Cooley Honored by ABA for its Professionalism Program
August 17, 2006 - Cooley Law School was honored Aug. 4, 2006 by the American Bar Association this month for its innovative and far-reaching Professionalism Plan. At the ABA national convention in Hawaii, the Chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism, John T. Berry, announced that the committee had selected Cooley as a winner of the E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award.
The ABA noted in its award that Cooley was chosen for the "outstanding achievement in the design and implementation of a model professionalism program."
The honor was presented to Cooley at a joint awards luncheon sponsored by the ABA and the National Conference of Bar Presidents, the National Association of Bar Executives, and the National Conference of Bar Foundations.
Chairman Berry, also the Executive Director of the State Bar of Michigan, said he was proud to have been the one to present the award.
“Giving the Gambrell Award,” he said, “was my last official act as Chairman of the ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism. It was one of the proudest moments of my tenure as chair of the committee.”
Criteria for the award include overall quality, replicability, likelihood of continuation, innovation, success, and substantive strength in the area of professionalism. The ongoing nature of the program proved particularly interesting.
Noted Berry, “Cooley received the award based on the continual and comprehensive nature of the program.”
Cooley adopted its Professionalism Plan in 2002. The plan, designed to help create a culture of professionalism and service-orientation in the law school, contained 18 initiatives, each an independent project, which together comprised a deliberate plan to take a student from orientation through graduation with a focus on ethics and professionalism.
The initiatives undertaken by Cooley include creating a center for public service and professionalism, establishing a standing professionalism advisory committee, reshaping the class on Professional Responsibility, implementing a professionalism and career review for first-year students, creating a student-run mediation board to address conflicts between students, expanding the roles of lawyer/mentors in each student’s development, helping students create a professionalism portfolio to document their professional growth and development through law school, continuing to address unethical behavior, and creating a student ethical oath and standards of professionalism.
All 18 initiatives are either completed or in progress, making ethics and professionalism part of the school’s everyday life.
Amy Timmer, Cooley’s Associate Dean of Students and Professionalism, who chaired Cooley’s Professionalism Committee and oversees implementation of the Professionalism Plan at Cooley, has seen a real difference in the school’s culture and students after three years of having the Plan in place.
"At the end of their first year, I hear students asking each other what public service they have selected. They’re not required to undertake service to the community — they just want to do it," she said.
Even better, she added, is the profound impact on students that has come from writing personal codes of conduct in their class on Professional Responsibility. "Students tell me that one of the best things they did at Cooley was reflect on what their own values and morals are and create a code of conduct that incorporates those values to guide them in their daily lives. They are fully prepared to face ethical challenges — both personal and professional — because they have decided ahead of time how they will respond if they are faced with that."