Category Archives: Student Experiences

All Cooley graduates have practiced law in a supervised setting before graduation. Here, students share their experiences through Cooley’s blog as they move the the process.

ABA Past President Paulette Brown speaks to new WMU-Cooley students at Orientation

“I do not subscribe to the theory that there are too many lawyers,” Brown said. “I don’t believe that because if there were too many lawyers, there wouldn’t be as many people who did not have access to justice.” – Immediate past president of the American Bar Association (ABA), Paulette Brown.

Ms. Brown spoke to WMU-Cooley incoming students, faculty and staff, as well as attorneys and legal professionals from the community, about the need for and responsibility of lawyers during a recent student orientation welcome reception. She also emphasized the responsibility involved with earning a law degree. She urged students to always remember the communities from which they came.

“A law degree is more than a piece of paper, it is a real privilege,” Brown said. “It is a license to do good, and to make sure the rule of law is maintained in this country and elsewhere.”

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Brown is a partner and co-chair of the diversity and inclusion committee at Locke Lord LLP. Brown has held many positions throughout her career, including as in-house counsel to a number of Fortune 500 companies and as a municipal court judge. In private practice, she has focused on all facets of labor and employment and commercial litigation.

Within the ABA, she has been a member of the House of Delegates since 1997 and is a former member of the Board of Governors and its executive committee, as well as the Governance Commission. Brown also chaired the ABA Council on Racial and Ethnic Justice (now Coalition on Racial and Ethnic Justice) and is a past co-chair of the Commission on Civic Education in the Nation’s Schools.

Brown has served on the Commission on Women in the Profession and was a co-author of Visible Invisibility: Women of Color in Law Firms. She is a former member of The Fund for Justice and Education (FJE), the FJE President’s Club, and a Life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation.

She has been recognized by the National Law Journal as one of “The 50 Most Influential Minority Lawyers in America” and by the New Jersey Law Journal as one of the “prominent women and minority attorneys in the State of New Jersey.” She has received the New Jersey Medal from the New Jersey State Bar Foundation and serves on its board of trustees.

Brown earned her J.D. at Seton Hall University School of Law and her B.A. at Howard University.

WATCH Immediate past president of the American Bar Association, Paulette Brown’s talk in its entirety (19:54).

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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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Powerhouse: Law student shows passion for politics and performing

Saad Chishty has two major passions in life — law and music. And both have led him to rub shoulders with political bigwigs and celebrities. Over the winter break the WMU-Cooley Law School 2L student recorded with session musicians from Gladys Knight and Herbie Hancock’s Tower of Power, at London’s famous Abbey Road Studios, once home to the Beatles.

WMU-Cooley student Saad Chishty

Saad Chishty has two major passions in life — law and music. And both have led him to rub shoulders with political bigwigs and celebrities.

Over the winter break the WMU-Cooley Law School 2L student recorded with session musicians from Gladys Knight and Herbie Hancock’s Tower of Power, at London’s famous Abbey Road Studios, once home to the Beatles.

“It was amazing, to say the least,” he says. “I’m very fortunate to have tracked some vocals and guitar riffs in the same recording facility as the greatest of the greats—it doesn’t get any better than that.”

Chishty also has worked with Sterling Sound, Universal Music Studios, Westlake Recording Studios, Kaboom Studios, Hinge Studios, as well as Conway Recording Studios and Sphere Studios, both in Los Angeles.

“I’m currently working with a team of Grammy award-winning mixing engineers who truly take recording, mixing, and vocal post-production to a whole new level,” he says. “My sound engineer’s production and mixing credits include JT, Pharrell Williams, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Drake, Britney Spears, Flo Rida, Lil Wayne, and Justin Bieber.”

WMU-Cooley student Saad Chishty

Currently signed to KaBOOM! Records, an indie record label with distribution through Universal Music and Beatport, Chishty also has a publication deal for select song titles with Island Def Jam.

Chishty, who received classic training from boyhood in various instruments including violin, cello, synthesizers and piano, comes from a talented musical gene pool.

“Everybody is musically inclined in our family, from my father to my siblings,” he says. “We all play a variety of instruments and sing. We’re all different in our writing styles. Music is an outlet to express myself.”

In 1992-93, he appeared on the TV show “Star Search,” with a dance-choreography and vocal performance act. “It was a privilege to be chosen for the regional semi-finals by the judges and the legendary Ed McMahon,” he says.

On the political side, Chishty is very involved with Michigan’s Democratic caucus and the state legislature, and took part in political canvassing during the November general election, when he was involved in phone banking, registering voters and canvassing neighborhoods to gauge the turnout. He watched the second presidential debate with New York Mayor Bill De Blasio and his wife. “They’ve become excellent mentors and acquaintances,” he says. “They are fantastic public figures.”

He also spent time with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. “We’ve shared conversations on a few occasions,” Chishty says. “She’s a woman of profound substance and accomplishment.”

WMU-Cooley student Saad Chishty

Last July, Chishty and other local community leaders were invited to attend the funeral of boxing great and civil rights activist Muhammed Ali in Louisville, Ky., where he had the opportunity to meet and interact with keynote speakers and dignitaries including Rev. Jesse Jackson.

“It was truly a humbling and once-in-a-lifetime experience where I got to interact with some influential figures,” he says.

With a current goal of interning for the Civil Rights Commission — or for a major record label — Chishty is pleased with his choice of Cooley Law School.

“I like everything — from the faculty to the student body,” he says. “It’s very student-centered — that’s what I love most!”

A Dallas native whose parents still live in the Lone Star State, Chishty makes his home in Detroit, where he is active in the interfaith community and enjoys writing poetry, discussing politics, “wanderlusting” and partaking in thrill-seeking sports. He is as yet unsure of his final legal focus.

“I’m split between entertainment law and my inner desire to serve the public with my extensive teaching experience, music publishing, volunteering with the NGOs in Africa, Middle East and South Asia, song cataloging and writing recording contracts for indie artists,” he says. “We shall see!”

This article about WMU-Cooley student Saad Chishty written by Legal News writer Sheila Pursglove and was originally published by the Legal News on April 21, 2017. It is reprinted here with permission of The Detroit Legal News. Photos courtesy of Saad Chishty

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Law Student from Germany Learns What Real Freedom Means While Helping the Wrongfully Convicted

I’m a 22 years old law student from Germany. As part of an international exchange program, I spent my last term doing a study abroad experience here at WMU-Cooley Law School. Coming to Michigan, and working with the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project, was an experience I will never forget – Anna-Lisa Benkhoff, Muenster University law student and WMU-Cooley Innocence Project intern

When I decided to come to America and attend WMU-Cooley Law School, I had no idea what kind of experiences it would bring. Growing up, I always sought out new opportunities and to challenge myself. I heard about the WMU-Innocence Project when I was looking into study abroad opportunities in the United States. I was excited about the idea that students got to work on actual criminal cases with real people who have been wronged. I especially like that I would learn practical knowledge and skills in the law.

The WMU-Cooley Innocence Project fights against wrongful convictions in post-conviction cases, using DNA-testing to prove innocence.

I spent much of my time in the law clinic working on one case. Our client was convicted of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree, involving two perpetrators. It was the first case I ever worked on and it was an unbelievable experience. I actually was able to meet our client in prison.

Once I got to meet him in person, I knew I was working for the right reasons. It means a lot to be able to help someone who has been wronged get out of prison.

Based on our work, the client was granted an evidentiary hearing on the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project’s motion under MCR 6.500. During the hearing, the judge heard our newly discovered evidence. From that evidence, the judge must decide whether to grant our client a new trial.

In addition to doing research to support the case, I wrote legal memos and assisted in preparing the case for litigation. I feel so proud that I helped to prepare the paperwork needed for our client’s evidentiary hearing. I helped to prepare a witness list and questions for direct and cross examinations.

 During the hearing, WMU-Cooley Innocence Project interns questioned witnessed on the stand – just like a real lawyer.

The evidentiary hearing took four days, and is now submitted to the court for a decision.

Even though I’m leaving the United States and the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project, I will continue to follow its important work. I had a such a great time and got to meet so many nice and very cool people. I now realize the hard work it takes to improve the criminal justice system. I would recommend this experience to anyone. Not only do you gain practical legal skills and experience, you have the privilege of doing something very important – saving someone from life imprisonment when they have been wrongfully convicted. It was unforgettable.

WMU-Cooley Innocence Project Director Marla Mitchell-Cichon and German International Exchange Program law student Anna-Lisa Benkhoff.

WMU-Cooley Innocence Project Director Marla Mitchell-Cichon and German International Exchange Program law student Anna-Lisa Benkhoff.

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So, You Want to Be a Criminal Lawyer? Seven Things Your Law School Should Offer

krause-phelan_tonyaBlog author WMU-Cooley Law School Auxiliary Dean and Professor Tonya Krause-Phelan teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Defending Battered Women, Criminal Sentencing, and Ethics in Criminal Cases. She coaches national mock trial and moot court teams with the West Michigan Defenders Clinic and frequently appears as a commentator on numerous radio, television, print, and internet media sources regarding criminal law and procedure issues.

When I attended law school in the late ’80s, becoming a criminal practitioner was probably the least desired career choice a law student could make. At that time, many law students, law professors, and practitioners alike thought that the only people who would “settle” for a job as a public defender or as a prosecutor were those who could not get a job with a mega-firm or as in-house counsel for a Fortune 500 company.

Because I knew when I went to law school I wanted to be a public defender, I followed my passion instead of conventional wisdom. I was fortunate enough to land a job right out of law school as a public defender.  Eventually, I went into private practice, where I specialized in criminal defense. But, I never gave up my passion for indigent defense, and as a result, I continued to accept court-appointed cases. Throughout my many years of practice, criminal practitioners continued to be viewed as a sub-category of lawyers.

But, nothing could be further from the truth. Criminal practitioners are some of the most passionate, dedicated, and talented lawyers in the profession. After all, practicing in the area of criminal law is not for the faint of heart; it is one of the most demanding, challenging, and specialized areas of practice with clients’ lives and liberty literally hanging in the balance. With everything known today about DNA exoneration cases, mistaken identification cases, police shootings, and other systemic and ethical challenges facing the criminal justice system, people have changed their minds about public defenders, criminal defense lawyers, and prosecutors. Today people are actually deciding to attend law school for the specific purpose of becoming a criminal practitioner.

For those who want to become a criminal practitioner, they should look for a law school that does everything possible to adequately prepare its students for the rigors of a criminal practice. Whether a law school advertises itself as a “practice ready” school or not, several factors foretell a school’s pledge to preparing its students for criminal practice. Prospective law students interested in practicing criminal law should consider the following factors:

  1. Experienced Faculty: Professors who have practiced in the field are uniquely qualified to provide students with a practical context in which to learn substantive criminal law. Learn whether the professors who teach Criminal Law and Procedure practiced criminal law prior to becoming full-time faculty members.  Also, determine whether the school’s adjunct faculty are criminal practitioners. By hiring criminal law practitioners to serve as adjunct faculty, a law school demonstrates its dedication to keeping its curriculum current and relevant.
  2. Criminal Law-based Clinics: Ensure the law school hosts a clinic that focuses on criminal law, usually public defender or prosecutor clinics. Because many states allow students to work under the direct supervision of a licensed attorney, this type of clinical experience provides students with the ability to apply the knowledge and skills they have learned in the classroom to real-life, real-time clients.
  3. Innocence Project: Several law schools run Innocence Project programs. In these programs students have the responsibility to investigate and process cases for individuals who have been wrongfully convicted. Nothing speaks louder about a law school’s commitment to the efficacy of the criminal justice system than its commitment to representing individuals who should not have been convicted and need assistance in gaining their freedom.
  4. A Strong Skills-based Program: Law schools that are committed to developing strong criminal practitioners will also have a strong skills-based program. Look at the classes the law school requires students to complete. A curriculum that requires several research and writing, trial and appellate advocacy, and other skills-based courses demonstrates that the school is preparing its students for practice.
  5. Community Collaboration and Engagement: Look to see if the law school regularly engages with community organizations and events.   By hosting and participating in events that foster interaction with community organizations, local leaders, and members of the criminal justice system, a law school demonstrates a strong responsibility to fostering and improving an ethical and dedicated criminal justice system.  Look to see if the law school has hosted or participated in round-table and panel discussions, town hall-style meetings, and lecture series that include such people as police officers, judges, criminal practitioners, and experts within the criminal justice system.
  6. Proximity to Local Courthouses, Legal Community, and Organizations: If a law school is close to courthouses, law firms, and other legal entities, law students will more likely augment their educational opportunities by visiting local courthouse, watching trials and other legal proceedings, connect with members of the bar, and become student members of local bar organizations, events, and public service opportunities.  Observing how lawyers conduct cases helps students develop their own skills.
  7. Strong Alumni Base: Finally, many law schools provide prospective students with a list of alumni. Ask the law school to provide you with a list of alumni who are practicing criminal law and contact them. Not only can alumni answer questions about practicing criminal law, they can discuss whether the school adequately prepared them for criminal practice.  Ask their advice regarding which elective classes to take, clinics or externships to apply for, and which extra-curricular activities most adequately prepared them for criminal practice.

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New Zealand Land, Culture & People True Adventure

WMU-Cooley law students have jumped into their study abroad experience with both feet, warmly embracing this special land. Nothing short of an adventure, New Zealand’s changeable landscapes and experiences have been life changing. The challenging international courses have been enlightening and the world down under breathtaking with the richness of its oceans, mountains, ferns, and its multi-cultural, open and friendly citizenry.

Students were based in Hamilton, New Zealand, on the campus of the University of Waikato for their classroom experience, but their educational experience traveled far and wide.

Students compared Chinese & New Zealand law and New Zealand International Trade. They learned about the United Nations and Indigenous Rights. By the end of the term, they were making presentations in the state-of-the-art courtroom in the new law building. But that was just the start of their adventure in learning.

Travels included trips to the world-famous Raglan beach, Mount Manganui, touring the Marlborough wine region, absailing into Waitomo Caves, bungy jumping in Queenstown. It took their breath away!

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Students learned about Maori culture and legal systems. They were invited onto the Kirrikirriroa Marae, where they were formally welcomed and allowed to participate in part of an alternative sentencing workshop with criminal offenders. They visited the Maori Land Court, where they shared Hongi and tea with Court staff and Judge Stephanie Milroy.

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Students visited law firm McCaw Lewis, where they shared a meal with attorneys. They even learned to play cricket. During their last week, Dean Wayne Rumbles hosted a BBQ for the WMU-Cooley students at his home, where he cooked for the students and shared laughter and fellowship.

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Aeoteara/New Zealand will stay in the hearts of WMU-Cooley students and faculty as they move on to Melbourne for more adventure!

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WMU-Cooley Patent Law Team Place High in U.S. Patent & Trademark Office Competition

“Team Joyce Hill and Christopher DeLucenay truly demonstrated an initiative and work ethic that one usually only finds in seasoned Patent attorneys,” declared WMU-Cooley Professor and Coach Gerald Tschura after his two Intellectual Property students brought home the overall third place trophy in the Midwest Regional International Patent Drafting Competition. “I was impressed by their creativity and competitive spirit. Joyce and Chris exemplify exactly that caliber and high degree of competency you need to to succeed as patent attorneys today.”

WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Gerald Tschura, Me, Joyce Hill, Chris DeLucenay, Dr. Christal Sheppard

WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Gerald Tschura, Me, Joyce Hill, Chris DeLucenay, Dr. Christal Sheppard

For the second consecutive year, WMU-Cooley students performed exceptionally well during the Midwest Region International Patent Drafting Competition.  The competition is hosted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

“Joyce and Christopher worked extremely hard, beginning in December, to conduct a thorough patent search and to prepare and submit a patent application based on a hypothetical invention provided by the competition,” explained Tschura. “Our submission, along with all the other competing schools, were then scored by a select panel of judges. Teams were then selected to orally present and explain their applications before two separate distinguished panels of judges and examiners from the USPTO as well as leading practitioners in patent law.”

“The team did an outstanding job and represented their school with distinction,” punctuated Tschura. “This second year of the competition saw a significant increase in the number of competing schools which made the competitive arena that much stiffer. After all written submissions were completed in mid-January, the field whittled down to nine schools that orally presented in February and defended their cases to panels of judges in at the USPTO office in Detroit. Competing teams were identified only by number for all submissions and during the presentations to assure anonymity in judging.”

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Professor Tschura went on to explain that “after the final round, the judges announced that only one point separated the top three teams. We finished in third, but only slightly behind St. Louis University and York University (Toronto).  I like to note that WMU-Cooley was the only law school of the four in Michigan to finish in the top three at the competition, and the only law school to have placed in the top three twice!”

Professor Tschura had only kudos for his team, and they for him. “Many thanks go to Joyce and Chris for their effort and hard work and for making WMU-Cooley proud.  Future inventors and clients will be very lucky to have either of these two outstanding future lawyers as their patent attorney!”

Joyce Hill was also pleased with how the team did in the competition, but also enjoyed her time at the competition. “I thought it was a great learning experience,” stated Hill. “I have so many to thank, but especially Professor Tschura for all of his help and guidance in making the competition such a success.  There is nothing like practicing what you have learned in school.”

The competition, hosted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), is now an annual event, with ambitions of including competitions at each of the USPTO regional satellite offices across the country.

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