Thomas M. Cooley Law School

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Thomas M. Cooley Law School
Cooley logo blue.jpg
Established 1972
School type Private
Endowment $18.5 million[1]
Dean Don LeDuc
Location Lansing, Michigan (flagship)
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Auburn Hills, Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Tampa, Florida
Enrollment 535 full-time
3,129 part-time[2]
Faculty 124 full-time faculty, 160 adjunct faculty
USNWR ranking Rank not published[3]
Bar pass rate 74% (Official ABA Data)[citation needed]
ABA profile Official ABA Data

Thomas M. Cooley Law School is an American Bar Association-accredited law school with its main campus in Lansing, Michigan. It has satellite campuses in Grand Rapids, Auburn Hills, and Ann Arbor, Michigan and Tampa, Florida.[4] However, in July 2014, Cooley announced it would be suspending first year enrollments on its Ann Arbor campus for the fall 2014 term.[5] Tuition at each of its campuses costs $43,500 per year, which excludes additional costs such as loan fees, SBA activity fees, books, and healthcare. [6] For Cooley's 1,143 graduates in 2013, 503 secured employment in positions where bar passage was required or a J.D. was preferred. [7] According to Cooley's official 2013 ABA-required disclosures, 22.9% of the Class of 2013 obtained full-time, long-term, JD-required employment nine months after graduation.[8]


The law school is named in honor of Thomas McIntyre Cooley, who was a prominent 19th-century jurist and Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. Cooley was also a dean of the University of Michigan Law School and visiting faculty at Johns Hopkins University. Thomas E. Brennan, also a former Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, led a group of lawyers and judges in establishing the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in 1972.

On July 18, 2013, the Board of Trustees of Western Michigan University approved an affiliation agreement with Cooley. The law school would be known as the Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School. The affiliation and name change must be approved by the ABA and The Higher Learning Commission before either may take place.[9]


Cooley prepares its graduates for entry into the legal profession. While most students work toward a Juris Doctor degree (J.D.), Cooley also offers the Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree. In partnership with Oakland University and Western Michigan University, respectively, Cooley offers joint degree programs in Master of Business Administration (J.D./M.B.A.) and Master of Public Administration (J.D./M.P.A.).

Cooley was the first ABA-approved law school in the nation to have an officially recognized weekend program, allowing students to earn a law degree by attending classes on Friday evenings, Saturdays, and Sundays.[citation needed]

Degree types[edit]

Cooley currently awards the following types of degrees:

  • J.D.
  • J.D./M.P.A.
  • J.D./M.B.A.
  • J.D./LL.M.
  • LL.M. – Corporate Law and Finance
  • LL.M. – Insurance Law
  • LL.M. – Intellectual Property
  • LL.M. – Self-Directed
  • LL.M. – Tax
  • LL.M. – U.S. Legal Studies for Foreign Attorneys


J.D. students are able to select from several concentrations (specialized areas of legal study):[10]

  • General Practice
  • Litigation
  • Business Transactions
  • Administrative Law
  • International Law
  • Environmental Law
  • Constitutional Law and Civil Rights
  • Taxation
  • Intellectual Property
  • Canadian Practice
  • Self-Declared
  • Undeclared

Legal study outside the United States[edit]

Cooley operates programs allowing ABA-approved foreign study credit in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In addition, students are able to study at ABA-approved programs through partner law schools, including U.S. law schools operating programs in: London, England (University of Notre Dame); Oxford, England (Florida State University); Madrid, Spain (The College of William and Mary); Montreal and Quebec, Canada (Pennsylvania State University); and Paris, France and Muenster, Germany.


Thomas M. Cooley Law School has been accredited by the American Bar Association since 1975 and by the Higher Learning Commission since 2001.[11][12]

Clinical programs[edit]

Cooley offers clinical programs at each campus. Students who participate in any of the Michigan clinics are allowed to practice law in Michigan under the Michigan Court Rules by representing clients in court, drafting client documents, and giving legal advice under the supervision of faculty. The Innocence Project is nationally recognized in the United States for helping free persons wrongfully incarcerated by obtaining DNA evidence and providing pro bono legal advocacy to overturn their convictions. Cooley also offers an elder law clinic, Sixty Plus, Inc., which provides free legal services to senior citizens, as well as two Public Defender's clinics, which allow students to work in the Public Defender’s office with indigent clients who are accused of committing a crime. The Access to Justice Clinic provides a general civil practice, focusing on family and consumer law. Free legal help in family law and domestic violence matters if offered at the Family Legal Assistance Project. And evening and weekend students can gain experience in the Estate Planning Clinics or the Public Sector Law Project, which provides civil legal services of a transactional, advisory, legislative or systemic nature to governments.[13]

Cooley offers externships throughout the United States at over 2600 approved externship sites. Student externs work under the supervision of experienced attorneys, with the guidance of full-time faculty.[13]

Cooley Law is currently the Executive Office of Scribes: The American Society of Legal Writers.


Cooley has a library at each of its five campuses. Legal research can be conducted at the libraries through a variety of media, including print, electronic, and multimedia sources. Reference librarians are present at each campus. The libraries have a total of about 60 staff. CoolCat is the online library catalog. The Cooley libraries collectively house roughly 670,000 volumes with an annual growth rate of more than 17,000 volumes. Cooley Law has a reciprocal agreement with both Western Michigan University and Oakland University allowing access to the materials in each institution's collections.[14]


Thomas M. Cooley Law School's Latin motto, In corde hominum est anima legis, was written in the 1970s by its founder, former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas E. Brennan. Dean Brennan had originally described the meaning as "the spirit of the law is in the heart of man"; when a female organization called the Cooley Action Team argued that the motto should also refer to "the hearts of women", Justice Brennan agreed and changed it to "The spirit of the law is in the human heart".[15]

Ranking and reputation[edit]

In its 2013 rankings of American law schools, U.S. News & World Report placed Cooley in a group of schools ranked below the top 150.[16] In the National Jurist's 2013 rankings of law schools, Cooley received a grade of D for both bar passage rate and employment outcomes and a grade of A- for diversity.[17]

In Super Lawyers magazine's 2010 ranking of law schools, Cooley was ranked 146 out of 180 law schools in terms of having produced the most "Super Lawyers."[18]

In 2006 the school received the E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award from the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Professionalism, for its program "Creating a Culture of Professionalism in Law School."[19]

Post-graduation employment[edit]

According to data provided by Thomas M. Cooley Law School to the American Bar Association (ABA), Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, for purposes of adhering to accreditation standards set forth by the ABA, only 311 out of 1079 (28.8%) 2012 graduates obtained full-time, long term positions requiring bar admission (i.e., jobs as lawyers), 9 months after graduation.[20] According to Cooley's official 2013 ABA-required disclosures, 22.9% of the Class of 2013 obtained full-time, long-term, JD-required employment nine months after graduation.[21] Cooley's Law School Transparency under-employment score is 46%, indicating the percentage of the Class of 2013 unemployed, pursuing an additional degree, or working in a non-professional, short-term, or part-time job nine months after graduation.[22]

Additionally, 215 of the 311 (69.1%) were employed in firms consisting of one to ten lawyers, 44 were employed as solo practitioners, and 171 were employed in firms of two to ten lawyers. A total of 13 graduates (1.2%) had found employment in firms of more than 100 lawyers, and two graduates (0.2%) had secured federal judicial clerkships.[23]


The total cost of attendance (indicating the cost of tuition, fees, and living expenses) at Cooley for the 2013-2014 academic year is $63,772.[24] The Law School Transparency estimated debt-financed cost of attendance for three years is $258,232.[25]

Branch campuses and ABA accreditation[edit]

Main Building

In 2002, when Cooley was expanding, Cooley filed a lawsuit against the American Bar Association for delaying the accreditation of its then-two satellite schools.[26] Cooley was working to gain ABA accreditation since the satellite schools opened in June 2002, but had faced delays caused by disagreements on standards, resolved by a settlement of Cooley's lawsuit with the ABA, resulting in the ABA's acquiescence.

In May of 2012, Cooley opened a new branch campus in Riverview, Florida, in the Tampa Bay region.[27][28]

On July 2, 2014, Cooley announced it would not be enrolling first year students on its Ann Arbor campus for the fall 2014 term, while allowing current and transfer students to continue their studies. This came after the school saw a 35% decline in enrollment across its five campuses between 2012 and 2013. The announcement also called for cuts in faculty and staff. As of July 9, 2014, Cooley does not have plans to phase out the Ann Arbor branch entirely.[29]

Ranking and Judging the Law Schools[edit]

Cooley is shown as "Rank Not Published" in the U.S. News & World Report listing of law schools.[30] Previously Cooley was ranked by U.S. News as a fourth-tier law school.[31][32] In 2011, blogger Mike Masnick said that the rankings did not include a ranking for Cooley because they "did not supply enough information to U.S. News to calculate a ranking".[32] In the twelfth edition of Judging the Law Schools, which is published by Cooley, it ranked itself second.[33]

Cooley relies heavily on its library statistics in its own Judging the Law School rankings. Specifically, Cooley has 10 library-based statistics in its 2010 rankings, which included separate entries for the total square footage in the library, the seats available in the library, the amount of hours the library is open, the total number of volumes in the library, the total number of titles in the library, the number of librarians, the total hours that staff works in the library, and several other library-based criteria.[34] Cooley has been subject to intense criticism and backlash for assigning equal value of these library-based statistics to far more important factors such as bar passage rate and percentage of graduates employed following graduation.[35][36][37][38]

Defamation lawsuit by Cooley[edit]

In July 2011, Cooley filed a lawsuit against a law firm and four anonymous bloggers for defamation after they criticized Cooley's self-ranking and indicated that Cooley was inflating its post-graduation employment statistics.[39][40] In dismissing the lawsuit on September 30, 2013, the district court judge noted that "the statement that 'Cooley grossly inflates its graduates’ reported mean salaries' may not merely be protected hyperbole, but actually substantially true."[41]

Several bloggers provided updated information about the case when blogger "Rockstar05" responded through his attorney.[42]

Class action against Cooley[edit]

In August 2011, a class-action lawsuit by 12 Cooley graduates was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan, alleging[43] fraud and misrepresentation about Cooley's published employment information concerning its graduates. The school responded by filing a motion to dismiss.[44] On July 20, 2012, Judge Gordon Jay Quist granted the motion, concluding: "The bottom line is that the statistics provided by Cooley and other law schools in a format required by the ABA were so vague and incomplete as to be meaningless and could not reasonably be relied upon. But, as put in the phrase we lawyers learn early in law school—caveat emptor." Likewise, the judge noted that "it [was] unreasonable for Plaintiffs to rely on two bare-bones statistics in deciding to attend a bottom-tier law school with the lowest admission standards in the country."[45]

Notable faculty[edit]

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ As of June 30, 2011. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2011 Endowment Market Value and Percentage Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2010 to FY 2011" (PDF). National Association of College and University Business Officers. January 17, 2012. p. 21. Retrieved April 23, 2012. 
  2. ^ 2010 Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools: Thomas M. Cooley
  3. ^ "U.S. News & World Report, "Best Law Schools: Thomas M. Cooley Law School"". Retrieved April 15, 2011. 
  4. ^ Cooley Law School Campuses
  5. ^ Cooley Law School won’t enroll new 1Ls at Ann Arbor campus, plans faculty layoffs
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Employment Statistics". 
  9. ^ Roland, Cheryl (September 17, 2013). "WMU, Cooley Law School formally ink long-discussed affiliation accord". Western Michigan University. Retrieved September 22, 2013. 
  10. ^ Cooley: Concentrations
  11. ^
  12. ^,ShowBasic/Itemid,/instid,2830/
  13. ^ a b Cooley: Clinics
  14. ^ Cooley: Library
  15. ^ Cooley: About
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ 2010 Super Lawyers, U.S. Law School Rankings
  19. ^ Cooley: Gambrell Award
  20. ^ -- For the latest Employment Summary Reports from the American Bar Association, Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, see
  21. ^ "Employment Statistics". 
  22. ^ "Cooley University Profile". 
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Tuition and Expenses". 
  25. ^ "Cardozo-Yeshiva University Profile". 
  26. ^ Badger Herald: Michigan Law School
  27. ^ Cooley opens Tampa campus
  28. ^ Wittrock, Angela (May 7, 2012). "Cooley Law School expands into Florida, welcomes first class of students",
  29. ^ "Cooley Law School Plans to Cut Jobs, Halt First Year Enrollments in Ann Arbor". 
  30. ^ U.S. News and World Report: Cooley Law School
  31. ^ Third and Fourth Tiers
  32. ^ a b Masnick, Mike (8 August 2011). "How To Make A Mockery Of Your Own Law School: Sue Your Critics". Techdirt. Retrieved 9 August 2011. 
  33. ^ Brennan & DuLac, Judging the Law Schools, 12th Ed., 2010.
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^ "Cooley Law School Files Suit to Protect Students, Alumni and Reputation". July 14, 2011. Retrieved 2012-08-06. 
  40. ^ Cooley Sues Law Firm
  41. ^
  42. ^ All Education Matters: Freedom of Speech
  43. ^ Macdonald v. Thomas M. Cooley Law School, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Case No. 11-cv-00831 [1]
  44. ^ Cooley Law School, October 20, 2011, "Cooley Files Motion to Dismiss Jobs Reporting Lawsuit"
  45. ^ "McDonald v Thomas M Cooley Law School: IV. Conclusion". Retrieved 4 August 2012. 
  46. ^ Faculty: – Thomas M. Cooley Law School
  47. ^ Cooley: Kimble Burton Award
  48. ^

External links[edit]