Category Archives: Student News

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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Filed under Awards, Knowledge, Skills, Ethics, Student News, Student News, Achievements, Awards, Uncategorized

Mock Trial Winners Announced For WMU-Cooley Evidence Competition

The Mock Trial Board at WMU-Cooley Law School’s Tampa Bay campus recently awarded Mackiesch Taylor and Mayra Puerta winners of the term’s Evidence Competition. The competition featured 10 teams of two students who each had to display their skills introducing evidence as a prosecutor, or defending a client against the evidence that had been introduced.

Mock Trial participants

WMU-Cooley Mock Trial Board recently held its Evidence Competition for the current term at the law school’s Tampa Bay campus. Pictured (left-right) are competition winners Mayra Puerta and Mackiesh Taylor with John Scott, professor and presiding judge for the competition; and runners up Nathan Tamulonis and Trevor Persenaire.

Using the “Hunger Games” as a theme, the case presented during the competition involved a defendant name Katniss Everdeen, who was charged with murdering Peeta Malark by bow and arrow.

WMU-Cooley Professor John Scott, who advises the Mock Trial Board and served as the court’s judge during the competition, said, “Members of the board did a superb job organizing the competition and the event was a great way for students to get practice applying rules of evidence.”

The finals of the competition were held on June 17. Students Trevor Persenaire and Nathan Tamulonis were runners-up for the competition.

Mock Trial participants

WMU-Cooley Law School Mock Trial Board members and competition participants from the law school’s Tampa Bay campus. Pictured (front row, left-right) Nathan Tamulonis, Justin Sblano, Sarah Marin, Mayra Puerta, Mackiesh Taylor, Kim Canals, Thomas Yi, Shederis Lakin, (back row, left-right)Mock Trial Board President Clyde Barrow, Rob Johnson, Andrew Yaktman, Professor John Scott, Tim Saitta, and Trevor Persenaire.

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Valerie Smith: Law School Teaches Law and Life Lessons

“I wanted to go to law school as long as I can remember,” recalled WMU-Cooley law student Valerie Smith. Yet it wasn’t until the single mother of three got the go ahead from her children that she had the courage to pursue her dream.

“I remember coming home one day from my job as a paralegal,” said Smith. “I remember being frustrated. I was 40-years-old. A single mother of two daughters and a son. I was struggling to pay bills, even though I was working very, very hard.

“My kids sat me down to talk. They reminded me of my dream of going to law school and becoming an attorney. My oldest daughter said, ‘Mom, it’s never too late, and you’re never too old.'”

That was it. Smith took the LSAT, then applied and was accepted to WMU-Cooley Law School.

“That day changed my life forever,” declared Smith.

WMU-Cooley student Valerie Smith

Advocate for Other People

“I will never forget the day I was accepted to WMU-Cooley Law School,” exclaimed Smith. “I had been really busy because I had just moved, and hadn’t checked my e-mail for several days. During a break at work though, I decided I would take a look. I saw an email from WMU-Cooley Law School congratulating me on my seat! I started screaming in my office and one of the attorneys came running over to me and said, ‘Valerie, are you alright?’ And I said, ‘Yes!’ as I burst into tears. ‘This is one of the happiest moments of my life. I just got accepted to law school, counselor!’ And he said, ‘Well, congratulations, future counselor!'”

Since starting law school, Smith confesses that she has learned as much about life and herself as she has about the law.

“My first day at WMU-Cooley,” recalled Smith, “the professors told our class that attorneys have others’ lives in their hands – just like a doctor does with our physical well-being, an attorney has others’ lives in our hands – maybe not physically or medically, but financially, emotionally, mentally, situationally, and legally. It is a huge responsibility. We need to be their advocates.”

Smith says she has never forgotten that lesson. She comes to class every day prepared and ready to be another’s true advocate.

“I value my legal education here at WMU-Cooley,” stated Smith. “I never take it for granted. I am here to help my colleagues, and they are always here to help me. Even my 20-something-year-old classmates support, help and encourage me. I’ve never felt like an outsider, but that I belong.

“The professors have been so encouraging and have given me so many opportunities. They made it possible for me to participate in the law school’s study abroad program in New Zealand, which was an experience of a lifetime that I never thought would be possible. And I was also given the opportunity to be a professor’s teaching assistant.”

WMU-Cooley Vibe

Smith believes the WMU-Cooley curriculum and people are second to none.

“The curriculum at WMU-Cooley is so challenging, amazing, interesting, and intriguing, but it’s the people that stand out,” declared Smith. “There is a vibe here at WMU-Cooley that I don’t think you will find at most other law schools. That vibe includes enthusiasm and due diligence. It includes positive attitudes and commitment. And the encouragement you receive among the staff, professors, and students is contagious.

“We are an energized, diverse group of people who all have the same goal. We just want to be lawyers and save lives.”

WMU-Cooley student Valerie Smith

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Sacred Beginnings Founder Leslie F. King Tells Powerful Survivor Story to WMU-Cooley Law Students

WMU-Cooley Law School students were gripped listening to Sacred Beginnings Founder and Executive Director Leslie King tell her life story about how she, a human trafficking survivor, was able to transform her life after over 20 years of being exploited, addicted, and trapped. The WMU-Cooley Lunch & Learn education program called Addiction and Human Trafficking was held at WMU-Cooley on Wednesday, June 14. WMU-Cooley law students, in conjunction with the American Bar Association Student Division, hosted the event.

Sacred Beginnings Founder Leslie King tells WMU-Cooley law students her life story of being exploited, addicted, and trapped, until she found the courage to turn her life around.

Sacred Beginnings Founder Leslie King tells WMU-Cooley law students her life story of being exploited, addicted, and trapped, until she found the courage to turn her life around.

“Leslie King was captivating,” declared WMU-Cooley Assistant Dean Mable Martin-Scott. “She was intense and real. This was a rare opportunity for our students to see the impact crime has on victims and to hear first-hand how human trafficking destroys lives. This was a teachable moment. Law school is not about laws, it is about people. When the students heard Leslie’s story, they were initially shocked, but then they started thinking like an advocate, and talk about ways the law could or should protect her. Priceless and excellent seminar.”

WMU-Cooley law student and event organizer Nakita Haynes was grateful to have Ms. King come to WMU-Cooley’s Lansing campus to speak.

“I had the opportunity to listen to Ms. King at another conference I attended, and was moved to tears,” recalled Haynes. “I knew if I brought her here to speak, my fellow students would be charged by her energy and inspired by her story of perseverance, strength, and justice; especially as law students and soon-to-be lawyers.”

King talked about the struggles she had endured, until she found the strength and courage in 2000 to break free and commit her life to rescuing and rehabilitating women just like her.

“I went to rehab and kicked my addictions,” stated King. “It was hard. Really hard. But I graduated and went to work as a counselor at the rehab center — the first graduate to do that. God opened doors for me to work with the police department as an advocate for women trapped in the life I once lived.”

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Today Leslie is an award-winning and sought-after expert, speaker, and trainer. In conjunction with her mission at Sacred Beginnings, she works alongside law enforcement and legislators to affect lasting change.

Read Ms. King’s story HERE.

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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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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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