Sew Dresses

“We made more than 34,000 dresses in total … our chapter here in Tampa made almost 1,000 … with the help of  people from the community such as Eula Bacon … I do a lot of things here at the court – currently I work with children – but in my life, touching children and families to me has been so important to what I have always worked for. I will probably never meet one of the little girls who will wear one of the dresses, but the ability to touch someone’s life in a meaningful way, to let them know that there are people who care about them and who are invested in their success and interests, is important to me.” – Hon. Barbara Twine-Thomas, 13th Judicial Circuit Judge, Hillsborough County.

Eula T. Bacon is not only a high-energy law student at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, she is also deeply involved in her community and in serving others. One of her many talents is sewing. And as part of the Little Dresses for Africa project, Eula has, to date, created 17 dresses for little girls in Africa, plus has inspired fellow law students, friends and family to help also.

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“All lawyers are required to do pro bono service,” said Eula, “but lawyers do more than just the community workshops or volunteering to help a client who does not have the funds to pay for services. As a law school student, we can’t practice the law, but I always look for opportunities, and the school provides opportunities for us to go out and help in the legal community.”

And that’s how Eula learned about the Little Dresses for Africa project. She was volunteering at the George Edgecomb Bar Association where Judge Twine-Thomas was a featured panel speaker. After the session, Eula was able to talk with Judge Twine-Thomas. She mentioned to Eula that she was going to go home and start sewing dresses for the project. That conversation sparked an excitement for her to get involved.

“I grew up sewing – my mother taught me how to sew – I asked her what the project was about. And when she said – Sewing. Little girls. Africa. – I thought; Wow, this will be a great project. I just became so excited about it. The dresses are going to little girls in Africa, but when you create the dresses (in the sewing circles that Judge Twine-Thomas created), you have a chance to talk to people in the community and they can see legal professionals as more than just the lawyer. They can see them as human beings and that we care about people and we care about service. I love that part of it.”

Judge Twine-Thomas has served others her entire life. It started long before her service in the legal profession over 40 years ago. As a college student, she became very involved in her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, and through the sorority most recently, the Little Dresses for Africa project. “Service to all mankind” is the motto of the 200,000 member sorority, and her church’s philosophy is “If you want justice, work for peace.” These two things together, she says, define who she is. Judge Twine-Thomas was so moved by the Little Dresses for Africa Project, that she chairs the Tampa chapter in the global initiative.

“For several successive weeks we met weekly and sewed together,” recalled Judge Twine-Thomas about the Little Dress for Africa Project. “And as we sewed, we talked about our lives, our friendships, our relationships, and slowly the enthusiasm about what we were doing – making dresses for little girls on the other side of earth – was so motivating. Eventually it was infectious. Everybody around us, everybody who heard about the project wanted to be a part of it.”

“I’m involved in a lot of women’s organizations and I believe in empowering woman. When you are empowering women, you are empowering humanity.”

Judge Barbara Twine-Thomas demonstrates to WMU-Cooley student Eula T. Bacon how to make Dresses for Africa out of a pillow case.

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Open Forums on Policing Build New Community Relationships and Create Economic Benefits

“We don’t want to do Detroit again when 50 years later the city still hasn’t fully recovered,” stated one participant during one of several open forums on police and community relations held at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School’s Grand Rapids campus this summer. Participants not only found the forums revealing, they heard things that they hadn’t heard before, from people whom they did not yet know. They also disclosed things that they hadn’t shared in a long time if at all. In doing so, they made significant new relationships while changing old relationships for the better.

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Every forum also asked whether these gatherings, held here and across the nation, make any difference.

Failed police/community relations carry huge social and economic cost. Residents want peace and order without the sense of an oppressive occupying force. Police officers want to return home alive and uninjured, with the respect of those for whose security they risk their lives. Somewhere in that tense mix, communities find themselves torn by deadly police/resident conflict.

Forums recognized that communities tear themselves apart with resident-on-resident violence of domestic, drug-gang, mental-illness, terrorist, and other variety. They also recognized that every occupation, policing or otherwise, has its dangerous kooks and that no solution is likely to eliminate all such horrors. The forums also concluded that police have a higher duty, one that police seem fully ready to accept. One awful incident is too many, especially when the stakes so quickly spread beyond that one precious life to other lives affected by breakdowns in police/community relations.

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Fortunately, law is action logic, not simply group therapy, as helpful as talking can be for relationships, understanding, and even peace of mind. Law wants peace in neighborhoods, real peace of the physical-security kind, but with liberty, not the peace of an occupying force. So what do these forums produce?

First, we recognize new trends and circumstances. Increased access to concealed-weapon permits is one example, as are changes in local and national economies, family structure, and mental-health resources. Law and policing must recognize and respond to those changes, just as they currently are doing. Keep talking about those changes.

Second, we see the influence of new technologies, particularly smartphone video, body cameras, and social media, but also new body armor, tasers, and other disabling and protective devices. With video in particular, we now so rapidly share compelling recordings, often made all the more compelling by the unfortunate fact that they may be critically incomplete. We need to monitor and deploy these new technologies while recognizing their challenges and limitations. Judge surely, but don’t rush to judgment.

Third, we have abundant new data, some of it in those very same recordings and social-media accounts but also in digitalized hospital records of police-injury reports and records maintained and distributed by the police agencies themselves. We also find that the data is critically incomplete. While scholars are hard at work discerning patterns and trends from what data we have, we need more and better data. It’s coming. Encourage it.

Fourth, we find familiar stressors for both community and police alike. Veterans returning from undeclared wars reenter communities and join local police forces, bringing their trauma with them. Neighborhoods produce their own battle-like stresses. Medicine offers new testing and therapies for stress-induced conditions. We need to take greater advantage of those resources.

Fifth, we find opportunities for new policies, protocols, and practices, guiding officer training, rotation, relief, and testing, how to respond to citizens lawfully carrying concealed weapons, and of course when and how to intervene using reasonable and necessary force.

Talk may be cheap, but talk can work, as these themes emerge and actions follow.

I once represented in a civil-rights action a young man whom an officer shot in the back while the young man lay defenseless on the ground with his hands behind his back. I have a low opinion of human nature but high opinion of human capacity. My hope is that in talking, studying, and law reform, young men like that former client of mine will not have been shot. Let’s keep talking using words and forming relationships that promote peace, law, security, liberty, respect, and order, not violence. Let communities then flourish.

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 teaches law classes on the Kalamazoo, Michigan campus of Western Michigan University.

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Military Feature Jordan Wilson: Distance No Barrier to Getting Sworn into the Michigan Bar While on Active Duty

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. This month we feature U.S. Army Judge Advocate Jordan Wilson who recently graduated from Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, and was able to get sworn into the Michigan Bar while on active duty alongside his parents Larry and Melissa Wilson via video conference. Photos and video were also shared with Jordan’s siblings, including his brother in Ethiopia!

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“What an honor it is to be able to do this in here at the JAG’s in Virginia and be able to be sworn in in Michigan,” said Lt. Wilson. “The huge support I got from Cooley specifically and General McDaniel for putting this on, being able to do this for me is truly a great honor.” – WLNS TV 6 coverage.

Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Amy Ronayne Krause administered the oath from the Michigan National Guard Headquarters, where Jordan’s family, friends and colleagues were able to attend the ceremony via video conferencing. The media was also there to cover Jordan’s important day. Wilson, who is serving at the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, graduated cum laude in January 2016 from WMU-Cooley. He passed the Michigan Bar Exam in February. 

Military rank and title: First Lieutenant Jordan Wilson, Judge Advocate, U.S. Army
Why did you decide to go to law school and why did you choose WMU-Cooley: I knew that a legal career was always something that interested me. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to intern with the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office during college. That experience helped to cement the decision that I wanted to attend law school. Cooley was a perfect fit for what I was looking for in a law school. Being from mid-Michigan, I was very familiar with the school and had close friends attend Cooley. I was really interested in the different scheduling options offered as it helped me to be able to work all throughout law school and meet my commitments as an officer in the Army Reserves. Cooley also has some of the best scholarships for incoming students that I could find anywhere.

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Career description: I attended Liberty University on an Army ROTC scholarship. After graduating, I commissioned into the Army Reserves as a Military Intelligence officer. During my time in law school I served with two different reserve units in Michigan. I had the opportunity to serve as a Platoon Leader, Company Executive Officer, and as a Battalion Staff Officer. Cooley allowed me the chance to be a full-time student and continue my service. One of the highlights of law school was being able to attend the foreign study program in Oxford. During my 3L year, I submitted an application for the Army JAG Corps and found out I was selected for Active Duty literally as I was getting ready to leave for my final law school exam. It definitely increased the pressure on the last exam – which was Secured Transactions!
Career goals: I am looking forward to a career as a Judge Advocate for the Army. The JAG Corps has a reputation for giving new attorneys hands-on experience from day one. One of the things that really intrigued me about the JAG Corps is that there is chance to get exposure in a wide range of legal fields: Criminal Law, Fiscal and Contracts Law, Operational Law, and Administrative Law. Most of all, I am excited for the chance to continue my military service by putting into practice my legal education.
Tell us a little about you: I have grown up in Michigan and would love to make it back after my career as an Army JAG is over. Outside of the Army and the legal field, I love Detroit Tigers baseball and University of Michigan football. I also love to go salmon fishing out on Lake Michigan.
Wilson was commissioned as a military intelligence officer in the United States Army Reserve after attending Liberty University on a four-year ROTC scholarship. He has served as a platoon leader, executive officer, and battalion intelligence officer. While attending law school, Wilson gained experience in various areas of the law, which included estate planning, federal appellate brief writing, policy analysis, and serving on the Ingham County’s Veterans’ Treatment Court. He also interned with the Ingham County Prosecutor’s office.

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