Tag Archives: the value of a 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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More Proof the J.D. Degree is a Great One to Earn

Here’s more proof of something we’ve known and been saying for years:  the J.D. degree leads to a fulfilling and lucrative career.  So says none other than Fortune magazine.

Fortune

Fortune Magazine recently collaborated with PayScale to publish a study ranking the value of graduate degrees, finding that the J.D degree is the best non-STEM graduate degree anyone can obtain.

The rankings looked at three factors:

  • long-term outlook for job growth,
  • median salaries at mid-career, and
  • job satisfaction scores.

Here is what the researchers found:

  • Law school graduates placed second in the study for median salary at $138,200, based on salaries at mid-career or 10 years in.

  • The only graduates that earn more at that point are Ph.D. students in Computer Science.

Fortune’s analysis finds the best graduate degrees are in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Statistics tops the list, followed by Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction and Physics. The J.D. degree is the only non-STEM degree in the Fortune top 10.

The study used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine job growth.  From that data, Fortune is projecting substantial growth in the legal profession — 20.1 % — which is higher than all degrees except for a Master’s and Ph.D. in statistics.

Moreover, the study found that 71% of lawyers rate themselves as “highly satisfied” in their careers.

This study echoes our previous postings about the huge economic value of a law degree, how job prospects have been improving, how lawyer employment has jumped substantially, how the aging of the legal profession portends good job growth, and how, indeed, a shortage of lawyers is predicted.

If you combine these factors with Fortune’s findings, you will indeed see that now is a great time to start law school.

See us on the web at wmich.edu/law

Click here for more information about admissions.

WMU-Cooley Law Graduation

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More Jobs Than Law Grads for the Class of 2016

There will be an undersupply of lawyers with the class of 2016 . . .

so predicts National Jurist’s preLaw magazine. In an article by its editor-in-chief, Jack Crittenden, preLaw compares decreasing law school enrollment figures with bar employment data to conclude that “there will be an undersupply of lawyers with the class of 2016, even if employment remains flat.  And the class of 2017 should enjoy a market where the job demand is far greater than any previous class since NALP [the National Association for Law Placement] began tracking data in the early 1990s.”

       Crittenden’s findings confirm what Cooley’s President and Dean, Don LeDuc, has said in this blog: now is a great time to enter law school.

       But Crittenden leaves out an equally important part of the undersupply story – due to the aging of the lawyer population, an increasing number of lawyers are leaving the profession. As early as two years ago, President LeDuc noted how 56% of Michigan’s active resident lawyers are 50 years old or older.  And Michigan data show that more lawyers are leaving the practice of law in Michigan than the law schools produce. The result is that, starting very soon, Michigan will not produce the number of law school graduates sufficient to replace the number now leaving the profession through retirement, death, and other employment. This portends well for job growth in Michigan.

President Don LeDuc is publishing commentaries on the Law School, legal education, legal employment, and related topics.  In three recent commentaries, President LeDuc takes on a variety of misstatements and misinformation about legal employment, showing that legal unemployment in Michigan remains low while legal employment is increasing.  And Cooley itself is hardly “flooding the market” with law graduates in Michigan.

Click here for all of President LeDuc’s commentaries.

Scroll below to comment on President LeDuc’s commentary.

See Cooley on the web at cooley.edu.

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Some Timely Positive Thoughts

vuletich_victoria

Professor Victoria Vuletich teaches Professional Responsibility at Cooley Law School and is a r egular contributor to the Cooley blog.

This last month a stream of negativity has populated my computer screen. A law grad’s anonymous, blistering rant about how he was scammed by his law school and how law school is a horrible investment.  Another  from a  lawyer who graduated from a top ten school who believes she is a member of a “lost generation” whose career is ruined because she didn’t get hired by a big firm and ended up opening a solo firm where she is having success. Lawyers who believe the market is flooded with too many lawyers. I could go on but won’t.

Though I greatly empathize with the economic situation many grads and lawyers find themselves in, having graduated in a down economy where the phrase:  “It’s the economy stupid” meant something significant to many of us, I confess to being puzzled by such long term proclamations so soon in a career. I too dreamed of lots of money and a glamorous life right after graduation but quickly accepted the reality that  it takes about six years for the earning power of the J.D. to kick in – in good times.   I had a sense of optimism for  7-10-20 years down the road.  I also had a belief that money isn’t the only thing that brings satisfaction. Flexibility, the ability to make choices and have control can contribute greatly to one’s satisfaction.

It brought to mind a book that came out in 2010:  The Happy Lawyer:  Making A Good Life In the Law, written by Nancy Levitt and Douglas Linder.  Among their findings: only 27 percent of graduates from top tier schools report being extremely satisfied with their careers as opposed to 43 percent of graduates from fourth tier law schools. One of their assertions as to why graduates from fourth tier schools are happier is because there is not so large a gap between fourth tier grads expectations and reality,  as opposed to the expectations of top tier grads.

Wednesday night I taught my first class of the term. One of my students is totally blind. Another is in a wheel chair. Both of these students are happy, engaged, and excited to be studying law.  Their zest for life is evident. And this echoes many students and lawyers I have seen who have faced breathtaking challenges in their personal lives that would surely entitle them to a “pass” in the life satisfaction department, yet they are warm, open, happy, generous and optimistic people. I also see creative lawyers retooling their practices for the new marketplace and reaping the benefits of doing so.

2008 was a game changer for most industries. Law is no exception. The legal profession that existed before 2008 will never return. Ever. We can pine away, rant and rave and blame everyone and everything but it won’t change reality. We may not like much of the change (as I don’t, coming of age as a lawyer in the traditional days) but ignoring it or hating it will only hamper us in doing what we need to do to succeed. And more importantly, be satisfied.

One thing I know for sure, how we define our situations dictates our satisfaction leve. We can either choose to view ourselves as members of a lost generation whose careers will be forever hobbled or as people who are smart, resourceful and have the native ability to create our own unique way of working in a world that is now rife  with possibilities that didn’t exist before. Or,  in my case, I can view myself as a middle aged, tech challenged law professor  who hasn’t drafted a contract in twenty years and whose industry is being reformed in significant ways with unknown, anxiety producing personal consequences, or as someone determined to dance with the forces that will no doubt significantly change her long held ideas of what it means to be a law professor and lawyer – and, indeed,  herself as a working person in a historical time of profound change.

We are all on an adventure. I am choosing to be satisfied in the face of the unknown, the challenging and the uncertain. Won’t you please join me? I could sure use some good company!

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The Benefits of Higher Education and a Professional Degree

Robb PhotoJames D. Robb is Associate Dean for External Affairs and Senior Counsel at Cooley Law School.  

The College Board has just released a study demonstrating the positive effects of higher education.  In its study called Education Pays 2013 – The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society written by Sandy Baum, Jennifer Ma, and Kathleen Payea, the College Board cites a vast amount of data to conclude that a college education pays dividends, and a professional degree tops the charts.

  • Individuals with higher levels of education earn more and are more likely than others to be employed.
  • The financial return associated with college credentials and the gaps in earnings by education level have increased over time.
  • Federal, state, and local governments enjoy increased tax revenues from college graduates and spend less on income support programs for them, providing a direct financial return on investments in postsecondary education.
  • College-educated adults are more likely than others to receive health insurance and pension benefits from their employers.
  • Adults with higher levels of education are more active citizens than others.
  • College education leads to healthier lifestyles, reducing health care costs.
  • College-educated mothers spend more time with children and alter the composition of that time to suit children’s developmental needs more than less educated mothers.
  • College education increases the chances that adults will move up the socioeconomic ladder.
  • Substantial evidence indicates that the associations described above are the result of increased educational attainment, not just of individual characteristics.

These conclusions are consistent with those I highlighted in a prior post, The Economic Value of a Law Degree.  The malicious scam bloggers and the ill-informed naysayers who bash legal education, and indeed higher education, continue to lose out.  The present time continues to be a great time to enter to law school.

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State Bar of Michigan Data Confirms Improved Law-Related Employment

Cooley’s President and Dean, Don LeDuc, is publishing commentaries on the Law School, legal education, legal employment, and related topics.  In three new commentaries, President LeDuc takes on a variety of misstatements and misinformation about legal employment, showing that legal unemployment in Michigan remains low while legal employment is increasing.  And Cooley itself is hardly “flooding the market” with law graduates in Michigan.

Unemployment Among Michigan’s Lawyers Remains Low

Despite the persistently slow economic recovery and contrary to popular misconception, unemployment among Michigan’s licensed lawyers remains low, according to data provided by the State Bar of Michigan. This analysis is based on their report entitled Statewide and County Demographics (2013-14), which includes data covering the active, licensed, Michigan resident members of the State Bar of Michigan as of July 2013.  This is so whether using the State Bar of Michigan’s definition of “unemployed” or the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ definition.

Employment Among Michigan’s Lawyers Is Increasing

Employment of Michigan lawyers increased by 5.2% over the past three years, according to the same State Bar of Michigan data.     

The State Bar reports employment by a wide range of occupational categories such as private practice, academia, the judiciary, corporate counsel. legal services, and the like.  With a single exception—military, which lost 3—all employment categories showed an increase in real numbers, ranging from 8 in law schools to 585 in private practice.  The distribution among the categories during the past three years was quite consistent, with the largest change being a 1.0% decline among those reporting employment in private practice.

As with unemployment figures, the employment data undermines arguments about the job market and the impact of recent law school graduates on that market.  Over the past three years, the number of licensed lawyers increased 1,141, while the number of lawyers reporting employment increased by 1,508. 

Another frequent assertion is that recent graduates are taking jobs that are not “law” jobs.  The date includes a category labeled “non-law related.  However, the number reporting employment in that category grew at nearly the exact rate as the growth in employment overall (5.1% to 5.2% overall), and the percentage of Michigan lawyers reporting such employment in 2013 is identical to that in 2010 (both at 4.8% of total employment).

Cooley’s Graduates Constitute a Representative Proportion of the Lawyers in Michigan

Of late, statements have circulated claiming that Cooley is flooding the market with new graduates, driving down employment among Michigan lawyers.  This is patently not the case.  Of Michigan’s lawyers, Cooley’s graduates constitute 16.6% of the bar, third among the five Michigan law schools.  Here is the order:

Wayne State has the largest share at 21%.  MSU/DCL is second at 17.4%.  Cooley is third at 16.6%.  UD-Mercy is fourth at 14.1%.  Michigan is 5th at 9.3%.  Graduates from all other law schools constitute 21.5% of the Michigan bar.

In Sum

In sum, unemployment among Michigan lawyers remains quite low and total employment of Michigan lawyers has increased faster than the increase in new members.  Cooley’s graduates certainly are not flooding the market of Michigan’s lawyers.

       

Click here for all of President LeDuc’s commentaries.

Scroll below to comment on President LeDuc’s commentary.

See Cooley on the web at cooley.edu.

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A Letter of Gratitude from a Proud Cooley Graduate

S.J. Finnessey, right, with Cooley Associate Dean James Robb, inside the United States Supreme Court.

S.J. Finnessey, right, with Cooley Associate Dean James Robb, inside the United States Supreme Court.

S.J. Finnessey is a graduate of Cooley’s 2000 Cushing Class.  Since graduation, he has gone on to a fulfilling career, one highlight of which was his admission on April 16, 2012 to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court as part of the Cooley Alumni Association bar admission program.  Following his admission to the Supreme Court, S.J. sent this letter of thanks to Cooley’s founder, Hon. Thomas E. Brennan.  We proudly publish S.J.’s letter with his permission.

December 21, 2012

Hon. Thomas E. Brennan
Founder, Former President, Dean Emeritus
Thomas M. Cooley Law School

Dear Judge Brennan,

Thank you for starting Thomas M. Cooley Law School. If you had not taken that first step to start Cooley, I would not be where I am today. In addition to becoming a lawyer with a steady and successful job with the State of New York, Cooley has given me the opportunities to quadruple my income over the past decade and a half. I was making about $9.00 an hour as an inside contractor salesman in a hardware store and then switched to working full-time as a police officer in a small town before attending Cooley. Now, I make well over $80,000 per year while still doing the things I love – fighting crime and helping people. I’m not making as much as my opponents who pull down well more than twice what I make, but I’m happy doing what I do.

Along the way, I have helped many women and children as an assistant district attorney, fighting domestic violence and sex abuse. Because of Cooley, I was able to help a 6-year old girl face her abuser in a criminal trial and send her abuser to prison. It was a heart-wrenching case, and I was clearly the right prosecutor in the right place at the right time for that little girl. If not for your starting Cooley, and if not for Cooley’s giving me the opportunity to go to law school, I would never have been there to help her. The right prosecutor would not have been in the right place at the right time.

I have also helped make classrooms safer for students by ending the careers of predator teachers. As a senior attorney for the New York State Education Department, I have been prosecuting disciplinary cases against teachers and school administrators regarding their moral character. Many of the teachers I administratively prosecute today have had inappropriate sexual relationships with their students.

Because of Cooley, I was able to help a woman seek justice against her school counselor who had sexually abused her 30 years prior to her coming forward to report his abuse. Even when the criminal justice system failed her due to statute of limitations, and even when others doubted her belated reporting, I was able to take his school counseling license away, giving her a sense of justice.

Because of Cooley, I was able to get admitted to the bar of the United States Supreme Court and have both of my parents witness my swearing in. I cannot thank you, Associate Dean James Robb, who stood in Court to move my admission, and Professors Amy Timmer and Ronald Bretz, who sponsored my candidacy, enough for that. I was sworn in with Bart Stupak, a former Michigan State Trooper, who was an inspiration to me when I was a student at Cooley even though I had never met or known him personally. Making the decision to leave my full-time job as a police officer was tough, but knowing that another former law enforcement officer had made it through Cooley and gone on to become a lawyer and United States Congressman was inspirational and encouraging to me. The swearing-in ceremony in Washington, followed by the tour of the U.S. Capitol Building that Cooley also arranged for my parents and me, is a memory I will cherish forever.

Cooley's 2012 U.S. Supreme Court Admittees

Cooley’s 2012 U.S. Supreme Court Admittees

The only time you and I have ever really met face to face was when you handed me my diploma in September 2000.  That moment – when I walked across the Commencement stage – was special. You see, my paternal grandfather passed away on the night of my high school graduation, and just as I was about to get my high school diploma, my dad was taken out of our high school gym by a police officer who had been tasked with informing my dad of my grandfather’s passing.  So my dad missed my getting my diploma in 1987.  Thus it was extra special for me when my dad saw me get my law degree at Cooley in September 2000. I can remember waving to my parents in the upper deck of the 6th floor of the law school Temple Building as if it were yesterday. And then you shook my hand – and handed me my law degree. When I got back to my apartment that night, I unrolled my diploma and stared at it for hours. I felt as if I had lived out the final scenes of the movie “The Paper Chase,” which I had watched a few times while in law school to help me through the real life paper chase. And now, this year, to have both my parents witness my admission to the the United States Supreme Court was truly special.

I still have the letter you sent me when I was first admitted to Cooley, a letter about the things to expect in law school as a student. That letter means a lot to me. You gave a chance to me when no other ABA-accredited law school would. And when I got to Cooley, my first-year professors like Ronald Bretz and Amy Timmer inspired me. Amy Timmer in particular inspired me not just with her love and knowledge of torts as a subject, but with her love for Cooley Law School and her love of the Cooley Honor Code.

By the end of my first year, all of my close 1L friends flunked out or left school. I used to joke that at Cooley, it’s not “look at the person on your left, look at the person on your right-one of you won’t be here next year.” It’s more like “look at the person on your left, look at the person on your right- all three of you won’t be here next year.”  I knew that a lot of the students who started with me and didn’t make it were smarter than I was, which had me concerned. Amy Timmer and Ron Bretz helped me through that time period – which was a time when I was wondering if law school and becoming a lawyer was really for me. Professor Bretz told me that getting a law degree was all about the “opportunities” that a law degree could bring in the future. That stuck with me and has rung so true, and I have tried to share the lesson about opportunities with others.

Professors Bretz and Timmer are the best of the best at Cooley, and I was so happy that they agreed to be my sponsors for admission to the U.S. Supreme Court. They’ve impacted my life in ways they will never know. And through me, they’ve helped others as well – like the women and children I’ve mentioned.

I also want to share with you that several professors, who I did not even have as my own professors, took the time to talk to my parents and me in the hallways of Cooley when I was giving my parents a tour of the law school during semester break a long, long time ago. My parents and I ran into Associate Dean John Nussbaumer and Professor Otto Stockmeyer as I was showing them where I hoped my picture would soon grace the walls of Cooley along with the photos of my classmates and other classes.  To have professors who were not even my own teachers take the time to chat about Cooley with my parents and me says a lot about their character.  I wish I had them as teachers in class, but in just that small way they became my professors for a few moments in the hallway. You just don’t get that kind of contact and interest anywhere else. Even though Cooley is huge school, it’s moments like those that make it feel like a small, friendly town.

When I was growing up, my grandmother always told me to become a banker or a lawyer. I’m truly thankful you helped me become a lawyer and that she lived to see me achieve her dream for her grandson. And thank you for helping me connect with the great professors I had at Cooley like Ron Bretz, Justin Brooks, Terrence Cavanaugh, Michael Cox, Joseph Kimble, Gerald MacDonald, Dena Marks, Maurice Monroe, Phil Prygoski, Chris Shafer, and Amy Timmer, to name only a few. There are others at Cooley like Jim Robb, Roberta Studwell, Paul Zelenski, and the late Darryl Parsell that helped me in ways too numerous to list here.

Judge Brennan, I will never, ever, be able to thank you and my Cooley professors enough for the opportunities you have given me and the abilities you have given me to help others. As I reflect back on this year, and this amazing accomplishment of the son of a blue-collar electrician standing in front of the United States Supreme Court, I cannot thank you and those at Cooley enough.  I’ve never felt so connected to Cooley as I did on April 16, 2012. I can only say thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to better myself and help people, and thank you for starting the Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

Cooley has made a huge difference in my life and will continue to do so in ways I have not yet realized. Thank you.

Very truly yours,

Samuel “S.J.” Finnessey, Jr.
Cushing Class 2000
East Greenbush, NY

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