Ethics, Service, and Professionalism Programs

More Pro Bono and Community Service Opportunities »

Ethics Programs

Ethics and Professionalism Library

Cooley's Ethics and Professionalism Library maintains over 2,950 titles and 4,670 volumes of ethics materials. The Ethics and Professionalism Library is open to students, faculty, and attorneys to promote the research and study of ethics and professionalism.

Professor Peter Kempel oversees the Ethics and Professionalism Library and has continued to collect items on ethics and professionalism. Among them, the book entitled Reflection of a Lawyer's Soul: The Institutional Experience of Professionalism at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, comprises a response to the Carnegie Report on Educating Lawyers and showcases Cooley's implementation of the very proposals that report set forth for law schools. Royalties from the sale of the book are contributed by all authors to the Center for Ethics.

Ethics in the Curriculum

The Center works with Cooley faculty to find interesting and probative methods of incorporating ethics into the required and elective courses in both the JD and LLM programs. Faculty members have designed and teach elective courses based in ethics, conflict resolution, and pro bono including:

Ethics in Advanced Appellate Techniques, Negotiation and Confrontation, Negotiation National Team, Advanced Professional Ethics, Advanced Business Mediation, Cultural Competency in the Legal Profession, Facilitative Mediation, Professionalism Portfolio Project, Pathway to Success: Your Career and Portfolio, Standards and Ethics of Tax Practice, Advanced Practice Skills – Mediation Training, Advanced Practice Skills – Domestic Mediation, Advanced Practice Skills – Multiple Party Dispute Resolution, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Facilitative Mediation Directed Study, Client Counseling Competition, Interviewing and Counseling, Access to Justice Clinic, the 60+ Elderlaw Clinic and all other indigent-based clinics.

Enforcing Student Conduct Codes

Students engaging in unethical or unprofessional conduct are investigated, counseled, and sanctioned, as appropriate. Along with faculty, Cooley students also serve as counselors, prosecutors, and judges in Honor Code cases. They also assist in enforcing the Honor Code through their service as exam proctors for first term exams.

Reports of suspected Honor Code violations and Disciplinary Procedures violations are investigated by "investigating deans" designated for each campus: Martha Moore at Ann Arbor, Frank Aiello at Auburn Hills, Tracey Brame at Grand Rapids, Cynthia Ward at Lansing, and Ron Sutton at Tampa Bay. The work of the investigating deans is supported and complemented by the Honor Council, Discipline Board, Office of Law School Advocate, and Office of Student Assistance. Professor Mike Molitor is the Chair of the Honor Council.

As a result of students serving as Student Exam Proctors, on the Honor Council, and in the Office of Student Assistance, we have more students actively standing up to support the Honor Code than actual violators. Dean Cynthia Ward, on behalf of the Dean of Students Office, in cooperation with the Exams and Grade Appeals Office, organizes student exam proctors at each campus who are second and third year students to assist in administering mid-term and final exams for first year students. Student Exam Proctors assist regular exam proctors prior to the start of the exam and at the end of the exam when time has been called. Our Student Exam Proctors volunteer their time; they are not paid.

The Student Exam Proctor program has been very successful. It is important for students to see other students enforcing the Honor Code. The work of student exam proctors before the exam and after the exam is visible and impressive. Most allegations of suspected Honor Code violations involve conduct that occurs right before the start or right after time is called at the end of an exam.

Integrity in Our Communities Speaker Series

The Center brings nationally and locally recognized speakers to each campus each term to talk with our students, staff, and faculty about issues, trials, and lawsuits touching on ethical and professionalism matters. Students, faculty, and staff gather to hear speakers talk openly about challenges they have faced, and their personal and professional ethics that guided them through.

Since the series' inception in Hilary 2007, presenters have included: Chief Judge of the Michigan Court of Appeals William Whitbeck, nationally-recognized criminal defense attorney Frank Reynolds, former State Bar of Michigan President and State Board of Education member and practicing attorney Reginald Turner, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Cavanagh, former State Bar of Michigan President Jon Muth, Federal Magistrate Scoville, Retired Grand Rapids City Attorney Phil Balkema, Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly, State Bar President Ed Pappas, Judges Leo Bowman and Denise Page Hood, and chief public defender in Washtenaw County Lloyd Powell.

Click here to see a list of featured speakers.

Ethics Speakers' Bureau

Cooley staff and faculty make themselves available to train and educate groups outside the school interested in ethics and professionalism, such as lawyers, paralegals, students, business owners and executives, local governments, and public interest groups. If you are interested in having a speaker for your organization who can speak about legal ethics and professionalism, please contact Kathy Lawrence at Cooley Law School at (517) 371-5140 or at

Service Programs

Commitment to Our Communities/Cooley Cares

Students, staff, and faculty serve the communities where Cooley lives by supporting the activities of numerous organizations. The Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism encourages community service among Cooley employees by identifying service opportunities and matching employees who want to serve with agencies needing help. Each year, a Cooley employee from each campus is publicly recognized for outstanding community service and receives the Great Deeds Award. Through the Great Deeds Award, the Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism has recognized these employees for excelling in community service:  Jill Pullum, Joan Vestrand, Tony Alvarado, Fred Puffenberger, Martha Moore, Nelson Miller, Nancy Wonch, Stevie Barachkov, Aletha Honsowitz, Danielle Hall, Julie Clement, Audra Foster, Katherine Fleming, Marjorie Gell, Julie Mullens, Norm Fell, Jason Eyster, Val Schnable, Patrick Corbett, Dave Tarrien, and Victoria Cruz-Garcia.

Learn more about Cooley Commitment to Our Communities Programs.

Leadership in the Law

The faculty and staff of the Center hold leadership positions in our communities to promote competence and ethics in the practice of law. For example, we hold seats on the Attorney Grievance Commission, hearing panels for the Attorney Discipline Board, and the Sections and Committees of the State Bar of Michigan on Law Practice and Management, Grievance, Criminal Issues Initiative, Alternative Dispute Resolution, and Equal Access Initiative.

Leadership positions held by members of the Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism.

Pro Bono Programs

Cooley operates many programs that offer free legal assistance to people who cannot afford or who would not otherwise fund such work.

First, here is some background: Cooley faculty and students regularly contribute hundreds of thousands of hours of free legal service per year to pro bono projects and through externships and clinics. It is the breadth and quantity of free legal assistance offered by dedicated faculty who are not required to do such work and are not compensated in any way for doing it, and by students who undertake such work in many cases for no academic credit, through creative partnerships with agencies, shelters, courts, and bar associations, that distinguish Cooley's efforts.

Learn more about Cooley's Pro Bono Programs, including a full listing of pro bono opportunities by campus.

Service to Soldiers: Legal Assistance Referral Program

Since 2007, Thomas Cooley's Service to Soldiers: Legal Assistance Referral Program has been offering free legal assistance to Michigan and Florida military personnel who are deploying to, are serving in, or have recently returned from deployment and are experiencing civilian legal concerns. This program is offered state-wide to servicemembers of E5 rank or below in Michigan, and rank E6 and below in Florida, and works cooperatively with other veteran and military assistance programs throughout Michigan. In particular, the ABA Military Pro Bono Project asked to partner with Cooley Law School to combine the resources of both programs and provide greater coverage to service members. Service to Soldiers has been a valuable partner to the ABA Military Pro Bono Project and Department of Defense Office of Legal Policy. The program has allowed Cooley students, alumni, staff, and Michigan and Florida attorneys the opportunity to give back to those who have sacrificed so much for our country.

Learn more about Cooley's Service to Soldiers: Legal Assistance Referral Program.

Professionalism Programs

Student Mediation Board

Cooley students trained in mediation under the Michigan Court Rules volunteer their time to help confidentially resolve personal conflicts between students and practice their mediation skills.

Cultural Competence Workshops

A series of five workshops supporting professional development in cross-cultural competencies are offered to Cooley students to expose them to, and teach them to advise and counsel, a diverse clientele in a sensitive, supportive, and effective manner. The Center's workshops feature speakers, interactive instruction, and student-facilitated workgroups covering five core competencies: (1) communication; (2) cognition; (3) reference; (4) resource; and (5) relationship. Students learn to recognize their own professionally influenced and their clients' culturally influenced habits, viewpoints, capacities, and practices so as to be able to adjust and adapt and thereby provide more professional counsel. The workshops have been incorporated into the Pathway course.

Professional Development and Mentoring

Cooley employs the concept of episodic mentoring for professional development through its Professionalism Portfolio Project. Rather than match individual student protégés with one lawyer for an extended period of time, Cooley encourages students to be mentored by many different lawyers and for short periods of time.  This concept of episodic mentoring—based on the notion that protégés can learn a great deal from mentors in as little as 20 minutes, if both parties are focused on mentoring and understand the goal—offers students the advantages of

Cooley students are taught the concept of "self-mentoring," that is, asking questions to elicit information that will help them develop professionally. They learn to ask lawyers, and then reflect on what they hear, about how lawyers make good decisions, handle ethical challenges, balance their personal and work lives, make time for public service and pro bono work, develop professionally, deal with difficult people, model good behavior, and meet the ethical obligations of the legal profession. Students are encouraged to start episodic mentoring in their second term and to continue it every term, with a goal of doubling, each term, the number of attorneys they contact.  If they follow through on this challenge, they will know 16 attorneys by their 6th term, who may be able to help them with externships and possible employment leads in their third year. We also offer traditional matched mentoring through various programs.

At the Ann Arbor campus:

At the Auburn Hills campus:

At the Grand Rapids campus:

At the Lansing campus:

Cooley is one of ten founding members of a newly established National Legal Mentoring Consortium. Contact Dean Amy Timmer.

Professionalism Portfolio and Pathway to Success Course

Every student at Cooley is offered the opportunity to create, throughout enrollment, a Professionalism Portfolio that requires self-reflection and training in personal responsibility, ethics, and service, documents the student's professional identity development and personal code of conduct, encourages episodic mentoring with lawyers, connects students to the resource offices at Cooley at the right time during their enrollment, and ultimately offers employers insight into an applicants knowledge, skills, ethics, and character. Participating students benefit through better connections, both to the school and to attorneys, and improved and focused career planning while in law school. The program is housed on Cooley's portal where the term-appropriate exercises and recorded presentations are available. Students are also invited to group meetings each term. Students who complete the program create a professionalism portfolio that can be shared with employers to document their character, mastery of lawyer skills, service to the community, awards and excellence in law school, and ability to begin a legal job upon graduation. Students' portfolios may be web-based, or contained on a flash drive, DVD, or in hard copy.

In 2008, Deans Timmer and Zelenski brought a course-component to the portfolio, to draw those students who prefer having a classroom structure. Joined by Cooley's Distinguished Jurist U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Richard Suhrheinrich, they developed and now teach at the Lansing campus a two-credit elective course called Pathway to Success: Your Career and Portfolio. Students complete all portfolio exercises, plus additional work meant to focus them on understanding themselves and their career options. The course runs over five terms so that the Deans can develop and maintain close relationships with the students. The course is also offered at Cooley's Grand Rapids and Auburn Hills campuses.

Public School Mentoring and Assistance Programs

The Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism encourages programming with local public schools, to improve the education of all and to interest students in continuing their education and even considering law school. In their work with public schools, Cooley Law School students provide help as mentors, teachers, and tutors, and offer their support and encouragement through personal relationships and fund-raising.

In Saginaw area schools, Cooley's Auburn Hills faculty member Professor Monica Nuckolls and her father, Hon. M.T. Thompson, Jr., developed and implement a drug education and crime prevention program called Making Choices and Facing Consequences, an evidence-and field-tested drug education and crime prevention program designed to:

Drug education and character training is delivered through a set of real life stories about children and young adults. The characters in the stories come from the same type of neighborhoods, share similar backgrounds, and face the same type of problems, pressures, and temptations as the young adults we are trying to reach. The lesson is clear: good choices have good consequences and bad choices have bad consequences.

The Making Choices and Facing Consequences curriculum has been endorsed by Superintendents from the Saginaw, Bridgeport, and Carrollton Public School Districts, and the Saginaw Police Chiefs’ Association. It has also been successfully used in the Saginaw Public Schools’ 21st Century Program, Bridgeport-Spaulding Schools, Carrollton Public Schools, Buena Vista Public Schools, Saginaw County Juvenile Detention Center, and the Saginaw Community Foundation’s Youth First Program.

At Pontiac High School, Cooley's Center for Ethics offers Project Future to high school students to address bullying and alcohol and drug abuse. This program is an outgrowth of the Making Choices and Facing Consequences program described above and is designed to: promote the development of personal self-management skills through decision making exercises that allow young adults to examine real life situations and consider the choices and consequences presented by each situation; teach young adults what constitutes unlawful and risky behavior and how to avoid dangerous and unsafe situations; and promote responsible citizenship and appropriate behavior standards.

In an effort to reduce school violence in the Lansing public schools, the Center offers the Peer Mediation Program through which Cooley students teach mediation and conflict resolution, and act as mentors, to public school students, when the public schools have sufficient resources to support this program. The Center expanded this program to St. Andrews Academy in Grand Rapids and the 7th Day Adventist Church School in Lansing.

Since 1994, Professor Nancy Wonch has trained thousands of students in area elementary, middle, and high schools to be peer mediators, and has trained Cooley students in facilitative mediation skills. Facilitative mediation is the foundation for the advanced mediation class at Cooley and also is the required method for certification in Michigan for mediators who wish to be included in the list of court approved mediators. Many of the Cooley students have gone on to take the advanced mediation class and to become mediators as lawyers. Professor Wonch has also provided many more with the basic principals of facilitative mediation with special presentations to students at the Michigan Supreme Court, Youth in Government, Cub Scouts, Michigan State University, and visits to other schools like Pontiac Middle School. Additionally she has trained high school students in the principles of interest based negotiation as a kind of "advanced" conflict resolution skill when they are in their second year of our program.

Cooley students benefit in several ways from this program: They learn the fundamentals of facilitative mediation and interest based negotiation; they mentor and lead school students in our community; they are, in turn, mentored by Professor Wonch and her training partner Anne Smiley. Frequently they develop or enhance existing interests in ADR that carry through to their legal careers. The development of healthy, non-violent, peaceful problem solving and dispute resolution methods in all of the students we teach is the primary objective of the Peer Mediation project. In 2006, this project received the Nanci S. Klein award from the State Bar of Michigan Alternative Dispute Resolution Section "in recognition of its significant contributions to the field of community-based dispute resolution."

The Grand Rapids campus connected with East Kentwood High School (EKHS) when Cooley students helped them prepare for a regional "We The People" competition where high school students are tested on their knowledge of the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights. East Kentwood High School also offers the peer jurors for Grand Rapids Teen Court. Students from EKHS joined Cooley students and paralegal students from Davenport University at the Grand Rapids campus to view the Michigan Supreme Court oral argument simulcast from the Auburn Hills campus. The Grand Rapids Center for Ethics invited and hosted ROTC cadets from Western Michigan University, Grand Valley State University, Calvin College and Cornerstone University, along with their Captain, for breakfast and a tour of the campus. Following the tour, they accompanied faculty, staff, and students to Stand Down 2009. The Cadets acted as guides and accompanied the veterans to each of the service providers at Stand Down. Students, faculty, and staff at the Grand Rapids campus collected school supplies for Heart of West Michigan United Way's Schools of Hope program. Students volunteered to help "Stuff the School Bus" with items go to Grand Rapids public school students who can't afford needed items to start school.

The Ann Arbor campus students, led by Deans Vestrand and Moore, assist Ypsilanti High School students through:

Professional Development Programs

Other professional development programs include the self-directed Professionalism Portfolio Project and the two-credit elective course called Pathway to Success: Your Career and Portfolio. Both the self-directed program and the course require self-reflection and training in personal responsibility, ethics, and service, document the student's professional identity development and personal code of conduct, require episodic mentoring, and offer employers insight into an applicant’s knowledge, skills, ethics, and character. Please see these individually listed programs for further information.

The Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism promotes professional development not just of its students, but also its faculty and staff. Professional development activities sponsored through the Center include development of a faculty professionalism portfolio, conferences with area faculty, mentoring opportunities for Cooley faculty, a study of a mentoring program run in conjunction with the State Bar of Michigan that matches Cooley students intending to practice in Michigan with Michigan lawyers, and a professionalism orientation for new students at each campus during which area lawyers and judges meet in small groups with the newest Cooley students to talk about ethics and professionalism.

Student Wellness

Wellness programming in law schools is becoming increasingly important because of the stress experienced by law students in many facets of their lives. A law school's approach to wellness programming should be holistic and address wellness in all aspects, including social, financial, physical, emotional, career, and spiritual wellness. Assistant Dean Cynthia Ward has taken responsibility for student wellness programs and is assessing wellness programming currently offered at the law school by student organizations and other departments. By bringing together the programming under one wellness umbrella, we hope to underscore the importance of wellness in the profession. Several wellness programs have been conducted covering financial responsibility, meditation, appropriate social networking, and alcohol problems for law students.