Tampa Bay Campus Accreditation Information
The Law School presently operates in Florida under the name Thomas M. Cooley Law School. It has applied to the Florida Commission on Independent Education for permission to use the Western Michigan University name in Florida and hopes for approval in the fall of 2014.
Cooley operates under our "one school, many campuses" philosophy, providing the same admissions, curricular and co-curricular opportunities, and student support services to all students at all campuses. A student is enrolled at Thomas M. Cooley Law School and may take classes that are offered at any campus. The governance structure is a single board of directors, a single president and dean, and one leadership group that governs all campuses. The degrees issued are those of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School.
Admission to practice law is controlled by each jurisdiction. Graduates of ABA approved law schools can become members of the bar in any U.S. jurisdiction. Florida defines an accredited law school as any law school approved or provisionally approved by the American Bar Association at the time of the applicant's graduation or within 12 months of the applicant's graduation. Rules of the Supreme Court Related to Admission to the Bar, 4-13.2.
The American Bar Association has developed a three-step process for approval of a branch campus. First, a school must obtain acquiescence to open a campus, then it must apply for and receive provisional approval. Generally a school may apply for provisional approval after it has been in operation for at least one year, but this may be accelerated for a branch campus. The final step is full approval of a branch campus.
The ABA's Council of the Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar granted full approval to Cooley Law School in 1978.
The Council acquiesced in opening two additional campuses, at Auburn Hills and Grand Rapids, MI, in 2006. Cooley then successfully applied for both provisional and full approval for these campuses in a single step, and received full approval for both campuses in 2009. Between 2006 and 2009, nearly 100 students who attended classes at these campuses graduated from Cooley, and they applied for and took the bar examinations in 27 different states, including Florida.
Cooley's fourth campus, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is also fully approved. The campus opened with ABA acquiescence in September 2009. Following the same process used for Auburn Hills and Grand Rapids, Cooley applied for provisional and full approval simultaneously. On June 8, 2012, the ABA's Council of the Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar gave the Ann Arbor campus full approval.
The ABA has acquiesced in the opening of the Tampa Bay, FL, campus, allowing students to attend there and take the full 90-credit hour program that students take at the other campuses. Cooley plans to continue the process for seeking provisional and full ABA approval.
Cooley's approvals for the Tampa Bay campus also include The Higher Learning Commission and the Florida Commission on Independent Education (FCIE).