Thomas M. Cooley Law School

Thomas M. Cooley Law School
Thomas M. Cooley Law School
Cooley emblem.jpg
Established 1972
School type Private
Endowment $13.3 million[1]
Dean Don LeDuc
Location Lansing, Michigan, United States
Enrollment 535 full-time
3,129 part-time[2]
Faculty 124 full-time faculty, 160 adjunct faculty
USNWR ranking Rank not published[3]
ABA profile Thomas M. Cooley Law School

Thomas M. Cooley Law School is an American Bar Association accredited law school in the United States. Located in Michigan, its main campus is in Lansing, and its satellite campuses are in Ann Arbor, Auburn Hills, and Grand Rapids. Cooley plans on opening another satellite campus in Tampa Bay, Florida, by May 2012.[4] Largely because of its size, Cooley's aggregate enrollment is known for being among the most diverse of American law schools. At present, Cooley has the largest law school faculty, the largest total enrollment, the largest minority enrollment, and the largest foreign national enrollment in the nation.[5]



The law school is named in honor of Thomas McIntyre Cooley, a prominent nineteenth-century jurist, justice, and later chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, former dean of the University of Michigan Law School, and visiting faculty at the Johns Hopkins University. Thomas M. Cooley Law School was established by a group of lawyers and judges, led by the former chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, Thomas E. Brennan, in 1972.


Cooley prepares its graduates for entry into the legal profession. 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.).

Current degrees awarded include:

  • 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

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

Concentrations and coursework

Students working toward their J.D. at Cooley are able to select from several concentrations, or areas of specialized legal study, including: General Practice, Litigation, Business Transactions Law, Administrative Law, International Law, Environmental Law, Constitutional Law, and Civil Rights Law.[6]

To earn the Juris Doctor degree, students must complete 90 credit hours at the law school. All J.D. candidates must complete 22 required courses,[7] including:

  • Introduction to Law
  • Torts I & II
  • Contracts I & II
  • Constitutional Law I & II
  • Property Law I & II
  • Criminal Law
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Civil Procedure I & II
  • Evidence
  • Legal Research & Writing
  • Taxation
  • Secured Transactions
  • Business Organizations
  • Advanced Legal Research & Writing
  • Equity & Remedies
  • Personal & Professional Responsibility
  • Wills, Estates & Trusts

The remainder of the classes depend on which concentration area the student selects. All concentrations require that students complete at least one skills class and that they either (1) complete an unpaid externship (between three and ten credits) at a law firm or as a law clerk under the supervision of an experienced attorney or judge or (2) complete at least three credits of clinical experience, or (3)demonstrate that they have comparable legal experience from other employment or volunteer work. Students successfully completing a concentration receive the appropriate certification upon graduation.

Legal study outside the United States

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.


Thomas M. Cooley Law School is an independent school of law currently accredited by both the American Bar Association and the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges to award the J.D. Cooley was first accredited by the ABA in 1975 and by the Higher Learning Commission in 2001.

In July 2006, the American Bar Association accepted Cooley's request to offer full degree programs at each of its then-three (now-four) branch campuses, making it one of the only law schools in the United States to offer full J.D. programs at multiple campuses. Now students enrolled in both MPA and MBA programs may simultaneously work on obtaining a law degree from Cooley Law School at Western Michigan University.

Clinical programs

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.[8]

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.[9]

Executive Office

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


Thomas M. Cooley Law School's Latin motto, "In corde hominum est anima legis," was written during the 1970s by its founder, former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas E. Brennan. Dean Brennan originally described the meaning as: "The spirit of the law is in the heart of man." When women in a newly formed female organization called the Cooley Action Team brought to his attention that the motto should also refer to "the hearts of women," Justice Brennan agreed and the motto was changed to: "The spirit of the law is in the human heart."[10]

Notable faculty

Notable alumni

Ranking and reputation

  • U.S. News and World Report's April 2009 law school rankings list places Thomas M. Cooley Law School in its “fourth tier."
  • E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award winner for 2006, as selected by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Professionalism, for Cooley's program "Creating a Culture of Professionalism in Law School."[13]
  • "Most Competitive Students", 4th in the nation, which according to the Princeton Review, is a measure of the perceived competitiveness of the students amongst themselves, rather than a measure of an individual's academic preparation. Baylor University, Ohio Northern University and Brigham Young University were ranked first, second and third respectively for most competitive students. Schools from the 1st tier were not within the top ten for the "Most Competitive" category. Princeton Review, 2009[14]


Conflict of interest claim

In August 1973, an article in the Detroit News and The Detroit Free Press newspapers criticized Justice Brennan for serving on the Michigan Supreme Court and leading the law school at the same time, suggesting that he was "moonlighting" and therefore not living up to his duties to Michiganders. Brennan denied the conflict of interest or the harm to the state, and, several years later, stepped down from the bench.[15]

Branch campuses and ABA accreditation

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.[16] 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. Cooley’s satellite campuses thus allow individuals who cannot act as full-time students at the main campus the ability to work toward their J.D. and sit the bar examination in any jurisdiction in which graduation from an ABA-accredited law school is required for examinees.

On August 8, 2011, Cooley Law announced the opening of a new branch campus in Riverview, Florida, in the Tampa Bay region.[17]

Ranking and Judging the Law Schools

Thomas Cooley used to be ranked by US News and World Report's law-school ranking as a fourth tier school.[18][19] Mike Masnick says the most recent ranking did not include a ranking for Cooley because they "did not supply enough information to U.S. News to calculate a ranking."[20][19]

In the twelfth edition of Cooley's Judging the Law Schools, Cooley ranks itself second (above law schools such as Yale Law School, Stanford Law School, University of Chicago Law School, Georgetown University Law Center and Duke University School of Law).[21] The ranking system advocated by the school has come under heavy criticism for the methodology used to determine placement.[22] The school maintains that judging a legal education by what caliber of students enter will not adequately address the quality of lawyers which come out. However, the Cooley ranking system has been criticized for never actually mathematically addressing this issue. Instead, it utilizes a host of less determinative criteria, such as volumes in library, total applications, total law school square footage, total minority faculty (but not ratio), total enrollment, total titles in library, and total serial subscriptions.[22]

Defamation lawsuit by Cooley

In July 2011, Cooley filed a lawsuit against a law firm and four anonymous bloggers for defamation after they criticized Cooley's self-ranking.[23][24]

Several bloggers provided updated information about the case when "Rockstar05" responded through his attorney.[25]

Class action against Cooley

In August 2011, Cooley was sued by an alumnus for $250 million in tuition refunds and other damages.[26] The lawsuit alleges that Cooley distorts their post-graduate employment information to make it seem as though their graduates make as much as those of much higher caliber schools, including Harvard.

In a response, Cooley's general counsel Jim Thelen said that if the plaintiffs have problems with the post-graduate reporting, they should take it up with the American Bar Association, or even the Department of Education.[26]


  1. ^ As of June 30, 2009. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2009 Endowment Market Value and Percentage Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2008 to FY 2009" (PDF). 2009 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. National Association of College and University Business Officers. Retrieved February 5, 2010. 
  2. ^ 2010 Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools
  3. ^ "U.S. News & World Report, "Best Law Schools: Thomas M. Cooley Law School"". Retrieved April 15, 2011. 
  4. ^ Howell, Brandon. Cooley Law School to open Tampa Bay campus in 2012,, August 09, 2011
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Faculty: - Thomas M. Cooley Law School
  12. ^
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ Princeton Review: Thomas M. Cooley
  15. ^ A Swirl of Controversy
  16. ^ [2]
  17. ^ Cooley opens Tampa campus
  18. ^ Third and Fourth Tier
  19. ^ 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. 
  20. ^ [3]
  21. ^ Judging, 12th Ed.
  22. ^ a b [4]
  23. ^ Summons and Complaint
  24. ^ Cooley Sues Law Firm
  25. ^ [5]
  26. ^ a b [6][dead link]

External links

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