Tag Archives: access to legal education

You Asked. We Answered. WMU-Cooley Law School Affiliation Q&A.

  1. What is the affiliation? The affiliation is a formal linkage between Western Michigan University and the private WMU-Cooley Law School. The affiliation between the two entities is focused on providing new professional education opportunities for students while adding value and new research and service initiatives to the programs both institutions offer. With both WMU and the law school retaining separate governance and financial responsibilities, the affiliation is similar to the relationship between WMU and the private WMU Stryker School of Medicine.

    four campuses

    The Law School’s campuses in Auburn Hills, Tampa Bay, Lansing, and Grand Rapids

  2. When does the affiliation start? It already did, some time ago.  The University and Law School executed the original affiliation agreement in August 2014 after approval by the Higher Learning Commission and American Bar Association (the accrediting agency for law schools).  In the past year and half since, the University and Law School have proposed, and in many instances implemented, about 140 different initiatives involving about 140 faculty, staff, and leaders of both the University and Law School.

    WMU-Cooley President Don LeDuc and WMU President John Dunn

    WMU-Cooley President Don LeDuc and WMU President John Dunn

  3. When will the Law School hold courses in Kalamazoo? It already is, having started in January 2016 with elective courses in Employment Law and Environmental Law in the Health & Human Services Building on East Campus.  Also, a Constitutional Law Seminar jointly taught by WMU-Cooley Professor Devin Schindler and Western Professor Mark Hurwitz is taking place at the Law School’s Grand Rapids campus. The Law School hopes to hold certain first-term required courses for new law students on WMU’s Kalamazoo campus in Fall 2016.

    WMU-Cooley Professor Devin Schindler

    WMU-Cooley Professor Devin Schindler

  4. What should we know about the Law School? With nearly 20,000 graduates licensed in every state and many foreign nations, the Law School’s mission—practice access—is similar to the University’s mission.  While the Law School has students and graduates of the highest academic and professional achievement, the Law School ensures the success of a diverse student body through a rigorous instructional program providing intensive support, to prepare graduates for service in a global society.  In recent years, the Law School has graduated more minority and African-American lawyers than any other U.S. law school.  Learn more at wmich.edu/law.

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    WMU-Cooley Law students

  5. What are some affiliation highlights? The U.S. Department of Justice awarded WMU a $418,000 grant to expand the Law School’s Innocence Project in which WMU students are currently working with law students.  (The WMU-Cooley Innocence Project, investigating criminal-conviction files for DNA evidence, has already exonerated and freed three wrongly convicted individuals.)  WMU’s Homer Stryker, M.D. School of Medicine has approved a joint medical student/law student course on informed consent and risk communication. Law professors have spoken in WMU courses in Kalamazoo and for WMU’s Center for Ethics in Society. Dozens of other initiatives are ongoing.

    Sen. Steve Bieda (blue tie) joins all the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project team on the Capitol steps after the press conference introducing Senate Bill 291.

    Sen. Steve Bieda (blue tie) joins the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project team on the Michigan Capitol steps after the press conference introducing Senate Bill 291 to provide compensation to wrongfully convicted persons.

  6. What’s next? That’s in large part up to students, faculty, and staff of both institutions.  While University and Law School leadership certainly have ideas for the affiliation, the presidents of both institutions deliberately chose to let their students, faculty, and staff draw inspiration and expertise from one another in organic collaborations. The approach is working, with relationships formed in dozens of different areas and around many different activities and functions.  Those who get involved will find other willing, inspired, and committed individuals sharing their own interests.

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    Law student at WMU-Cooley Tampa Bay

  7. Whom should I contact with affiliation ideas? Don’t hesitate to approach deans, directors, and department chairs with affiliation ideas.  The Law School has a representative on WMU’s Provost’s Council to field affiliation interest through WMU’s leadership and management.  If you don’t know who else to contact, then don’t hesitate to contact WMU Professor and Special Assistant to the President Mark Hurwitz or WMU-Cooley Associate Dean and Professor Nelson Miller.

    Mark Hurwitz, Western Professor of Political Science 
    Office: (269) 387-5372

    Nelson Miller, WMU-Cooley Law Professor and Associate Dean, Grand Rapids Campus
    Office: (616) 301-6800, ext. 6963

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Cooley Ranks 1st Nationally in Minority Law Graduates

 

By John Nussbaumer

Associate Dean, Auburn Hills Campus

John Nussbaumer has worked to help diversify the profession since 2005, when then National Bar Association President Reginald M. Turner recruited him to join the NBA Law Professors Division. Since then, he has spoken frequently on this topic, including presentations at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 2007 Annual Legislative Conference, the American Association of Law Schools 2009 Annual Meeting, and the American Bar Association’s 2010 Annual Meeting.  He has also written extensively on diversity issues, most recently a 2011 article co-authored with Professor E. Christopher Johnson titled The Door to Law School, published in the University of Massachusetts Roundtable Law Journal.  He is the recipient of the National Bar Association’s 2007 Presidential Award and the ABA Council of Legal Education Opportunity’s 2008 Legacy Justice Academic Achievement Award, and he just finished a three-year term on the ABA Council on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Educational Pipeline.  He has been instrumental to the success of three metropolitan Detroit diversity pipeline programs — the Just the Beginning Foundation High School Summer Legal Institute, the ABA Council of Legal Education Opportunity College Pre-Law Summer Institute, and the Wolverine Bar Association Judicial Externship Program.

Cooley’s mission includes “providing broad access to those who seek the opportunity to study law, while requiring those to whom that opportunity is offered to meet Cooley’s rigorous academic standards.”  One major benefit of this part of Cooley’s mission is the extent to which we are helping to diversify the legal profession.

Based on the most recent five years of data published in the 2009-2013 editions of the ABA Official Guide to Law Schools, Cooley has graduated more minority students during this period than any law school in the country, with a total of 958 minority graduates. Rounding out the top five schools were Harvard (865), Loyola Marymount (784), Georgetown (775), and American University (747).

The two largest racial and ethnic groups that face the greatest discrimination in American legal education today are African-Americans and Hispanics.  During the first decade of this century, nearly two-thirds of all African-American applicants and nearly half of all Hispanic applicants were denied admission to every ABA-approved law school to which they applied, compared to less than one-third of all Caucasian applicants.

Cooley ranks third in African-American graduates with 439, behind only Howard (558) and Texas Southern (460).  Rounding out the top five schools were Southern University (389) and North Carolina Central (376).

Cooley ranks 8th in Hispanic graduates with 222.  The top five schools were Texas (343), St. Thomas-Florida (321), American University (287), St. Mary’s (269), and Florida International (256).

Cooley also ranks 15th in Asian/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander graduates with 238.  The top five schools were California-Hastings (480), Loyola Marymount (468), Santa Clara (374), Brooklyn (352), and Harvard (327).

And Cooley ranks 18th in American Indian/Alaskan Native graduates with 17.  The top five schools were Oklahoma (80), New Mexico (59), Denver (48), Arizona State (47), Oklahoma City (43), and Tulsa (43).

Only four schools in the country made the top 20 list in all five of these categories – American University, George Washington, Harvard, and Cooley.

Of course, graduation does not guarantee entry into the legal profession.  To achieve that, graduates must first pass a state bar examination.  Two well-documented studies, one by the Law School Admissions Council and one by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, have established that African-Americans face the greatest challenge in passing the bar examination, which is as much a comment on the validity of bar examinations as a barrier to entering the profession as anything else. But in the five most recent years for which our graduates have had at least two full calendar years to attempt to pass the exam, our African-American graduates have exceeded the ultimate pass rates for African-Americans documented in these studies in every one of those five years.

Inquiries about these studies or the top 20 lists compiled for this article should be directed to Professor and Associate Dean John Nussbaumer at nussbauj@cooley.edu.

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Filed under About Cooley Law School, History, Faculty Scholarship, Latest News and Updates, The Value of a Legal Education

Current Employment Debate Damages Diversity Efforts

 

Damaging Our Diversity Efforts: One of the Unintended Consequences of the Current Employment Debate

By John Nussbaumer
Associate Dean, Auburn Hills Campus
John Nussbaumer has worked to help diversify the profession since 2005, when then National Bar Association President Reginald M. Turner recruited him to join the NBA Law Professors Division. Since then, he has spoken frequently on this topic, including presentations at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 2007 Annual Legislative Conference, the American Association of Law Schools 2009 Annual Meeting, and the American Bar Association’s 2010 Annual Meeting.  He has also written extensively on diversity issues, most recently a 2011 article co-authored with Professor E. Christopher Johnson titled The Door to Law School, published in the University of Massachusetts Roundtable Law Journal.  He is the recipient of the National Bar Association’s 2007 Presidential Award and the ABA Council of Legal Education Opportunity’s 2008 Legacy Justice Academic Achievement Award, and he just finished a three-year term on the ABA Council on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Educational Pipeline.
The current, mostly one-sided debate about law school graduate employment prospects poses one of the greatest threats in recent memory to our efforts to diversify the profession, particularly at a time when our increasingly diverse society needs more, not fewer, lawyers of color.
We already face serious challenges in this area, with nearly two-thirds of all African-American applicants and nearly one-half of all Hispanic applicants to ABA-approved schools having been totally shut out from every school they applied to during the first decade of this century.  If the best and the brightest of the future potential applicants of color who would be admitted now forgo applying to law school altogether because they perceive that law is not a promising career, the combination of these two factors will stop our diversity efforts in their tracks and reverse the direction of the profession.
The reason why this is so important is that by 2042 or sooner, demographers predict that a majority of America’s citizens will be citizens of color.  If the legal profession remains almost 90% Caucasian, as it is today, we face the very real prospect of a crisis of confidence in the fairness of our justice system and our democracy, an inability to effectively compete in a global business environment that is also becoming increasingly diverse, and the risk that we will become the “apartheid” profession.
Responsible legal educators must, of course, also consider whether there will be employment opportunities for law school graduates of color in the coming years. For reasons explained elsewhere (see for example Cooley President Don LeDuc’s recent posting called The Graying of Michigan’s Lawyers and Cooley Law School’s national employment data compilation), the general employment prospects for all graduates are not as bleak as portrayed by those who have dominated the current debate.  And there are several reasons why employment prospects for graduates of color may be better than the general pool of graduates.
One is that as corporations and other businesses continue to become more global enterprises, they will demand that the lawyers who work for them and the law firms that service them look more like the increasingly diverse consumers who purchase their products. This provides reason to believe that top graduates of color will find that they are increasingly in demand.
Another reason is that as our population becomes increasingly diverse, and the political power of our citizens of color grows, they will elect more and more judges who reflect the diversity of our society, and they will increasingly make up a larger proportion of the juries that decide who wins and who loses legal cases.  Law firms and government agencies that depend on these judges and juries will increasingly realize that it is in their interest and the interest of their clients to have lawyers of color working on these cases.
A third reason is that good lawyers of color will find increasing populations of clients who need basic legal services and who would prefer to be represented by someone from their own community.  And this is true whether that community is African American, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Asian, etc.  This provides reason to believe that even average graduates of color will be able to find work to support themselves and pay off their student loan obligations.
All of this is why it is so important to bring some balance to the current debate over law school graduate employment prospects, so that we do not unintentionally damage our efforts to diversify the profession. There are too few, not too many, lawyers of color, and we need to recognize that point.

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