Monthly Archives: March 2014

Cooley Adds Michigan Supreme Court Justice and Leading Canadian Lawyer to Board of Directors

Cooley has added to its Board of Directors an outstanding jurist and an outstanding Canadian lawyer and bar leader, both of whom bring to Cooley keen intellect and deep experience in the legal profession.

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Markman

Justice Stephen J. Markman

Justice Stephen J. Markman

Justice Markman was appointed to Michigan’s highest court in 1999 by Governor and Cooley alumnus John Engler (Wing Class, 1982) and has since been reelected three times.  Before that, Markman was a judge of the MIchigan Court of Appeals, the U.S. Attorney in Detroit, and a high-ranking official within the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

Given Cooley’s law practice orientation and deep relationship with the judiciary, it is not a surprise to note that Justice Markman is the 7th justice of the Michigan Supreme Court to serve on Cooley’s Board of Directors.  He follows in the footsteps of Justices Thomas E. Brennan, John W. Fitzgerald, James L. Ryan, James H. Brickley, Michael F. Cavanagh, and Dorothy Comstock Riley.

Ontario lawyer and legal scholar James C. Morton.

James C. Morton

James C. Morton

Professor Morton is head of the litigation group of the Canadian law firm Steinberg, Morton, Hope and Israel LLP and a long-standing adjunct professor at Cooley. He is past president of the Ontario Bar Association. He has been intimately involved with Cooley’s Toronto foreign study progam for 15 years, and has taught Canadian Law at Cooley’s Auburn Hills campus. Professor Morton has published dozens of scholarly works, has taught at several law schools, and received Cooley’s Frederick J. Griffith III Adjunct Faculty Award as the outstanding adjunct professor in 2012.

Click here for more details on Cooley’s new Board members.

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What It Means to Love the Law

Nelson P. Miller, Associate Dean for the Grand Rapids Campus and Professor of Law

Nelson P. Miller, Associate Dean for the Grand Rapids Campus and Professor of Law

By Nelson P. Miller

Nelson P. Miller, Associate Dean for the Grand Rapids Campus and Professor of Law, offers a very personal and insightful perspective on the law.

It is hard to know if many lawyers reach this point in a law career.  Lawyer media report no surveys.  Yet the other day I realized, with no specific inspiration, that I love the law.

Any self-respecting lawyer would push the thought aside as inanity.  To love the law is way too sentimental, when law and its practice have very little to do with sentiment.  The legal mind, law profession, and lawyer’s spirit are practical and pragmatic.  Most lawyers barely allow room for emotion, and when we do, the emotions tend to be hard, like fear and conviction, rather than sweetly sentimental.

Yet for days, the thought of loving the law pursued me, filling the silent interstices between researching, writing, reviewing documents, and fielding client inquiries.  (I am a law professor and dean but retain the privilege of pro bono work.)  The thought of deeply loving what one does began brightening day after day of it, tempered only slightly by the fear that loving it might mean losing it sooner rather than later.  (Fear is a trial lawyer’s natural emotion from which we draw that indispensable trial-lawyer resource: courage.)

Most lawyers are wise enough to love law’s practice, meaning the interaction with clients, lawyers, witnesses, experts, and court staff.  What cold heart would not appreciate routine relationship with so rich a cast of needful, ambitious, humorous, and unique characters?  It can take some time, but lawyers even learn to love judges—on any day other than one misspent losing a motion.

Nearly all lawyers also love the engagement that law practice brings, not just to know a community’s problems like reading a local newspaper but to solve those problems.  Lawyers pursue a community’s possibilities rather than merely speculate about them.  Lawyers love doing, from attacking the horror of human trafficking all the way to negotiating public bond financing for a hospital authority.  What pitiable professional soul could remain indifferent to such terrible problems and profound possibilities?

The public thinks lawyers love the money.  The remuneration that necessarily flows from law practice can carry its own small satisfaction.  After all, earning one’s keep and the keep of one’s family are first responsibilities.  Should we not find modest solace in it?  Yet lawyers know that the lawyer who loves money pursues a relentless, untrustworthy, and discredited master.  Loving the law is not the same as loving its profit.  Far from it.

To love the law means more than to love its practice or profit.  Think of the law itself, stripped of its people and purposes.  Loving the law entails discerning law’s sensitivity, how well the law listens and responds to people and purposes.  Loving the law entails discerning law’s power, to which not just parties and their lawyers but also judges and officials must bend.  Most of all, loving the law entails discerning law’s source, as the Declaration says in inalienable rights granted from God rather than government.  Few things could deserve greater devotion.

In the end, loving the law may not be sentimental but sacrificial.  Loving the law requires bending one’s own naturally selfish ways to the selfless way of a gloriously jealous but nonetheless perfect master.  Maybe more lawyers, indeed all lawyers whether emerging or experienced, should love the law unashamedly.  Sure, keep priorities in order.  Love God, kin, and country before career, even when the career is a satisfying law practice.  Yet loving the law can come very close to loving something and someone much greater.  What a good day it is to be a lawyer.

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Understanding Law School Loans and Controlling Debt

Cooley’s President and Dean, Don LeDuc, is publishing commentaries on the Law School, legal education, legal employment, and related topics.  In this commentary, President LeDuc teaches us about law school loans and student debt.

Anyone considering law school will be barraged with blog commentary and analysis by those claiming to being informed about student loans.  Inaccuracies and exaggerations abound.  So, here is some clarification, although with each statement there may be scattered exceptions.  Read the full commentary for further details.

 Law School Loans

Law schools are not lenders.  

Law schools exercise no control over the eligibility requirements.  

The law schools get no compensation for their services.

Schools do not get any of the interest payments or principal repayments that students make.

Schools do not control loan forgiveness, now or previously.

Default rates on law student loans are quite low.

Default rates are calculated and reported by the federal government.

Law School Debt

There is a significant gap between the amount of money students receive from loans and the amount of money that law schools receive in tuition and fees from those students.

Summary

The reality, at least at Cooley, is this.  For its most recent class, slightly over one quarter of the loan funds borrowed by its graduates did not go to the school.  The average graduate paid $27,364 per year in tuition.  The average scholarship among the 117 recipients was $43,578, or $14,526 per year.  The average non-scholarship student paid $35,991 per year in tuition.  None of the loan principal and interest payments will go to the School; all the loan profits will be realized by the federal government.  Even in a time of recession, the graduates of Cooley had default rates that were very low.

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Click here for all of President LeDuc’s commentaries.

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Let’s Cut All Graduate School By a Third

Nelson P. Miller, Associate Dean for the Grand Rapids Campus and Professor of Law

Nelson P. Miller, Associate Dean for the Grand Rapids Campus and Professor of Law

By Nelson P. Miller

Nelson P. Miller, Associate Dean for the Grand Rapids Campus and Professor of Law, offers this tongue-in-cheek retort to the calls for reducing the scope of legal education.  
National media reported that President Obama joined a chorus of law school critics a while back by suggesting that to save on tuition costs, law students should graduate in just two rather than three years.  Law graduates can learn on the job at law firms, the argument goes.  Those senior law partners love teaching new associates the professional ropes.  And clients love paying those new associates for work that they cannot yet do, haven’t you heard?
 

The argument makes so much sense that one has to ask, why stop at law schools?

Most agree that healthcare is too scarce and expensive in part because of a doctor shortage.  Medical students graduate with much larger debt loads than law students.  Why not license medical students after just two years?  A little on-the-job training never hurt anyone, especially in a surgical suite.  That’s why they have malpractice insurance, isn’t it?  They give you a free do-over, right?  The receptionist can probably tell you if that lump is cancer anyway.  Or you can use the internet for self-diagnosis.  Didn’t you just read that patients are out-diagnosing their doctors now by two to one?

Commercial airline pilots are in great demand due largely to increases in consumer air travel in China and other Asian nations.  Commercial pilots undergo years of rigorous training and certification before qualified to fly.  Why not certify commercial pilots after a third less training?  On-the-job training can work there, too.  The junior pilot who almost landed the flight from China in San Francisco Bay didn’t kill anyone, did he?  Think of the debts those new pilots would avoid, cutting their training by a third.  They could buy that condo in Aspen years earlier.

And then we have engineers—the kind that ensure that bridges and buildings stand.  Have you seen how expensive engineering school is lately?  Everyone knows that we have far too few students entering the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.  Those years of professional school are not only expensive but discouraging.  Why not cut the schooling of engineers by a third?  Urban renovation knocks down buildings these days within a decade or two anyway.  They no longer need to last.  Think instead of the stress those engineers would avoid having to pay for all that extra educational debt.

Accountants don’t need as much professional training as they get either, now do they?  A few mistakes on your taxes won’t hurt you that much.  Haven’t you heard that the IRS has a new consumer-protection function to control its over-zealous auditors?  Most tax debts are not dischargeable in bankruptcy, but the IRS will work with you.  And when you try to sell your business with your books a mess, buyers don’t care.  They know that they can always sue you for misrepresentation.

Nurses, social workers, emergency medical technicians—they can all get by just fine with one third less education.  And they, too, will have lots less educational debt and lots less stress paying back that debt.  On-the-job training can work in every profession, can’t it?

Our real concern should not be for the training of those who enter these critical professions where lives, families, businesses, and finances are on the line.  You don’t need a lawyer to draft a proper will.  Let your life’s fortune go where it pleases.  You won’t be around anyway.  That business you sold after a lifetime’s work building it up?  The buyer shouldn’t have to pay for it when your lawyer screwed up the paperwork.  Your ex-spouse wants the kids, home, and retirement accounts?  Be generous.  Don’t expect your lawyer to know what’s fair or how to get it.

No, our real concern should be for the education of hairdressers.  Let’s keep our heads on straight, here, after all.  Who cares how much educational debt your hairdresser incurred when it’s your hair about which we’re talking.  Not just hairdressers, either.  Plumbers, too.  Definitely plumbers.  And pedicurists.  And chefs.  Let’s keep our priorities straight here.  Protection of the public is paramount.  Have you had an overcooked steak lately?  We should not stand for that.

At Cooley, students actually can graduate in two years, and at substantial savings, by enrolling in Cooley’s accelerated full-time program.  But they go full time, all year long, and they take the full 90-credit curriculum taught by the same outstanding faculty as any other Cooley student.

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More Jobs Than Law Grads for the Class of 2016

There will be an undersupply of lawyers with the class of 2016 . . .

so predicts National Jurist’s preLaw magazine. In an article by its editor-in-chief, Jack Crittenden, preLaw compares decreasing law school enrollment figures with bar employment data to conclude that “there will be an undersupply of lawyers with the class of 2016, even if employment remains flat.  And the class of 2017 should enjoy a market where the job demand is far greater than any previous class since NALP [the National Association for Law Placement] began tracking data in the early 1990s.”

       Crittenden’s findings confirm what Cooley’s President and Dean, Don LeDuc, has said in this blog: now is a great time to enter law school.

       But Crittenden leaves out an equally important part of the undersupply story – due to the aging of the lawyer population, an increasing number of lawyers are leaving the profession. As early as two years ago, President LeDuc noted how 56% of Michigan’s active resident lawyers are 50 years old or older.  And Michigan data show that more lawyers are leaving the practice of law in Michigan than the law schools produce. The result is that, starting very soon, Michigan will not produce the number of law school graduates sufficient to replace the number now leaving the profession through retirement, death, and other employment. This portends well for job growth in Michigan.

President Don LeDuc is publishing commentaries on the Law School, legal education, legal employment, and related topics.  In three recent commentaries, President LeDuc takes on a variety of misstatements and misinformation about legal employment, showing that legal unemployment in Michigan remains low while legal employment is increasing.  And Cooley itself is hardly “flooding the market” with law graduates in Michigan.

Click here for all of President LeDuc’s commentaries.

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