Category Archives: Latest News and Updates

Official news releases, events and publications from Cooley Law School.

WMU-Cooley Law School Holds Annual MentorJet Networking Program

On Wednesday, June 7, 2017, Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, Auburn Hills campus, held its annual MentorJet  program co-sponsored with the National Association of Women Judges, matching law students with leading lawyers and judges to learn about law practice and job opportunities.

On June 7, Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, Auburn Hills campus, held its annual MentorJet program, a speed networking event matching law students with leading lawyers and judges to learn about law practice and job opportunities.

The speed networking event was hosted by NAWJ District 7 Director, the Hon. Michelle M. Rick (29th Circuit Court), the WMU-Cooley Law School Career and Professional Development Department, the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan (Auburn Hills Student Chapter), the Jewish Law Students Association and the Shirin Ebadi House Council.

“We are so thankful to Judge Rick and all the attorneys and judges who volunteered their time for this important program” said Shari Lesnick, WMU-Cooley Law School Career and Professional Development coordinator. “Their support, combined with our ongoing collaboration with the National Association of Women Judges, helped make this year’s event successful.”

Front row (left-right): Hon. Edward Sosnick (ret.), Hertz Schram, P.C.; Hon. Denise Langford Morris, Oakland County Circuit Court; Hon. Carmen Fahie, Administrative Law Judge, State of Michigan Licensing & Regulatory Affairs; Hon. Cynthia M. Arvant, 46th District Court; Hon. Bari Blake Wood, Magistrate Judge 36th District Court. Middle row (left-right): Rebecca L. Wilson, The Dobrusin Law Firm, P.C.; Samantha Jolene Orvis, Garan Lucow, PC; Shannon C. King, The Miller Law Firm; Lyndsey Kitson, Sullivan, Ward Asher & Patton; Ben C. Lesnick, Olsman, MacKenzie & Wallace; Katherine M. Pacynski, The Dobrusin Law Firm; Choi T. Portis, City of Detroit Department of Water and Sewerage. Back row (left-right): John Cipriani, United States Drug Enforcement Administration; Yolanda Bennett, Michigan Board of Water and Light; Michael N. Hanna, Morgan & Morgan; Bryant M. Frank, Soave Enterprises, LLC; Barry Malone, Lakeshore Legal Aid; Vassal N. Johnson II, Law Offices of Vassal N. John PLLC.; Kwame Rowe, Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office.

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Librarians quiet and introverted? Think again! How to make staff in-service days fun and effective.

Spring is the time of year when many libraries are looking at the calendar and realizing that an annual staff in-service date is not too far off. As an organizer of dozens of in-services over the years, I can tell you there are some key components to making them fun, effective, informative, and interesting. Librarians need to wear their organizer hat to develop a program, but also a fun and creative hat! – Duane Strojny, WMU-Cooley Law School Associate Dean of Library & Instructional Support

WMU-Cooley Associate Dean of Library and Instructional Support Duane Strojny

In 2002 when we hosted an ABA inspection for our additional campuses across Michigan, I was asked “How will you develop a community with the library across multiple locations?” My quick answer was, “Of course we’ll have in-services and since we have three breaks a year, we’ll do one every break!” That began the long road of in-services that spanned the bridge of creative possibilities. We liked the Olympic theme so much we used it twice. There was the Survivor one, another based on TV Guide, a series of three in one year covering “Who, Why, and How,” and one dealing with employee wellness. Through it all, I would be remiss to say that I couldn’t have done it without a very creative associate director. We would hash out content and creative approaches to so many ideas (some of those listed above).

We have had guest speakers from a silver medal Olympian to the president of a national insurance company. Someone spoke to us about organizing our offices and someone spoke to us about how law school financial aid works. We gave presentations on our budget that actually included numbers. The IT Department visited a few times to give insight into technology. At our height, we would let people sign up for classes (three choices over three different hours of the day). That one was tough to coordinate, but I think most of the employees liked the variety.

In 2012, we added a campus in Florida, so our challenge was to bridge the gap between there and Michigan. During one of our in-services that year, we acknowledged the first day of a new Florida employee. There was a lot of video conferencing. During one in-service team-building exercise, each small group had an iPad or laptop so at least one member of their team was from Florida. Challenging, yes, but always interesting from an administrative perspective.

Here are some of the planning and implementation tips for that long litany of programming:

Start planning early.

We usually began discussing the next in-service a week or two after the last one finished. Since one occurred every four months, two to three months of planning seemed like a lot to us. We talked weekly so that helped speed up the timeline. Bring in others early, especially if you want them to help present or coordinate events the day of the event.

Think outside the box.

No topic or theme was too outrageous. We made towers out of marshmallows and spaghetti. I was taped to the wall. Teams had to do scavenger hunts. I constantly reminded staff the primary goal was to get to know your colleagues from across the campuses. If you learned something to take to your desk the next day, that was a plus.

Use either a place in the law school away from the library or go off campus. We often meet in our main classroom spaces. We used a movie theater. We volunteered at Toys for Tots (in multiple cities at the same time). We toured a local courthouse. A group went to Dave and Buster’s. If you have funding, there are a lot of options. If not, consider the meeting room at your local public library or the clubhouse of an apartment complex. The typical locations where kids have birthday parties can be very quiet on weekdays and provide the break from the usual workplace.

Plan to have an icebreaker.

A lot of people don’t like these, but they do help set the tone for the day. This isn’t an ordinary work day. We want staff to interact in a different way. I like The New Encyclopedia of Icebreakers and The Encyclopedia of Group Activities. There are a lot of others as well as quite a few websites with ideas to be had for free.
Have some substantive content. Presenting information is important even if the topic doesn’t appeal to everyone. This can help pull together a theme or push an agenda item. We had someone speak about our new Professionalism Program and the library staff became the first group on campus to endorse it as a department. Our discussion about how a prospective student is recruited and enrolled gave everyone a great perspective of what happens in Admissions. The take away doesn’t need to be something to use at your desk, but rather helps give a greater perspective of how the school operates and the mission we serve.

Use experts at the law school or university.

Our law school president spoke. Our vice president of finance spoke. A faculty member led staff through a mock class. The career services director spoke. The chairman of our board spoke. The founder of our law school spoke. We had great speakers with little cost other than a meal. This creates a great sense of camaraderie between library staff and other departments at the school.

Seek feedback.

We always had evaluations. Of course, we never please everyone. The criticism of food drove me crazy, so we eventually took that off the evaluations. Hey, it was a free meal and we always had options that could accommodate every possible need. We also provided snacks galore during the course of the day. Plenty of fruit and yogurt, as well as the usual cookies and brownies appeals to everyone. Some people regularly said it was a waste of their time. They were busy. Remember, though, what your goal is: building community is number one. You want to be successful so evaluations help you learn from missteps.

With some thought and planning, an in-service can be a very useful event. Involving others in the planning can also give the person you least expect to lead an opportunity to shine. We have assigned tasks to groups, assigned tasks to individuals, and asked for volunteers. All approaches have worked well with the caveat that you cannot please everyone. When our staff was nearly 100 people, it was quite an undertaking. We invited permanent part-time staff, part-time reference librarians, and often, student employees. Now that we are a smaller group and our associate director has left, I have been forced to rethink the in-service concept. In the past we had special department in-services, librarian in-services, support staff in-services, and optional in-services. Today, with less staff, it is still important to have a goal when planning for an in-service. For me, that has not changed; build community by getting to know your colleagues and hopefully take something back to your desk for tomorrow.

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WMU-Cooley partnership continues to evolve: Plans include more law classes in Kalamazoo, accelerated program

This article about the Western Michigan University and Cooley Law School  affiliation was written by Michigan Lawyers Weekly writer Lee Dryden originally published on May 31, 2017 in News Stories. It is reprinted with permission by Lee Dryden and Michigan Lawyers Weekly. 

WMU-Cooley now offers classes in WMU's Schneider Hall on its home campus in Kalamazoo.

WMU-Cooley now offers classes in Schneider Hall at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.

Opportunities provided by the affiliation that resulted in the dual-titled Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School continue to grow. The public university and private law school have partnered in various ways since 2001, culminating in the 2014 collaboration that changed the law school’s name. The effort expanded in 2016 with Cooley offering 15 credits of first-year law school classes on WMU’s Kalamazoo campus.

Now, Cooley is working toward offering up to 60 credits at WMU. Also on the horizon is an accelerated program where students could take classes that would count for both undergraduate and law school credit.

It’s all part of an effort to serve students through the efficiencies that flow between the two schools.

“We think that the affiliation will give improved opportunities for our students,” said James D. Robb, Cooley’s associate dean of external affairs and general counsel. “We’re so pleased with the way it’s going. There’s such a high degree of respect between the leadership of the institutions.”

K’zoo expansion
As of fall 2016, WMU-Cooley law students have been able to begin their legal education with the first 15 credits in Kalamazoo. To continue, they must proceed to one of the law school’s four campus locations in Grand Rapids, Lansing, Auburn Hills or Tampa Bay, Florida.

The 15-credit option has been well received, Robb said.

“It’s convenient for people in the Kalamazoo area, they don’t want to move quite yet, test it out, and it’s being taught by our regular faculty,” he said. “The faculty may teach a course in Grand Rapids in the morning and teach the same course in Kalamazoo in the afternoon.”

WMU-Cooley is seeking approval from accrediting bodies — the American Bar Association and the Higher Learning Commission — to expand its program to 60 credits in Kalamazoo beginning in fall 2017, according to the law school website.

The ABA already conducted a site evaluation of the Kalamazoo location and issued a report, according to the website. If the ABA approval is received without HLC approval in time for fall 2017, the law school will expand its program to 44 credit hours.

Double your pleasure
Acknowledging the high cost of higher education at all levels, Robb said an accelerated degree program is in the works. It could help students earn both degrees in less than the traditional seven years, saving tuition and living expenses.

“It’s coming down the pike,” he said.

Undergraduate students who enroll in the law school could take law classes that count toward their undergraduate requirements and law school credit. The key would be being accepted to law school as an undergrad as the ABA forbids taking law school classes for credit before admittance.

Joint efforts
Robb offered examples from a list of 160 initiatives between the two institutions.

A Cooley faculty member has taught a health law course at the Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine. The law and medical schools teamed for an Affordable Care Act symposium.

Cooley instructors have consulted with WMU faculty on designing instructional programs as the university is known for its efforts to enhance teaching methods based on how students learn, Robb said.

The schools have worked on literacy and diversity efforts and much more.

“Ultimately, we hope and expect, that by operating under the Western Michigan banner, it will improve the reputation of the law school,” Robb said.

He said the evolution of the relationship has been organic as the faculties and management are encouraged to explore ways to collaborate at all levels.

There also are partnerships that pair law degrees with Master of Business Administration, Master of Public Administration and Master of Social Work degrees.
Robb said a $418,000 U.S. Department of Justice grant in 2015 for the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project wouldn’t have been possible without both institutions on board. The project seeks to exonerate people who have been wrongfully convicted of serious crimes.

Cooley houses the Innocence Project, while WMU obtained the grant as it had to be awarded to a public institution, Robb said.

“It’s a great example of the benefit of the affiliation,” he said.

Law school employees and their dependents receive reduced tuition at WMU as an employee benefit — and vice versa. This helps attract faculty and staff, Robb said.

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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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Storytelling Is a Lawyer’s Craft

“Law cases can be very much like stories, involving principal characters, their conflict, and conflict resolution – all within a story line or plot.  Lawyers, like authors, must also be skilled at projecting the characters’ motivations, personality, and interests, while discerning how the audience will respond to differing perspectives, styles, and voice.” – WMU-Cooley Professor and Lawyer Storytelling Workshop Panelist David Tarrien.

WMU-Cooley Lawyer Storytelling Workshop

The law school’s Grand Rapids campus invites law students, attorneys and community to participate in its summer Lawyer Storytelling Workshop. The workshops help participants write law-related fiction as a way to hone their storytelling craft.

Workshop panelist Anna Rapa, who defends indigent clients against federal criminal charges, called telling her clients’ stories a “sacred task.”  Rapa added that she must work hard to find fresh and evocative ways to “depict the client’s humanity” and show clients as “worthy of redemption” in what is too often a dehumanizing criminal justice system.

Panelist Bill Jack, managing partner of the statewide law firm Smith Haughey, agreed that storytelling must be an effective trial lawyer’s skill and art.  Both Rapa and Jack have authored and published fiction as a way to hone their storytelling art.  “Write for yourself,” Jack urged, adding, “Your first novel is autobiographical.”

Panelist Matt Levin is a student at the Grand Rapids campus and already a skilled storyteller with two published novels, a literary agent, and many published short stories.  Levin agreed that while writing and promoting a bestseller would be tremendously rewarding, and he was glad when his writing did well, ultimately the greater value is in how the process shapes the writer.

Panelist Tonya Krause-Phelan, a professor and dean at the campus who in her former law practice successfully defended a mother charged with the murder of her infant, shared her own commitment to compelling advocacy through these communication arts.  Trial lawyers must somehow recreate for jurors scenes of real events, in ways that help jurors make critical judgments.

Workshop participants are each writing their own short story this summer for publication in a book of their collected works.  Six students are earning academic credit, treating the workshops as a Directed Study course with faculty supervision, while other participants are taking part just to learn more of the storytelling art.

The first workshop addresses the reasons and inspiration for writing, and selection of character, conflict, and resolution.  The second workshop addresses development of story and theme, and editing. The third workshop addresses publication issues.  Associate Dean Nelson Miller, publisher of 36 books on law and related subjects, organized and moderates the 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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Stigma Biggest Barrier: Mich. Lt. Gov. Calley Discusses State’s Mental Health Issues

“Stigma is still the biggest barrier that we have. It’s a barrier to living, getting out there and living life and being a part of the world because sometimes behaviors aren’t what we would consider to be normal or typical, and the weight of just being a part of the world in that situation can be enough to cause people to retreat.” – Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley

Lt. Gov. Calley recently joined community leaders from a variety of backgrounds including law, healthcare, courts, non-profit and corrections during WMU-Cooley Law Review’s Annual Symposium. The panel discussed the challenges present in Michigan’s system for treating and addressing mental health issues, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse, and what needs to happen to improve care and access to care. Calley raised concern about stigmas against persons with mental health, development disabilities, and substance abuse problems and the barriers that lack of acceptance present to every person’s right to experience a full life.

Calley began his remarks on a personal level, sharing his own daughter’s early autism diagnosis and the challenges he and his family faced in securing necessary treatment and services on her behalf. He said, “My experience with my daughter was one that really opened my eyes to just how the world works for people with disabilities. The conclusion that I came to at that point was that, if it was this difficult for somebody as well connected as I am to make all the things happen that need to happen, then the average person might have no chance at all.”

Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley speaks about mental health issues facing the state during WMU-Cooley’s Annual Law Review Symposium.

Because of his personal experiences, Calley said he became committed to advocating for change and improvement to Michigan’s health care system to better meet the needs of vulnerable populations. He has gone on to chair numerous work groups, think tanks, and boards, bringing all the necessary stakeholders to the table to discuss and propose necessary reforms, and effective management of healthcare funding for these important categories of care. Some of this work culminated in two final reports submitted to the Michigan legislature in January.

The panelists discussed and agreed that there is a negative impact and public prejudices against the disabled. They also spoke about the need for more sensitivity, understanding, and empathy towards these persons, who, if given the necessary support and opportunity, can successfully manage and overcome their challenges and live meaningful and productive lives.

Other panelists included Milton L. Mack, Jr., State Court Administrator and former Chief Judge of the Wayne County Probate Court; Corrections Major Sam Davis, Jail Administrator, Ingham County Sheriff’s Department; Mark Reinstein, President & CEO, Mental Health Association of Michigan;  Lauren Rousseau: Associate Professor of Law, WMU-Cooley Law School; and  Beverly Griffor, managing partner, Collis & Griffor, P.C.

Major Sam Davis of the Ingham Sheriff’s Department talks about incarceration rates of individuals suffering from mental illness.

Panelists pictured (seated, left –right) Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley; Major Sam Davis, Ingham County Sheriff’s Department; Beverly Griffor, managing partner, Collis & Griffor, P.C.; Milton L. Mack, Jr., court administrator for the Michigan Supreme Court; and Mark Reinstein, CEO of the Mental Health Association of Michigan.

Panelists pictured (seated, left –right) Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley; Major Sam Davis, Ingham County Sheriff’s Department; Beverly Griffor, managing partner, Collis & Griffor, P.C.; Milton L. Mack, Jr., court administrator for the Michigan Supreme Court; and Mark Reinstein, CEO of the Mental Health Association of Michigan.

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