Category Archives: Alumni Stories and News

Graduates share their success stories about attending law school and achieving their dreams.

Trifecta: WMU-Cooley Law alumna has a three-pronged plan

Julie Lawler-Hoyle’s passion for the law was awakened when her wife became disabled from a stroke. “We lost 80 percent of our household income literally overnight,” she says. “The lawyers who helped us through the ensuing financial fallout made a real difference to our family and were my inspiration to apply to law school.”

Julie Lawler-Hoyle was honored with the Distinguished Student Award at WMU-Cooley Law School's May graduation. She is pictured with her wife, Sally, and in-laws Jim and Connie Hoyle.

Julie Lawler-Hoyle was honored with the Distinguished Student Award at WMU-Cooley’s May graduation. She is pictured with her wife, Sally, and in-laws Jim and Connie Hoyle.

Lawler-Hoyle was a May graduate of WMU-Cooley Law School, where she was the Lansing campus recipient of the Distinguished Student Award.

“I was honored,” she says. “And the special diploma frame I received will look spectacular on the wall of my future office!”

Lawler-Hoyle last trod the halls of academe in the mid to late ’80s, when she earned her undergrad degree in English, cum laude, from Barnard College, Columbia University, in New York City; and a master’s degree from Duke University in Durham, N.C., where she focused on English and Medieval & Renaissance studies.

Returning to school nearly three decades later was a joy.

“I sound like a total geek if I say I loved the rigor of the academic program, but it’s true,” she says. “My undergraduate and graduate degrees are from more prestigious schools. But, I can honestly say I never worked harder academically than I did at WMU-Cooley Law School.”

The biggest advantage of being a mature student was self-awareness, she says.

“I know what I don’t know and I’m not shy about admitting when I’m clueless. I have zero inhibitions about making a fool of myself and it’s pretty darn difficult to embarrass me. As it turns out, these are all excellent qualities in a law student.”

Lawler-Hoyle particularly appreciated the diversity at Cooley Law, that she says goes way beyond race and ethnicity.

“It encompasses age, economic background, income, disability, family situation, gender, gender expression, and more,” she explains. “Colleagues are candid about our differences and openly inquisitive about other’s experiences.

“At the Lansing campus graduation reception, I told a story about my Sunday morning Constitutional Law class with retired Brigadier General, Dean Michael McDaniel. I’m sure I wasn’t the first openly gay student he has taught, but Con Law lends itself to spirited discussions—and we had a few!

“One day he said ‘LGBTQ – I don’t even know what the Q stands for,’ and before I could say anything, he followed it up with ‘but I know we need to protect their rights.’ That moment, for me, exemplified WMU-Cooley’s commitment to diversity.”

Lawler-Hoyle has a three-pronged plan for her future practice. First, she hopes to transition to a legal role with her current employer, Pet Supplies Plus, where she worked full time in the corporate office in Livonia during law school and is still working full time while studying for the bar exam.

Second, she plans to have a solo practice that focuses on estate planning for pet owners. And third, she wants both these plans to be so successful that she can take on veteran cases pro bono.

“As a volunteer pet therapy team, with my dog, Sam, at the Veteran’s Administration Ann Arbor Healthcare System, I’ve seen first-hand the special legal needs of our service members and I want to do my part to honor their service,” she says.

In addition to Sam, Lawler-Hoyle and her wife, Sally Hoyle, have a service dog, Katie, cats Hazel and Harley, and birds Abby and Giizis sharing their cottage on the canal that leads into Whitmore Lake, north of Ann Arbor.

“It’s a very beautiful and peaceful place, perfect for retreating from the ‘real world’,” she says.

This article about WMU-Cooley graduate Julie Lawler-Hoyle was written by Legal News writer Sheila Pursglove originally published by the Legal News on June 6, 2017. It is reprinted here with permission of The Detroit Legal News. 

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WMU-Cooley Couple Brandon Moultrie and Liesl Griffin Talk Love in Law School and Beyond

Brandon Moultrie and Liesl Griffin are two of our latest WMU-Cooley Law School lovebirds who met during law school and decided to tie the knot! They plan to marry in Clearwater Beach, Florida, in November 2017. Enjoy their WMU-Cooley couple story below.

DID YOU ALWAYS WANT TO GO TO LAW SCHOOL?

Brandon: I was part of a college basketball program and getting my master’s degree at Cleveland State University when I decided it was time to start looking into law school. I knew that law school was what I need to do because I really wanted to be in a profession that not only helped people but could make a positive impact on people’s lives. I initially thought that path was coaching basketball — either coaching young kids, high school kids, college kids or even professional athletes. But after going down that road, I realized other careers are more suited to help others.  That profession is a career in the law. I took the LSAT and started looking into law schools.

Griffin: I have an entirely different story! I started out NOT wanting to go to law school. But I guess I really never knew what I wanted to do! I dabbled in a few jobs here and there after undergrad, then I quit a job working for a mortgage company to move to an opportunity in Houston, Texas. That didn’t work out for me, so I then returned to Los Angeles. It was 2008, and at that time the economy had tanked. It seemed like everybody lost their job. The only job I could find was a job at a worker’s compensation law firm. There were a lot of claims being filed during that period. During my time at the firm I kept hearing stories about the economy and jobs. They talked about the medical field, teaching jobs, and government jobs, despite thinking they were safe, they really weren’t. They were losing their jobs. The only jobs that were hiring were law firms. I started reading cases and getting involved at the firm. I found out fairly quickly that it was all very interesting. And the partners encouraged me to go to law school, especially after they heard I went to USC for undergrad. They were very persistent. I finally just took the LSAT. That’s pretty much my start to law school.

HOW DID YOU TWO MEET?

Griffin: We actually met at a party. It was our second semester during law school at WMU-Cooley, and a mutual friend invited us to a house party. We watched a boxing match together.

Moultrie:  It was a Saturday night, and a bunch of us were big boxing fans. I don’t think Liesl was, but we got to talking together as part of the big group of law school friends. Many of us from the Tampa Bay campus were just trying to do extra things outside of classes to meet up and just hang out. We would hook up to play basketball or some other sport, or we would participate in the WMU-Cooley sanctioned events like the welcome back mixers and pro bono activities. For both of us, it really wasn’t love at first sight.

Yet by the end of our third semester, we had really built a strong friendship. It was gradual, and over time. We were in law school, and that was the focus and priority. Plus we were just enjoying our law school experience. Liesl is very athletic so that was a fun connection. We played on the flag football team together at WMU-Cooley. We started going to a lot of parties together. We would go to other events, like my Florida State alumni events. I remember fondly the time she took me out for my birthday in 2014. But law school was all encompassing and it wasn’t  until after I graduated, and she was about to graduate a term later, that we started talking about taking our relationship to the next level.

HOW DID YOU MANAGE THE WHOLE LAW SCHOOL THING? 

Griffin: We purposely stayed away from getting into a relationship during law school. We were able to maintain a friendship, which was important. I think it was a combination of things that brought us together as a couple, starting with us both going through law school together. As law students you spend a lot of time together regardless. You don’t have time to anything other than law school related activities. You know people because you may get to school early, and you’re sitting in the lounge, and you’re just engaging in conversations with people who are already there, or you’re talking about classes, and there’s always some sort of topic to discuss from a class you were in together.

Moultrie: Liesl is the one of few words in our relationship, and I am the one who likes to talk. But we balance each other out. I remember I was studying for the bar with her for hours, then hanging out to relax after. We needed that. I think we both feel, even though it’s something you don’t realize it at the time, what a close-knit group we had in law school.  I’m not just saying that for the camera. You really do feel like part of a family. I appreciate that. People who haven’t been to law school or studied for a bar exam don’t realize what it’s like. We were there for each other and supported each other through it. The relationship was shaped over time and it was a combination of things that made our relationship whole.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW, OTHER THAN PLANNING A WEDDING? 

Moultrie: Since I graduated in August 2015, and passed the February 2016 bar, I quickly got a job at the state attorney’s office of Hillsboro County, which is in downtown Tampa. I’m working as a prosecutor, along with several other WMU-Cooley graduates, by the way.  I’m licensed here in Florida, but in a couple weeks I will be swearing into the D.C. bar.

Griffin: Right now I work for a law firm in Los Angeles doing legal work for them while I study for the bar exam. I’m learning a lot from that.

WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE GOALS?

Moultrie: My long-term goal, believe it or not, is to be a collegiate athletic director. I would love to practice for awhile, then consider transitioning into college athletics over time.

Griffin: After we get married, I plan to move to Tampa and look for a job in federal law, or possibly tax law or immigration law.

OTHER GOALS?

Moultrie: Well, we would like to start a family, but we have a rule. Let me tell you what it is. Liesl is Miss World Traveler. She has her father’s traveling spirit, as do I. The rule is that I have to take her to four countries that she’s never been before we start a family. I’m excited about the idea travel and starting a family so win-win for me!

Griffin: Right! And I mean countries, not just a quick trip to Jamaica, or something that’s an hour flight. I mean somewhere in Europe or Asia or another hard-to-get-to destination.

Moultrie: Yes! I think we’re looking a European honeymoon, maybe London and Dublin.

WMU-Cooley graduates Brandon Moultrie and Liesl Griffin

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Howard Soifer’s Life Remembered in Sports and Entertainment Law Lecture Series

Howard Soifer was a proud 1977 graduate of WMU-Cooley Law School and an accomplished lawyer and a shareholder in the firm of Loomis, Ewert, Parsley, Davis & Gotting, P.C., until the time of his death on January 29, 2003 at the age of 53. It is Howard’s great passion and loyalty that the Soifer Committee created the Howard Soifer Memorial Lecture Series in Sports and Entertainment Law. The Committee feels strongly that the event is a meaningful way to honor Howard’s memory and to endow the lecture series for perpetuity.

He was born in the Bronx and moved to Monsey, New York in 1963. Following graduation from the Spring Valley High School Class of 1967, he attended the University of Toledo for two years and received his undergraduate degree from Long Island University in Brooklyn. Howard’s passion for basketball, baseball, and football led him to represent several prominent professional athletes during his career. He was a dedicated family man, devoted to his wife and friend of more than 30 years, Sandy Kirsch Soifer. He was very proud of his two daughters, Marci and Halie. All who were part of Howard’s life remember him for his great sense of humor and his extreme loyalty, integrity, and strength.

MICHIGAN: MSU STAR AND NFL GREAT TODD DUCKETT 

For WMU-Cooley Law School’s 10th Annual Howard Soifer Memorial Lecture in Sports and Entertainment Law, Todd “T.J.” Duckett, Michigan State University standout and former National Football League running back, and Joseph Bellanca (Sharpe Class, 2008), entertainment and media attorney at Hertz Schram PC, spoke at the Lansing campus this past year.

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TAMPA BAY: HEISMAN TROPHY WINNER, NBA STAR CHARLIE WARD

In early 2017, WMU-Cooley Law School, Tampa Bay campus hosted its first Howard Soifer Memorial Lecture. Featured speakers were college football Heisman Trophy winner and retired NBA player Charlie Ward, along with president of the Sarasota Bar and college football standout Keith DuBose.

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Previous Soifer Memorial Lecture speakers over the past 10 years include Tom Izzo, Michigan State University men’s basketball coach and member of the Basketball Hall of Fame; Kevin Poston, president and CEO of Detroit area based DEAL Elite Athletic Management; Steve Smith, broadcaster and former MSU and NBA all-star basketball player; and Steve Garvey, former MSU and Major League Baseball all-star and MVP.

Howard Soifer’s Life Remembered in Lecture Series

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Judge Sabella Administers Florida Bar Oath of Admission During WMU-Cooley Swearing-In Ceremony

The Hon. Christopher C. Sabella of the 13th Judicial Circuit Court administered The Florida Bar’s Oath of Admission to recent WMU-Cooley Law School graduate Derek Matthews who has been approved for admission into the Florida Bar. The Oath contains important principles to guide attorneys in the legal profession.

“Students at WMU-Cooley have a unique opportunity to be taught by our local outstanding judges and attorneys,” said Matthews. “I was honored to have Judge Sebella swear me into the Florida Bar at the same place my journey into the law began. I am excited that students nearing their own graduation could see firsthand that WMU-Cooley does prepare them for passing the Bar and that their strong effort will be rewarded.”

Judge swears in new lawyer

The Hon. Christopher C. Sabella (right) of the 13th Judicial Circuit Court administers The Florida Bar’s Oath of Admission to recent WMU-Cooley Law School graduate Derek Matthews during a ceremony on May 24.

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WMU-Cooley students and graduates shine brightly during Davis-Dunnings Bar Association Award Banquet

The Davis-Dunnings Bar Association held its 20th Annual Otis M. Smith Scholarship Banquet this spring at the Crowne Plaza in Lansing, Michigan, and the WMU-Cooley family was represented very well.  Two WMU-Cooley students won scholarships. ReNita Antoine received the Hon. Otis M. Smith Scholarship and Tiffany West received the Stuart J. Dunnings, Jr. Scholarship. WMU-Cooley graduate Taneashia R. Morrell, Esq. was the Rising Star award winner, and WMU-Cooley graduate, Board Chair, and State Bar of Michigan President Lawrence P. Nolan received the Trailblazer Award.

ABA Past President Paulette Brown (center) with WMU-Cooley Davis-Dunnings Bar Association award winners student Tiffany West , graduate Taneashia R. Morrell, student ReNita Antoine, and graduate, Board President, and State Bar of Michigan President Lawrence P. Nolan. (Photo credit: Traci Lee, LLC)

ABA Past President Paulette Brown (center) with WMU-Cooley Davis-Dunnings Bar Association award winners, student Tiffany West , graduate Taneashia R. Morrell, student ReNita Antoine, and graduate, Board President, and State Bar of Michigan President Lawrence P. Nolan.

The Davis-Dunnings Bar Association is a special interest bar association with the mission of inspiring outreach to the underserved and under-represented members of the greater Lansing community. American Bar Association Immediate Past President Paulette Brown was the keynote speaker for the evening.  Brown made history as the first African American woman to head the American Bar Association.

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Takura Nyamfukudza, another WMU-Cooley graduate, was elected president of the Davis-Dunnings Bar Association this year. A top criminal defense and appellate law attorney, Nyamfukudza is very active in his community, serving as chairperson, director, treasurer, mentor and volunteer for organizations across the greater Lansing area. He also served 12 years in the U.S. Army. He was recognized in Super Lawyers, Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s “Up and Coming Lawyers,” Ingham County Bar’s “Top 5 Under 35” and the Davis-Dunnings’ “Rising Star Awards.”

(Photo credit: Traci Lee, LLC and WMU-Cooley Law School)

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149 Honored with Juris Doctor and Master of Laws Degrees During WMU-Cooley Law School’s Spring Graduation

Graduates from Western Michigan University Cooley Law School’s three Michigan campuses (Auburn Hills, Grand Rapids and Lansing) were bestowed with juris doctor and master of laws degrees during the law school’s spring commencement ceremony on May 21, at the Michigan State University Auditorium. WMU President Dr. John M. Dunn provided the keynote to 149 graduates and their family and friends in attendance. Javaron Buckley, who was selected by his classmates, presented the valedictory remarks.

Western Michigan University President Dr. John M. Dunn provides the keynote during WMU-Cooley Law School’s spring commencement on May 21.

Dunn’s keynote marked the first time he addressed a graduating class at WMU-Cooley. He said that many of the graduates may have been among the first students to enroll under the affiliation agreement between the law school and the university that began in 2014.

Dunn also spoke about the current political climate and how recent law graduates may be called upon to re-establish the shared narrative of who and what we are as a nation.

“You are graduating at an unusual time in our nation’s history. This is a turbulent time in which we’re seeing attempts to redefine time-tested values like free speech, patriotism, civil rights and the basic ethos upon which our country was founded,” said Dunn. “You will be on the front lines when it comes to defending those laws and polishing that narrative. I know your commitment to the rule of law and when it comes to making the right decision, I have to say my money is on you.”

Javaron Buckley presents the valedictory remarks during graduation for WMU-Cooley Law School’s Michigan campuses.

During the valedictory remarks, Buckley reflected about their time in law school, comparing it to how the Titanic could have avoided sinking. “If the Titanic would have hit the iceberg head-on, it would not have sunk. There’s a life lesson about avoiding problems in that,” he said. “I stand before a group of remarkable graduates who took the voyage through law school and hit the iceberg head-on. It might’ve slowed some of us down, however it did not sink us.”

Buckley also spoke about their futures as attorneys and said, “As lawyers, we are the guardians of justice and the means by which the law reaches the people. Therefore, when carrying out your duties, remember to refrain from becoming intolerant to people’s problems. I ask that you serve with passion and integrity and with empathy for your clients.”

Each class at WMU-Cooley bears the name of a distinguished member of the legal profession. The spring 2017 graduating class is named after Justice Earl Warren. Warren was an American jurist and politician, who served as the 30th governor of California and later the 14th Chief Justice of the United States.

Pictured (left-right) Don LeDuc, WMU-Cooley president and dean; Dr. John M. Dunn, WMU president; and Lawrence Nolan, State Bar of Michigan president and WMU-Cooley board chair.Chief Justice of the United States.

 

WMU-Cooley President and Dean Don LeDuc present Veronica Freemon with her diploma during WMU-Cooley Law School’s spring commencement.

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