Monthly Archives: December 2014

Students in Sixty Plus Clinic Reflect on Their Great Experiences

Kimberly E. O'Leary

Kimberly E. O’Leary is professor of law and director of WMU-Cooley’s Sixty Plus. Inc. Elderlaw Clinic.  She is a national leader in clinical education, including having served as chair of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Clinical Legal Education.  Prof. O’Leary writes that “My students are the bright light in the room, always, for me.” She shares with us some of her students’ reflections about their Sixty Plus Clinic experience.

One student noted the feelings a clinical student goes through:
It was like a switch clicked and all of a sudden you know what you’re doing.  The most important skill is patience – with clients, with learning, with systems.  The first term, I had PTSD:  post traumatic supervisory disorder.  It’s all about time and how to manage it.
Here are important realizations from another student:
They actually valued my opinions and my ideas.  I realized I can do it.  I realized certain areas I need to improve.  I learned how you can become the lawyer you want to be.
Another student learned that there is plenty of room for good lawyers, especially those who can work as part of a team:

I heard there’s too many lawyers.  There’s NOT too many lawyers.  Instead, there are so many people who could benefit from a lawyer who don’t have access to one.

Good lawyers find a way to get paid to help people who need them.

There’s work to be done.

I learned a lot about the elderly.

I’ve always been independent. I was nervous about working in a team.

I’ve learned how to work with people in a professional setting.

Yet another offered practical suggestions to future clinical students at the Law School:

·         Write down new ideas so you don’t forget them.

·         Be confident in your role as a lawyer.

·         Act like you know what you’re doing.

·         You don’t have to write a lot to write something good.

·         It’s OK to smile.

Here are some gems:
Silence is OK, and sometimes it is necessary.  I can interact with a client.  I can be creative, think outside the box.  I learned that issues often intertwine.  Knowing where to start . . . .  Explaining the law to clients.  Huge boost of confidence.  Preparation is key.

This student realized that a lawyer sometimes encounters difficult clients:

The client sometimes changes her goals.

After we communicated, the client who initially felt lost instead felt relief and appreciated what I had done for her.

I learned it is OK to ask for help.

Sometimes it is best to gracefully withdraw when you think a client is being unethical.

This student loved the experience of working with colleagues:
I loved bouncing ideas back and forth, exploring issues, putting everything together, getting different perspectives from classmates.  I learned better ways of communication and the importance of staying organized.
And this student exclaimed how she has learned what she wants to do upon graduation, adding some practice pointers for us:

·         This experience led me to my passion.

·         I want to be a solo practitioner in estate planning.

·         Discussing your ultimate wishes is a favor to your family.

·         I want to do Medicaid planning.


·         Don’t take anything at face value.  Investigate.

·         Take deep breaths, and rub your temples.

·         Opinion letters are your best friend.

·         Remember the grand scheme of things.

These students performed admirably in the clinic, learning not only the law but how to serve their clients with skill and compassion.  WMU-Cooley Law School is proud of their achievements.  If you haven’t yet taken your clinic or externship, a valuable and exciting time awaits you.  If you have, please share your experiences with us by commenting below or writing us at

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Variety is the Spice of Life — and the Classroom!

“One size fits all?” Not in the world of education! Four faculty members from Western Michigan University Cooley Law School have put to rest any thoughts that any one single approach to teaching can bring success in the law school classroom.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe Social Science Research Network published “The Value of Variety in Teaching: A Professor’s Guide” in the Journal of Legal Education (Vol. 64, No. 1) authored by WMU-Cooley faculty members Tonya L. Krause-Phelan, Kara Zech Thelen, and Heather Garretson, and former faculty member Jane Siegel. In the 28-page article, the professors show that the storied Socratic Method of teaching is just one of more than 80 ways law school faculty can use to get their message across.

The professors created a practical, how-to guide, organized by skill so that it’s easy for readers to use.

“You’ll enjoy what variety can do for your teaching,” the professors wrote. “And your students will thank you for it.”

Teaching students with a variety of methods helps them both in the classroom and in their career, the professors explained. Just as they learned in a number of different ways in school, the students-turned-lawyers will find themselves having to use a number of alternative methods to convey important legal points to their clients, jurors, and even judges and opposing counsel. With the variety approach, students can draw both on the substantive material they learned and the different methods used to get the points across.

Skills addressed in the helpful article are speaking, writing, concrete learning, organization, practice skills, comprehension, self-assessment, working together, professionalism, student participation, and student feedback.

The article combines practical ideas with a bit of humor here and there. Readers are directed to help their students avoid ambiguity by taking on Medicaid eligibility rules. Which part is unclear? “Pick a provision by throwing a dart at the code,” the professors advised.

The article goes on to address such areas as:

  • Dry classes
  • Obscure wording
  • How to break up issue spotting instruction by having students dissect a few selected songs
  • How to demonstrate the elements of attempted crime with a comparison to baseball, and
  • The benefits of not starting an email with “hey” to illustrate professionalism in communication.

We invite you to read this outstanding article and think you will enjoy learning what these experienced teachers have to say.

Tell us what you think.

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WMU-Cooley Students Learn about the Law, New Cultures in Foreign Study Programs

Hear what WMU-Cooley students Mao Lee and Celene Delice have to say about their experiences in Australia and New Zealand.

Students at WMU-Cooley Law School have the opportunity to expand their horizons through a variety of foreign study programs.  Travelers can continue to earn credit toward their law 1.  2014 AU-NZ.Group at Menzies Creekdegree, experience new cultures across the globe, and make lifelong friends — all through WMU-Cooley’s ABA-accredited study programs in Australia and New Zealand; Oxford, England, and Toronto, Canada.

Between the classes and the opportunities to explore the host countries, the experience can be a life-changing one. But don’t take our word for it. Listen to the foreign study students as we present an interview with them about their experiences.

Mao is “… a fan of Lord of the Rings…”  Air New Zealand is the airline of Middle-earth…check out the pre-flight video!

Mao is “… a fan of Lord of the Rings…” Air New Zealand is the airline of Middle-earth…check out the pre-flight video!

“Hey Mate!” says Celine.  Leave Melbourne and travel along the Great Ocean Road to visit the iconic Twelve Apostles.

“Hey Mate!” says Celine. Leave Melbourne and travel along the Great Ocean Road to visit the iconic Twelve Apostles.


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WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Sought Out to Help Make Sense of Affordable Care Act

One of the benefits of having an in-house expert on a complicated subject is that when the news is swirling with the latest development or deadline, you have a close-at-hand ally to make sense of it all. WMU-Cooley Law School has such an expert when it comes to the Affordable Care Act — Professor Lisa Sewell DeMoss,  director of the school’s LL.M. program in Insurance Law.Demoss_Lisa

With the deadline to sign up for health insurance looming on Monday, Dec. 15,  DeMoss has been much in demand as various media outlets seek out her expertise, explanations, and insight. In addition to her work with WMU-Cooley’s popular insurance law program, DeMoss’ expertise also includes time as general counsel and corporate compliance officer for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan in Detroit.

A couple important points DeMoss stresses are:

  1. Most people must have coverage or pay a penalty.
  2. You may already be covered through your employer based plan, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, or other government sponsored plan, or you may be exempt from the coverage requirement.
  3. Each state offers several health plans that provide coverage at different price points corresponding to the enrollee’s cost sharing responsibilities for the health services incurred during each annual coverage period.

Sought out for that insight, DeMoss’ latest contributions to the health care conversation include an extensive article on EmaxHealth, a feature interview on the program Inside Maine, on WGAN; a story on WWMT on the west side of Michigan , and a practical interview on Click on Detroit.

Congratulations to Professor DeMoss for helping listeners and readers across the country make sense of this complicated subject. She has helped people wade through the politics and challenges, to understand the forces at play, and to understand what they need to do next on a matter of both personal and social importance.

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