When more than a dozen years ago WMU-Cooley Law School opened its campus in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the law school and local Grand Rapids Bar Association saw a chance to create new opportunities for African-American, Hispanic-Latino, Asian-American, and other minority lawyers. Grand Rapids is a remarkably diverse city and there was a need to build on its diversity and create greater inclusion. Today, our Grand Rapids campus can say, “Mission accomplished!”
Working with the local bar, the law school’s Grand Rapids campus has recruited, educated, and graduated 84 African-American lawyers. Over 100 such lawyers, when counting graduates identifying as both African-American and at least one other ethnicity, have since graduated from the law school’s Grand Rapids campus. The accomplishment is all the more remarkable in that the law school does not have an affirmative-action admissions policy. Instead, the school’s approach is that new students who meet the school’s admissions requirements have the ability to get in ,work hard, graduate, and go to work in the law and related professions.
“Several of these graduates have felt like sons and daughters to me,” says campus dean and professor Nelson Miller, adding, “Or maybe I wish that they had been my own family, given their previous military service, business experience, and community advocacy, the skills that they brought and acquired, and their successes since graduation.”
Indeed, WMU-Cooley’s Grand Rapids African-American graduates have taken jobs in large and small law firms around the nation, as prosecutors and public defenders, as appellate research attorneys, and in charitable organizations and businesses.
The Grand Rapids campus and local bar continue to work together to open more doors at Grand Rapids firms for employing more African-American lawyers. The school, campus, and community are proud of the many outstanding African-American lawyers now working all over the region and nation, as summa cum laude, Law Review, and distinguished award-winning graduates.