Monthly Archives: December 2011

Competitions and Awards Year End News Wrap-up

Competitions & Awards

Cooley’s students, faculty, staff, and alumni received wonderful recognition this year for their achievements in academics, inter-collegiate competitions, lawyering skill, community service, and teaching.  Here is just a sampling.

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Filed under Knowledge, Skills, Ethics, Latest News and Updates, Student News, Achievements, Awards

Christmas Spano & Owen Law Firm Praises Cooley Externs

I’m aRoss Spano partner with the Florida firm of Christmas Spano & Owen, P.A.  Over the last few years, we have been pleased to have four Cooley externs working with us, three of whom we’ve been able to extend job offers to.  We’ve been impressed, to say the least, at the practical knowledge and work ethic Cooley externs have demonstrated.  Cooley does an excellent job of preparing its students for the actual practice of law, as opposed to solely focusing on legal theories and concepts.  Cooley students are ready to “hit the ground running,” which is exactly what we need.  We’re excited about Cooley’s new campus in Central Florida, and we look forward to having many more Cooley externs join our team!

V. Ross Spano,  Riverview, Florida

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Pro Bono, Military, and Community Service Year End News Wrap-up

Pro Bono, Military, and Community Service

Cooley’s students, faculty, and staff have again this year demonstrated deep commitment to pro bono, military, and community service.  Here is just a sampling of their accomplishments.

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Filed under About Cooley Law School, History, Knowledge, Skills, Ethics, Latest News and Updates, The Value of a Legal Education

Washtenaw County Public Defender Says Cooley Students Are Outstanding

Washtenaw County Public DefenderHere are the wonderful things that Lloyd E. Powell, the Public Defender of Washtenaw County, Michigan, says about Cooley students and the experience they receive as interns with his office:

Upwards of 85% of all criminal and juvenile cases both nationally and locally involve indigent defendants to some degree.  Most of those cases are handled by public defenders as a mandated constitutional requirement.

Consistent with that requirement, the 40 year-old Office of Public Defender ( regularly handles the overwhelming majority of all criminal and juvenile cases throughout Washtenaw Count.  We are the first choice for appointment by the courts.  Naturally, our Washtenaw County Prosecutor (or a village, township, or city attorney) is always our adversary in the courtroom as we all seek collaboratively to ferret out the truth accurately in pursuit of justice.

Due in part to our heavy caseload, veteran Cooley law professor Norm Fell and I collaborated many years ago to establish a very special “Trial Lawyer Practical Experience Program” in which Cooley Law School students intern with us as student trial lawyers. Over the ensuing years, hundreds of outstanding Cooley interns have provided invaluable assistance to our dedicated staff of 15 veteran public defenders.  Cooley students are fully integrated extensions of our staff lawyers, functioning as:

  • student trial lawyers
  • investigators
  • skilled researchers and
  • invaluable teachers and trainers of other incoming volunteers.

As student trial lawyers, Cooley students actively participate in

  • trials
  • motions
  • pre-trials
  • sentencing hearings
  • probation violations
  • line-ups
  • personal protection orders
  • extraditions
  • Friend of the Court matters
  • bond reduction hearings and
  • diversions.

Our program gives Cooley students the great opportunity to:

  • interview, counsel, and represent indigent defendants
  • engage in the practice of law under the supervision of experienced attorneys
  • appear in court frequently
  • work with a highly skilled group of attorneys who have been trained to be outstanding supervisors and mentors
  • polish public speaking skills
  • work in a collegial, cooperative atmosphere with other students
  • apply the legal theories learned in the classroom to real cases with live clients and
  • engage in negotiations and conversations with prosecuting attorneys in the community.

Cooley interns also participate actively in a wide array of investigative research and studies. Those activities encompass:

  • the adequate and accurate recording of events, codes, and data in case files and computers for important appeals where appropriate
  • timely determination of conflicts of interests
  • assessing the reliability and accuracy of related identifications
  • sequential memorializing of events and procedures related thereto
  • improvement of the use of information technology to enhance quality and cost effectiveness
  • accurate recording of interviews of clients and witnesses
  • analyses of police reports
  • productive visits to crime scenes to gather available facts
  • informed counseling to clients for a more realistic evaluation of their cases and
  • determination of alternative case dispositions that include the availability of alcohol and drug abuse therapy, educational opportunities, and the resolution of family problems.

Cooley student interns and externs over the years have been signally outstanding.  That is why we always look forward to assisting them with excellent recommendations and to actually hiring them as permanent members of our staff whenever there is an opportunity to do so.

Lloyd E. Powell

Washtenaw County Public Defender

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Learn how to be a lawyer – come to Cooley Law School

Summary: The profession has long felt that law schools fail to train their students properly. Cooley is one of the exceptions.

David Segal published a thought-provoking essay, “What They Don’t Teach Law Students: Lawyering,” in the November 19, 2011 issue of the New York Times. He took the position that few law schools teach their students how to be actual lawyers.

Mr. Segal cited the lament of corporate attorney Scott B. Connolly and his firm, Drinker Biddle & Reath, about the lack of practical training of first-year associates, using as an example their lack knowledge about how to close a corporate merger. Ignoring the fact that Mr. Connolly, too, likely did not know how to close a merger when he graduated from law school, his firm has decided to give new associates in his department a four-month primer on corporate law before they can bill a client for their work.

The profession has long felt that law schools fail to train their students properly. Cooley is one of the exceptions. We were founded in 1972 on the principle that experienced lawyers and judges can effectively teach both the law and the practice of law, thereby best preparing law students to enter the profession. To this day, we have observed that Cooley’s rigorous program of law instruction and practical training equips our students to hit the ground running.

In 1992, the American Bar Association’s “Task Force on Law Schools and the Profession: Narrowing the Gap” published an authoritative report on legal education and the legal profession titled Legal Education and Professional Development: An Educational Continuum. Widely known as the “MacCrate Report” in recognition of the stature of task force chairperson and former ABA President Robert MacCrate, the task force found not so much a gap as a continuum in the responsibility for legal training across law school and law practice, which it described as an “arduous road of professional development along which all prospective lawyers should travel.” MacCrate Report, at 8. The task force found that the “gap” is instead one between expectation and reality. “The lament of the practicing bar is a steady refrain: ‘They can’t draft a contract, they can’t write, they’ve never seen a summons, the professors have never been inside a courtroom.’ Law schools offer the traditional responses: ‘We teach them how to think, we’re not trade schools, we’re the centers of scholarship and learning, practice is best taught by practitioners.’” Id. at 4.

As Mr. Segal noted, and as MacCrate recognized, many law schools, especially the university-based schools, are staffed with professors who aspire to scholarship and teaching in meeting with the university’s cultural academic standards. Law schools attain higher status, to the extent that should even matter, largely on the scholarly reputations of the faculty. Some of the elite schools view experienced practitioners as presumptively disqualified from joining the faculty. On the other hand, as both Mr. Segal and MacCrate recognized, practitioners believe that their own schools left them deficient in legal skills and view academic scholarship as increasingly irrelevant to the practice of law. Id. at 5.
Thus, upon hearing the Drinker Biddle & Reath lament about the unpreparedness of its new associates, one might ask in light of MacCrate:

  •  “Why do you hire associates who come from law schools that do not train their students to be lawyers?” or
  • “Why do you not recruit at a law school that emphasizes practical legal education, taught by practitioners of the law rather than by professors who have never practiced?” or
  • “Why do you prefer to recruit at a law school whose law review publishes articles that only other academics read rather than at a school that espouses practical legal scholarship?” or
  • “Why do you play the ‘prestige game’ when your clients never ask you what law school you or your associates attended?”

I would invite Drinker Biddle & Reath and all other law firms to recruit students at Cooley Law School, where the faculty – tenured faculty – have been partners at major law firms, general counsel of corporations, judges on courts of record, and have tried and argued cases at every level of jurisprudence from the local zoning board to the U.S. Supreme Court.

I would have them consider the skills that Cooley students learn – on top of the legal knowledge – from teachers who have negotiated deals, drafted contacts, and closed purchases and who use that real-world experience to teach their students how to practice law.

I would have them know that Cooley’s students are required to complete a practicum – a clinical program or an externship at one of more than 2,000 sites nationally – as a condition to receiving their J.D. degree.

I would have them read Cooley’s Journal of Ethics and Responsibility or its Journal of Practical and Clinical Law, where they might actually learn something valuable to their practice.

I would have them know that Cooley’s skills teams – including the team that won the 2011 ABA Client Counseling National Competition – compete favorably against the so-called “elite” law schools.

In short, I would invite the law firms, who after all are running big businesses, to do what rational businesses in most every other industry save the legal profession do: recruit and hire candidates who bear the knowledge, skills and ethics needed to practice competently – perhaps even in apparent disregard of the relative “prestige” of the law schools.

And for all who want to learn to be practicing lawyers, I would invite you to enroll at Cooley Law School.

James D. Robb
Associate Dean for Development and Alumni Relations and Senior Counsel
Thomas M. Cooley Law School

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