Category Archives: Knowledge, Skills, Ethics

Cooley stresses legal knowledge, practice skills, and professional ethics, an approach that is the latest trend in legal education and new to most law schools, but has been in place at Cooley since its founding in 1972.
Knowledge: Master the substantive knowledge required for passage of the bar examination and admission to the bar.
Skills: Master the basic fundamentals required for the competent practice of law and representation of clients.
Ethics: Understand and embrace the legal, moral, ethical, and professional responsibilities of lawyers.

Professionalism, Honor Code Highlight WMU-Cooley Lansing Orientation

Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Amy Ronayne Krause and Alecia Ruswinckel of the State Bar of Michigan spoke to incoming law students about ethics of law during orientation at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School’s Lansing campus on Friday, April 28.

New students pose for a picture with Judge Amy Ronayne Krause (center) after taking WMU-Cooley Law School’s honor code oath, which Krause administered during the law school’s Lansing campus orientation on April 28.

During the orientation, Krause administered the law school’s honor code oath, which all entering students, faculty and staff take as a commitment to the law school’s ethical standards.

The honor code states that “ethics are as important as academic performance and the mastery of practical legal skills.” It emphasizes ethics as an integral part of the law school experience, and “encourages the development of the ethical values that law students and lawyers as professionals must possess.”

Ruswinckel, professional standards assistant counsel for the State Bar of Michigan, led a discussion with law students about professionalism and the value of ethics in the legal field.

In addition to her service as a judge on the Fourth District Court of Appeals in Michigan, Krause is an adjunct professor at WMU-Cooley Law School. Before serving  on the Michigan Court of Appeals, she served as a judge for the Michigan 54A Judicial District Court for almost eight years. From 2013 to 2015, Krause served on the Michigan Court of Claims. She began her legal career in private practice, and then served for eight years as an assistant prosecuting attorney, followed by six years in the Criminal Division of the Michigan Office of Attorney General.

Ruswinckel joined the State Bar of Michigan in December 2014. She provides education, information, support and guidance in the area of ethics to attorneys throughout Michigan. Prior to joining the bar, she was an associate attorney with Anderson, Stull & Associates, focusing her practice on general civil matters including business, real estate, probate and family law.

Judge Amy Ronayne Krause, Fourth District Court of Appeals in Michigan, administers the WMU-Cooley Law School honor code to entering students at the law school’s Lansing campus orientation on April 28.

Alecia Ruswinckel (right), professional standards assistant counsel for the State Bar of Michigan, speaks with WMU-Cooley Law School incoming students during the law school’s orientation program.

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WMU-Cooley Law School Grand Rapids Launches Creative Writing Workshop Series

Western Michigan University Cooley Law School’s Grand Rapids campus is launching Lawyer Storytelling in Fiction, a creative writing workshop series open to the public on May 16. The series consists of three sessions which will explore the concept, implementation and publication of original, law-related short stories. Sessions will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on May 16, June 14 and July 13 at the law school’s Grand Rapids location, 111 Commerce Ave. SW.

Throughout the series, each participant will create a 3,000 to 5,000-word fictional story. Workshop sessions will include panel speakers and small-group discussions. Upon completion of the series, participants will be able to submit their stories for editing and publication in a paperback print book collection.

“Lawyers must tell the true stories of their clients in compelling ways every day to be effective, which is why lawyers like John Grisham and Scott Turow have made such effective fiction writers,” said WMU-Cooley Associate Dean Nelson Miller, who will be leading the writing workshop series. “These workshops will explore the lawyer’s storytelling skill, both to help the public appreciate the value of that skill and law students and lawyers to improve their skill.”

Topics discussed during each workshop include

  • concept, May 16;
  • implementation, June 14;
  • and publication, July 13.

The series is open to WMU-Cooley Law School students, WMU graduate students and community members. Law students who register for Directed Study academic credit will pay WMU-Cooley tuition. Law students, who attend the series without seeking academic credit, and community members may participate at no charge. For more information about Lawyer Storytelling in Fiction, contact Nelson Miller at millern@cooley.edu.

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New Law Students Take Honor Code Oath During Auburn Hills Orientation Program

Incoming students at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School’s Auburn Hills campus participated in the law school’s Professionalism in Action (PIA) Orientation program April 28 and took the law school’s honor code oath. During the program, State Bar of Michigan (SBM) President-Elect Donald Rockwell spoke to students about the importance of being an ethical lawyer, and Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Mark Switalski administered the honor code oath.

Incoming WMU-Cooley Law School students take the WMU-Cooley Honor Code Oath on April 28.

During his remarks, Rockwell said, “The best lawyers I know are the ones with the highest ethics. You cannot be a good lawyer without being an ethical lawyer.”

As part of the Professionalism in Action event, law students had the opportunity to meet with judges and attorneys from the community and ask question about professional and ethical situations attorneys may face during their careers.

Before administering the law school’s honor code oath, Switalski spoke about the do’s and don’ts of a lawyer, but from the perspective of a judicial clerk.

The WMU-Cooley honor code is the commitment all entering students take, along with the law school’s faculty and staff during each orientation. At each campus, a judge administers the oath and new students are introduced to WMU’s honor code, which states, “ethics are as important as academic performance and the mastery of practical legal skills.

16th Circuit Court Judge Mark Switalski administers the WMU-Cooley Honor Code Oath during the law school’s orientation program on April 28.

State Bar of Michigan President-Elect Donald Rockwell speaks with incoming students at WMU-Cooley’s Auburn Hills campus during the law school’s Professionalism in Action Orientation Program.

During WMU-Cooley’s Professionalism in Action Orientation Program, judges and attorneys offered students advice on various professional and ethical dilemmas faced by attorneys in practice. Pictured are (front row, left-right) Assistant Dean Lisa Halushka; State Bar of Michigan President-Elect Donald Rockwell, Nill Rockwell PC; Associate Dean Joan Vestrand; (back row, left-right) Antoinette Raheem, Law and Mediation Office of Antoinette Raheem PC; Jeffery May, Kerr Russell & Weber, PLC; Hon. Mark Switalski, 16th Judicial Circuit Court; Hon. David A. Perkins, 36th District Court; and Hon. Edward Ewell, 3rd Judicial Circuit Court.

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Judge Administers Honor Code During Grand Rapids Campus Orientation

Judge Christina Elmore of the 61st Judicial District Court in Michigan spoke to incoming students April 27, and presented the honor code during Western Michigan University Cooley Law School’s orientation program at the Grand Rapids campus. All entering students, faculty and staff take the honor code oath at orientation as a commitment to the law school’s ethical standards.

Judge Christina Elmore administers the WMU-Cooley Law School honor code to entering students at the law school’s Grand Rapids campus orientation.

Prior to administering the oath, Elmore described professionalism and integrity as the cornerstones of the legal profession. She spoke of the value of self-policing and reporting duties, and how that obligation starts in law school.

She referenced lawyer jokes, which often have a negative punch line about the legal profession, and described how the jokes differed from her experiences.

“There is high importance of honor and integrity in our profession,” Elmore said. “When lawyers say something, I can believe what they are telling me, and I can trust what they are saying because they have integrity.”

She also touched on the importance of community service, encouraging the students to join the Grand Rapids Bar Association.

Elmore was appointed by Governor Rick Snyder to the Grand Rapids District Court bench in February 2016. She is a former judge advocate general for the U.S. Air Force, and has taught military law as an adjunct professor at WMU-Cooley. Her background also includes service as a former Kent County assistant prosecuting attorney and an assistant attorney general.

Judge Christina Elmore speaks to incoming students during WMU-Cooley Law School’s honor code portion of the Grand Rapids campus orientation on April 27.

New WMU-Cooley Law School students’ mentors pictured (left-right) Christopher Podoll, Kris Johnson, Melissa McKinney, Kristyna Nunzio, Holly Robrahn, Mary Anne Simmering, Bronte Reisinger, Emilee Umfleet and Lee Melde. The individuals were paired with new WMU-Cooley students as part of a new orientation mentoring program organized by the West Michigan Student Bar Association Mentorship Committee.

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Tanya Gibbs: Business and Law Background Connects WMU-Cooley Graduate to Her Tribe’s Culture and Heritage

Tanya Gibbs knew she wanted to be an attorney since the 11th grade when her high school math teacher suggested she go to a national student conference in Washington, D.C.  For 10 days she learned about the laws that govern our nation, toured the city, and even met the Supreme Court justices and several high-end defense attorneys. “I just thought it was the coolest thing, and I wanted to be a part of that,” said Gibbs.

From that point forward, she prepared herself for a legal career.

“Knowing that I wanted to be a lawyer, I decided that I would go to a liberal arts school and concentrate in political theory and philosophy, which really helped,” said Gibbs. “I fine-tuned my analytical skills and engaged in a number of entrepreneurial activities.  I even ran my own business for a few years, which was very successful. It was that experience that helped me realize that business law was where I wanted to go and where I would focus my legal education. When I graduated from MSU, I knew that I wanted to go right to law school, and I knew that I wanted to be in Grand Rapids. I also knew WMU-Cooley was in Grand Rapids. I heard good things about the school, and I applied. I’m the type of person that, once I make my mind up about something, that’s just where I go and what I do.

Once Gibbs started law school at WMU-Cooley, she knew she had made the right decision.

“Even sitting in my first Property class, which might sound boring, I found learning about property law, even in the 1800s, was really interesting, and that business law was definitely the right career choice. During my time at WMU-Cooley, I was able to not only learn the theory behind the law, but really learn the things that I needed to know about the practice of law, and how to be a lawyer.”

But it was WMU-Cooley’s real-world, hands-on approach that she found so crucial in law school — particularly as to how it related to her heritage as a Native American.

“My law school  internship with my tribe (Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians) during my second year was amazing,” exclaimed Gibbs. “I was able to work with them on business and economic development issues and actually applied the things I had just started learning about in law school. I found it to be important work. I was able to help answer questions my tribe had about creating and operating businesses and go to bat for them on a number of legal issues they were facing. I continued to learn more  those more about business in my third year — things like legal structures, operational issues, compliance issues and real estate development — all areas I was able to take back to my tribe and make a difference, even before I graduated and while I studied for the bar. It was very, very helpful. I think that’s one of the great things about WMU-Cooley is that you learn the things that you really need to know. Even in my practice just about a month ago, I was referring back to my notes from my business planning class my 3L year, so definitely real life, practical information.”

WMU-Cooley graduate Tanya Gibbs

Gibbs works for a small boutique nationwide firm that specializes in non-gaming economic development – which includes every type of business that an Indian tribe might own and operate outside of a casino.The firm is majority native-owned and works with Indian tribes and their wholly owned businesses.

“Each Indian tribe is a sovereign nation, which means they have the ability to make their own laws and self governed,” explained Gibbs. “I do everything from help the tribal government draft and enact a limited liability company code  to helping them engage their own business by creating a separate legal entity, wholly-owned by the tribe. This can be anything from owning a fuel station, to real estate development, to e-commerce and consumer financial services-type business. It encompasses all kinds of things.  I’ve been able to do very large, hundreds of millions of dollars, merger and acquisition, as well as regulatory compliance and contract reviews.”

Gibbs finds her career intensely interesting and rewarding.

“In my work, there are lots of fun waters to navigate,” smiled Gibbs. “As a sovereign nation, the tribes aren’t subject to state laws, and they are only subject to federal laws in certain situations. It’s an interesting regulatory and legal landscape when you have three different jurisdictions, or three different regulatory bodies that are interested in the same activity that may or may not be occurring on Indian land.

WMU-Cooley graduate Tanya Gibbs

Gibbs reflected on her own ancestry and Tribal culture.

“I’m a descendant of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, on my dad’s side of the family, and have always known about my culture. Growing up, my father’s family never was very traditional or involved in their tribal culture. I think it might have had to do with the politics associated with being native in the ’80s. State and federal governments were taking Indian children from Indian homes, which resulted in Indian Child Welfare Act and the Michigan Indian Family Preservation Act. Lots of my older family back then didn’t want to associate with the tribe, including my dad.

“Yet, there was a local attorney who moved his family to my hometown when I was in the third grade. They became my pseudo-Indian family. I was able to join his family in lots of cultural and traditional events and activities, and they taught me a lot of about our native culture and what it means to be part of a tribe. So when I had the opportunity to go back to my tribe to do an internship during law school, I was really excited because I had never really spent much time on my reservation and on Indian land. It was very cool to learn about the government, our different traditions. About how we work and to learn about our values. It’s just been really wonderful!

“That experience solidified my desire to do business law, but more importantly that I wanted to do it for Indian tribes. I feel very fortunate to be able to walk out of law school and be able to do exactly what I planned to do all along. My practice is especially wonderful because, although we work primarily with tribes in Michigan and Wisconsin, our firm, as a national firm, works with tribes all over the country. Each tribe is different and has a different culture and different traditions. Getting to know all different types of people is so cool for me, and it’s a feeling of being connected. A lot of my clients, we don’t just give a handshake, we hug. We’re all family and you get to know people and get close to folks.

The ability to meet different people and different kinds of tribes, and to learn about different kinds of issues is, for me, simply fun.

WMU-Cooley graduate Tanya Gibbs

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Distinguished Student and Leadership Awards Presented at Convocation

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

Peter Mancini and Dr. Ryan McKennon received the Distinguished Student Award for their academic success, participation and leadership in student organizations, professionalism and service to the community.

The recipients of the Leadership Achievement Award were Monica Carson, Deirdre Armstrong, and Brandon Ferguson. The award acknowledges students who have consistently, comprehensively and effectively provided leadership in a variety of capacities.

Peter Mancini receives the Distinguished Student Award.

Dr. Ryan McKennon receives the Distinguished Student Award.

Left-right: Leadership Achievement Award recipients Monica Carson, Deirdre Armstrong, Brandon Ferguson.

 

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From Pardons to Portraits: Gerald R. Ford Leadership Program Participants Wear Shoes of a Leader

Sixteen Michigan residents, including residents of Lansing, Grand Rapids, Portage, Baroda and Sidney, completed the Leadership in Times of Crisis program at the DeVos Learning Center in the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in March.  The program is a joint initiative of Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and The Western Michigan University Center for the Study of Ethics in Society.

"New York, New York, USA - November 3, 2012: A close up of the front page of the The New York Times newspaper dated August 9, 1974. The New York Times reporting President Richard Nixon resigns after the Watergate scandal, Vice President Gerald Ford taking office."

The unique leadership program is not only open to enrolled law students, but to the public. Participants in one class get to take on the role of advisor to President Ford (played by Professor Devin Schindler), including arguing for and against the pardon of Richard Nixon while seated around the cabinet table in the Ford Museum.

In another session led by Professor Paul Sorenson, participants negotiated a contentious issue using procedures learned earlier that morning, experiencing in the process of how President Ford’s renowned reputation as a deal maker was due to many years of arduous, patient work.

A fascinating exploration of the relationship between healthy cities and state funding policies was led by Kalamazoo County Commissioner Kevin Wordelman.

The last class session explores the war in  Vietnam and the fall of Saigon. Participants viewed artifacts during a tour of the Museum’s collection. Artifacts included the portrait of President Ford the American ambassador removed from the wall of the embassy while fleeing Saigon and service medals thrown over the White House fence by veterans angry with President Ford’s amnesty program for men who did not honor the draft.

Guest speaker Tiennga Cao recounted the harrowing story of how she and fellow Vietnamese refugees felt at that time, adrift at sea for over two weeks before being rescued by an American naval ship. At the time of her rescue she was so weak that she could not stand on her own. She was brought to Grand Rapids, President Ford’s home town, and, in her own words, has made it her mission ever since her rescue to help people in return for God saving her life.

Leaders Program guest speaker Tiennga Cao

Leaders Program guest speaker Tiennga Cao

The Museum’s Education Director, Barbara McGregor, led a tour of Museum pieces relevant to the fall of Saigon, including the actual staircase from atop the American Embassy where many Vietnamese people began the transition from their homeland into new lives in other countries.

The program received high marks from all participants. Reservations are being accepted for the Fall 2017 session starting in September.  The program consists of four sessions, one session per month on a Saturday mornings from 9:00 a.m. to noon. The fee is $150. Participants receive a Certification of Completion bearing the name and logo of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum & Library.  For more information contact Professor Victoria Vuletich by email or by phone at (616) 301-6800, ext. 6960.

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