Category Archives: Awards

WMU-Cooley Law School Holds Honors Convocation in Auburn Hills

On Thursday, July 13, 2017, WMU-Cooley Law School’s Auburn Hills campus held its Honors Convocation recognizing students for top course grades, Dean’s List, Honor Roll, and leadership and skills competition achievements.

The recipients of the Leadership Achievement Award were Eric Langton and Erika Morgan. The award acknowledges students who have consistently, comprehensively and effectively provided leadership in a variety of capacities.

Leadership Award winners

Leadership Achievement Award recipients Erika Morgan and Eric Langton hold the awards during WMU-Cooley Law School’s Auburn Hills Honors Convocation on July 13.

During the event, WMU-Cooley Associate Professor Frank Aiello was presented the Distinguished Faculty Award.

Aiello, who presented the evening’s keynote, spoke to students, staff and faculty about what he has learned over the years, and reflected on the intersection of his personal and work life. He offered what he referred to as “quasi-wisdom,” encouraging students to be kind, speak less, listen more and utilize their strengths.

“Having now taught here for almost 12 years, I have the pleasure of observing many incredible WMU-Cooley alumni who are doing amazing things — lead counsel to the police and fire unions in the Detroit bankruptcy, representing famous Detroit musical artists, working on behalf of the disadvantaged at legal aid organizations, incredible prosecutors and defense attorneys and wildly successful civil litigators,” Aiello said. “I am humbled by the accomplishments of my former students and can’t wait to see what you do.”

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Lynn Helland Honored with WMU-Cooley Law School’s Integrity Award

Lynn Helland, executive director of the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission was the featured speaker and Integrity Award recipient during the “Integrity in Our Community” speaker series at the WMU-Cooley Law School’s Auburn Hills campus, July 14, 2017. The Integrity Award is presented to legal professionals who demonstrate the highest integrity in their profession. The event was co-hosted by the law school’s newest student organization, the Society for Personal and Professional Integrity.

Speakers at Integrity event

Pictured (left-right) Patrick Corbett, assistant U.S. attorney and WMU-Cooley Law School visiting professor; Joan Vestrand, WMU-Cooley Law School associate dean; Lynn Helland, executive director of the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission; and Alan Gershel, attorney grievance administrator during the “Integrity in our Community” speaker series at the WMU-Cooley Law School’s Auburn Hills campus on July 14.

Alan Gershel, past recipient of the Integrity Award, former U.S. attorney  and current Michigan attorney  grievance administrator, who worked with Helland on a number of cases while each were employed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, provided Helland’s introductory remarks.

“We often said that a measure of a prosecutor’s integrity is not what he or she does in public, in a courtroom, when people are watching, when it’s easy to make the right decision,” said Gershel. “The more difficult times really occur when no one is looking, when the lights are not on, so to speak. Lynn was the gold standard. He led by example. He always did the right thing.”

Integrity Award winner

Lynn Helland, executive director of the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission, was the featured speaker and received the Integrity Award during WMU-Cooley Law School’s “Integrity in Our Community” speaker series on July 14 at the law school’s Auburn Hills campus.

Helland’s presentation was on the topic of personal integrity, and spoke about how individual integrity can influence the community at large.

“None of us think that our integrity is responsible for that overall level of national trust, but it is. Each contribution we make, for better or for worse, has an impact on the whole,” Helland said.

Helland identified and discussed two types of integrity: moral integrity and integrity of thought. He spoke of the importance of remaining objective and honest. He also emphasized the challenges of having integrity, citing brain research that he said shows people are wired so that they handle information that undercuts their beliefs by disregarding or discounting that information.

“For the good of all our communities, I encourage all of us to embrace both moral integrity and thinking integrity. We all want to do that, you already said that, but I encourage you also to recognize how hard it is, and to embrace how hard it is and to try to work through how hard it is,” Helland said.

Group at integrity event

Pictured (left-right) Helen Khouli, president of the Society for Personal and Professional Integrity; Lynn Helland, executive director of the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission; and Alan Gershel, attorney grievance administrator during the “Integrity in our Community” speaker series at the WMU-Cooley Law School’s Auburn Hills campus on July 14.

Before Helland was appointed to serve as executive director of the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission, he served as assistant United States attorney. Helland has significant experience with Michigan legal ethics as a professional responsibility officer, discipline hearing panelist and ethics instructor. He has been responsible for helping colleagues comply with the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct.

During Helland’s 34 years as a federal prosecutor, he was assigned to complex crimes involving public corruption, health care fraud, national security and civil rights. He has investigated complex economic, environmental and non-drug money laundering crimes. In addition, he has worked internationally within legal systems to obtain documents and/or testimony for prosecution of complex economic crimes. Helland also served as senior legal adviser for the United States Embassy, Kabul, Afghanistan.

Helland served as law clerk to the Honorable Cornelia Kennedy, who was on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. His community involvement includes serving as a board member for Save the Afghan Children, a charity that supports a girls’ orphanage and school in Kabul, Afghanistan; was a board member for Veahavta, a charity that supports a girls’ orphanage in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka; served as a board member and president, Parent’s Association, Oak Trails Montessori School; and has participated in humanitarian trips to Sri Lanka and Haiti.

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WMU-Cooley Law School Holds Honors Convocation in Florida

On Wednesday, July 12, WMU-Cooley Law School’s Tampa Bay campus held its Honors Convocation recognizing students for top course grades, Dean’s List, Honor Roll, and leadership and skills competition achievements.

Sheila Lake received the Alumni Distinguished Student Award for her academic success, professionalism, and participation and leadership in student organizations.

Lake also won a Leadership Achievement Award, along with classmates David Lee and Selena Neal. The award acknowledges students who have consistently, comprehensively and effectively provided leadership in a variety of capacities.

Selena Neal with award

Selena Neal

Sheila Lake with award

Sheila Lake

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WMU-Cooley ReNita Antoine Makes Law and Leadership Life Priority

The youngest of eight, and a first-generation college graduate and first lawyer in her family, ReNita Antoine has always had a desire to help those who cannot help themselves and be the change people want to see. In high school, she participated in the YMCA’s Youth and Government program, drafting a bill and competing against students in her hometown of Houston, then against students around Texas.

“It was then I realized I could make laws that would affect the entire state,” she says. “I knew getting a law degree would give me a better understanding of how the law works and a ticket to help those who have become victim to unfair, unequal, treatment.”

Antoine earned her undergrad degree in Criminal Justice from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. As a student, she was heavily involved on campus and in the community; she was initiated into the Eta Psi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority; and interned at the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office.

“I wanted to get an understanding of how the criminal justice system works and why so many individuals fall victim to the luring nature of crime,” she says. “The misfortune that plagues individuals almost forces them to experience the system and in turn creates a cyclical effect on the generations to follow. Fortunately, with hard work and commitment, this generational chain can be broken.”

After working as a clerk/receptionist at a Houston firm, and as a co-producer for a local TV show, “Truth & Justice with Vivian King,” Antoine headed to the WMU-Cooley Law School campus in Lansing.

“WMU-Cooley has some of the most knowledgeable, experienced, and engaging professors, who have practical experience coupled with the theory of the law,” she says. “The professors have an open-door policy which allows students to have candid conversations about the law. They are truly there for students. I developed lasting relationships with some professors that will extend beyond law school.”

While in law school, Antoine competed in the National Black Law Student Association Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition, that she believes prepared her for an 11-week internship with the Prosecutors Attorney Association of Michigan (PAAM) in southwest Michigan’s Berrien County.

“I believe this competition is one of the best mock trial competitions in the world,” she says. “It challenges you to think quickly on your feet, make sound arguments, and hone your public speaking skills.”

At PAAM, where her internship involved working as an assistant prosecutor, Antoine counseled with individuals to provide them with appropriate charges and negotiated with defense attorneys for plea deals.

“I received actual trial experience and was exposed to the daily workings of a prosecutor’s office,” she says.

In addition to her studies, she served as the head representative for the WMU-Cooley-Lansing campus for Barbri Inc., a bar preparation company that has been helping students for five decades. She also worked as a data specialist for the State Court Administrative Office Trial Court Services Division, traveling throughout Michigan to collect data for the Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program (SSSPP) — a program that targets high-risk felony offenders with a history of probation violations or failures.

“I saw first-hand how someone who would otherwise serve a lengthy prison sentence earns a second chance for a new life,” she says. “I found this position enlightening. I could see how this program worked. Sometimes, all one ever needs is a second chance and this program affords them that opportunity.”

Outside of school, Antoine volunteered with the Building Child and Family Initiatives – MAGIC of Reading Program (MOR), helping children in grades K – 6 hone their reading comprehension skills.

“I thoroughly enjoyed working with this program,” she says. “MOR allowed me to be an active participant in the Lansing community and work with the future generation of leaders.”

In her final semester at WMU-Cooley Law, Antoine externed with the Resolution Services Center of Central Michigan (RSCCM) in Lansing. She observed civil and domestic mediations, co-mediated small claims disputes, and conducted intake interviews.

“I believe mediation is one of the best ways to resolve a case, and it allows parties to come to an agreement on their own,” she says. “Equally important, mediation is more economically feasible than a trial, which is good for the judicial system.”

At WMU-Cooley’s honors convocation, Antoine was honored with the Leadership Achievement Award.

Associate Dean Michael McDaniel presents WMU-Cooley student ReNita Antoine with Leadership Award

Associate Dean Michael McDaniel presents WMU-Cooley student ReNita Antoine with Leadership Award

“It was unexpected, yet welcomed and appreciated,” she says. “I was just doing what I was supposed to do, leading. I was not expecting to be awarded for my passion of service. When I took on duties and responsibilities, I did what was right for the student body. So, to be honored with this achievement was a blessing.”

She received further kudos in being awarded the Otis M. Smith scholarship at the 20th Annual Davis-Dunnings Bar Association Otis M. Smith Scholarship Banquet.

Davis-Dunnings Bar Association President and WMU-Cooley graduate Takura Nyamfukudza presents WMU-Cooley student ReNita Antoine with Scholarship Award

Davis-Dunnings Bar Association President and WMU-Cooley graduate Takura Nyamfukudza presents WMU-Cooley student ReNita Antoine with Scholarship Award

The Houston native is taking the Texas bar exam this upcoming July and plans to return to her hometown. Interested in bankruptcy law, estate planning, negotiation/mediation, and politics, she plans to advocate for clients and her community on a local and national level.

This article about WMU-Cooley graduate ReNita Antoine was written by Legal News writer Sheila Pursglove originally published by the Legal News on June 28, 2017. It is reprinted here with permission of The Detroit Legal News. 

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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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WMU-Cooley Professor Joseph Kimble Honored By Scribes – The American Society of Legal Writers

Joseph Kimble, WMU-Cooley Law School Distinguished Professor Emeritus, was recently honored by Scribes (the American Society of Legal Writers) with the renaming of the organization’s Distinguished Service Award to the Joseph Kimble Distinguished Service Award. Kimble, a former executive director and 15-year board member of Scribes, was surprised with the honor during Scribes’ 2017 CLE conference at the Oklahoma City University School of Law.

Scribes - The American Society of Legal Writers - Honors WMU-Cooley Professor Joseph Kimble

Scribes was founded in 1953 and is the oldest organization devoted to improving legal writing and honoring legal writers. Kimble joined the organization’s board of directors in 2001, when he became the editor in chief of The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, a position he held for 11 years. He is now senior editor of the Journal. In 2005, Kimble was appointed as executive director and served dual roles with the organization for the next five years.

“No one has ever deserved an award such as this more than Joe,” said Professor Ralph Brill, IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, coauthor of A Sourcebook on Legal Writing Programs and eminent figure in the field of legal writing. “His work instilling the goal of writing in plain English is so important and has been so successful.”

Kimble joined the WMU-Cooley in 1984. He is the longtime editor of the “Plain Language” column in the Michigan Bar Journal. He has published dozens of articles on legal writing and written two acclaimed books—Lifting the Fog of Legalese: Essays on Plain Language and Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please: The Case for Plain Language in Business, Government, and Law.

When speaking about Kimble’s work teaching attorneys and law students to use plain language in legal documents, Professor Laurel Oates, Seattle University School of Law and cofounder of the Legal Writing Institute, said, “Joe Kimble has, in fact, changed the world.”

Read JUST. April 23, 2017  article An Interview with Joseph Kimble, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Western Michigan University–Cooley Law School and  longtime editor of ‘Plain Language’ in the Michigan Bar Journal.

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WMU-Cooley graduate will capitalize on first career to begin on second in the law

“I wanted to push my boundaries,” says Chris DeLucenay of his decision to pursue a legal career after 10 years as a hardware engineer specializing in digital design custom logic. “I’m kind of a lifelong student,” DeLucenay says. “I was originally looking into an MBA, but I didn’t want to go into business. Then my wife noticed that I could do law school part time and keep working if I went to Cooley. I was always interested in IP law, and I love problem solving, so that was a great solution.”

WMU-Cooley student Chris DeLucenay

The Indiana native worked for five years for Rockwell Collins and five years for GE Aviation, at the latter designing components that went into flight data recorders and “other processing elements.”

Though of course his exemplary years at WMU-Cooley were a large factor, it was also that expertise that landed him a position at Gardner, Linn, Burkhart, and Flory, which is dedicated exclusively to Intellectual Property law.

GLBF was the subject of a 3/13/2013 Grand Rapids Legal News article, when it was the only firm in West Michigan to receive a first-tier ranking in all six of the categories in the prestigious U.S. News and World Report/Best Lawyers ranking: Patent Law, Trademark Law, Copyright Law, Litigation-Intellectual Property and Litigation-Patent. The 2012-2013 designation was the second time for the firm, and it has continued its first-tier ratings since.

DeLucenay barely skipped a beat between school and employment. He took off Monday and Tuesday, but returned to school Wednesday for his last exam, and started work on Thursday of last week.

While he is not an attorney yet since he does not take the bar exam until July, DeLucenay is eligible to work at the firm as a registered patent officer because he has already passed the patent bar.

That makes him feel somewhat more comfortable with the bar exam than many of his fellow students. “Most take a couple months off to study for the bar,” he says,” but I can’t do that. Still, I’m dedicated to working on my bar prep around my work schedule, and I think I’ll be all right.”

He says that he did find law school challenging. “Engineering school was hard, so I was prepared. But even though it wasn’t really that hard, law school was more work than I thought; the hardest part was balancing the time for classes and all the reading with continuing to work full-time.”

DeLucenay gives WMU-Cooley a great deal of credit. “I thought the teachers were fantastic to be honest,” he says. “I was really impressed with the professors and especially with Dean [Nelson] Miller.”

Especially notable, DeLucenay says, were David Berry, who is Of Counsel at Brooks Kushman and has taught at WMU-Cooley since 2002, and Gerald Tschura, who is now director of the Intellectual Property LL.M. program.

WMU-Cooley Team Joyce Hill and Christopher DeLucenay

WMU-Cooley Team Joyce Hill and Christopher DeLucenay

It was Tschura who coached the winning team of DeLucenay and Joyce Hill (from the Auburn Hills campus) in the Detroit U.S. Patent Office’s Midwest Regional International Patent Drafting Competition. In the competition’s inaugural year, 2016, the team came in second, but the field was small. By the second competition earlier this year, 14 teams from different states and even Canada, including several from Michigan, participated; WMU-Cooley was the only Michigan school which advanced to the finals.

“I was a little disappointed with getting third, but we beat a lot of the big schools in Michigan,” DeLucenay comments.

Regardless of outcome, the experience was quite worthwhile for DeLucenay. At the time of the 2016 competition, he was quoted as saying, “Professor Tschura was the only team coach that attended the competition. We were fortunate to have one so well versed in intellectual property law there to assist… He also introduced us to some of the law partners, examiners, and managing directors in the IP industry. What a fantastic networking opportunity that was! I learned that each practitioner, corporation, law firm and USPTO has their own unique way or spin on writing patents.

“I was honored to represent WMU-Cooley respectably.”

Originally from the very small town of Angola, Ind., DeLucenay received his bachelor’s from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terra Haute, and went to Iowa State University for his graduate degree.

He married his high school sweetheart, and the two live in Ada, which he says is a very comfortable two hours from their childhood home. “We’ve put our roots down here in Grand Rapids,” he says. The couple has one daughter, born a few months after DeLucenay started at law school.

DeLucenay was particular about what firms he wanted to work for, particularly about the not-too-big, not-too-small size he sought.He did a lot of research and started his job search early.

He recognizes that he is lucky to have succeeded in obtaining employment immediately after law school in a market that can still be glutted, though he comments, “It’s strange, you always hear there are too many lawyers but on the other hand we have massive problems with people having representation.”

He attributes that success to choosing IP law as his concentration and to his experience. “At GE Aviation I volunteered in the legal department for the last two years, so I’ve been doing similar work,” he notes.

WMU-Cooley Team Joyce Hill and Christopher DeLucenay

WMU-Cooley Team Joyce Hill and Christopher DeLucenay

“My degree impacted my employment directly in that I couldn’t have taken the patent bar without it,” he says, adding, “You need to be able to understand the technical merits of their work. There are varying degrees of complexity; I’m sure some will be way over my head. But my specialty in electrical and computer is in the field with the highest demand in the patent area, which also factored into my decision to pursue IP law.”

Burkhart Gardner Linn and Flory is expanding. At the time of the Grand Rapids Legal News article there were six attorneys, but DeLucenay will be the ninth and there are plans for at least one more this year.

One of the main attractions of for DeLucenay is the firm’s commitment to mentoring. “The primary reason I went to this firm is because they really emphasize the training. I won’t have one specific mentor, they’re all going to mentor me,” he says.

“It’s just a great opportunity, because they’re really good at what they do.”

This story was written by Grand Rapids Legal News writer Cynthia Price and was originally published by the Legal News on April 19, 2017.  It is reprinted here with permission of Detroit Legal News Publishing LLC.

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