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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Filed under About Cooley Law School, History, The Value of a Legal Education, Uncategorized

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