The 2014 affiliation between Western Michigan University and Thomas M. Cooley Law School resulted in the Law School’s changing its name to Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School. In affiliating formally, the two schools deepened a decade-old relationship, resulting in a unique opportunity to improve their educational and service programs. After receiving favorable reviews by their respective accrediting and licensing agencies, WMU-Cooley and WMU signed a memorandum of understanding that has already enabled 150 new initiatives.
In 2016, the schools signed a series of agreements that continue the expansion of legal education in west Michigan and allow law classes to be offered on WMU’s main campus in Kalamazoo. These agreements cover student and employee services, benefits and privileges; facilities use; courses and programs; and campus parking.
The affiliation formally links the private law school and public university, but allows both to retain their governance and fiduciary independence.
"This is a great affiliation with a very fine law school," said WMU President John Dunn at a January 20, 2016 signing ceremony. "It is also, for the people of Michigan and locations well beyond, a great example of how to work our way through challenging times and expand opportunity for our students in a powerful way without relying on state resources."
Both presidents praised the agreements as developments that signal enhanced opportunity for students and new opportunities for faculty and staff. Law School President and Dean Don LeDuc noted that the affiliation also fulfills a directive from the American Bar Association that private law schools should expand their ties to universities.
"It is different for us to be part of a university structure, and we're appreciative of the complexity of a big, powerful and wonderful institution like WMU," LeDuc said. "The relationship has already allowed us to enhance research and grant opportunities and, for instance, secure support for the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project, which works to exonerate people unjustly convicted of a crime."
New opportunities contemplated by the agreements include:
Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley School is the name Thomas M. Cooley School took following its formal naming affiliation with Western Michigan University in 2014. WMU-Cooley is one of the nation's five largest law schools, with locations in Michigan and Florida. It offers Juris Doctor (J.D.) and advanced Master of Laws (LL.M.) degrees. WMU is a top-tier public research university with an enrollment of 25,000, seven regional locations, and more than 250 degree programs. Both schools have a tradition of accessibility and a commitment to serving diverse populations that will be enhanced through the partnership. Under the affiliation, both schools retain their independence, governance structure, and separate fiduciary responsibilities. The Law School continues as an independent, nonprofit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.
The affiliation became effective upon review and authorization by the schools' accrediting agencies, the American Bar Association and the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The affiliation has also been approved by the Florida Commission on Independent Education.
This is an affiliation between the Law School and WMU, not a merger of them. It does not change the governance of either institution by its respective board. The institutions remain autonomous. WMU-Cooley is not a public or taxpayer-supported institution. WMU likewise remains a Michigan constitutional public corporate body.
The affiliation will not involve an exchange of funds or financial support, although as the relationship builds the institutions might enter into subsequent agreements, for example the agreements relating to the use of the other's facilities.
No taxpayer dollars will be expended beyond incidental expense.
No change in the tuition rate is contemplated as a result of the affiliation. Law students will continue to attend a private, non-profit law school.
Yes, the affiliation includes all of the Law School’s campuses.
The affiliation became effective upon the review and authorization of the accrediting agencies. The affiliation's term is ten years.
The presidents of the schools will jointly review the affiliation annually. The term will automatically extend for one year following each annual review unless the presidents take action to change the term of the affiliation.
The affiliation can be terminated by either school with three years' written notice to the other school's president and board chair, and with shorter notice for certain specified causes
Under ABA Standard 105 and its Interpretations, the affiliation is a "major change" that required the acquiescence of the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. WMU-Cooley applied for and obtained the council's acquiescence.
WMU-Cooley and WMU have for years shared three formal academic programs (shared J.D.-M.B.A., J.D.-M.P.A., and J.D.-M.S.W. degree programs) and were informal partners for fifteen years. The two institutions also share a deep commitment to access, practical education, and community service. Through this affiliation, they intend to develop the nation's most comprehensive integration of law and other disciplines, as well as to integrate many current programs, projects, and services currently operated separately by each school.
ABA Standard 209 encourages independent law schools like WMU-Cooley to provide the benefits of being part of a university by developing working relationships with other educational institutions. The affiliation serves this purpose well while enhancing WMU-Cooley's reputation as the nation's leading practice-oriented law school.
The affiliation likewise expands opportunities for WMU students and enhances WMU's status as a nationally-ranked, comprehensive, research university. Already a top-100 public university, WMU has now become one of less than 90 public universities in the nation affiliated with both a medical school and a law school.
Formal ties between the Law School and WMU have been strong for more than a decade. The following is a list of some of the highlights.
The affiliation enhances the breadth of academic life at both institutions, providing great benefit to the students and faculties of each school. The schools envision:
WMU is now affiliated with one of only 206 J.D. degree-conferring, ABA-accredited law schools. Of the 181 university-related accredited law schools, 82 are part of public universities. Affiliating with one of America's largest law schools further elevates the status of WMU among the nation's leading universities.
WMU-Cooley, currently one of 21 independent, ABA-accredited law schools, is now affiliated with one of a select group of public universities in the nation that are identified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as “Doctoral Universities: Higher Research Activity."
The schools will coordinate WMU's Center for the Study of Ethics in Society with the Law School’s award-winning Professionalism Program and that program's concepts, including programs on principled administration for university leadership.
The students will benefit from access to a widely dispersed and highly successful alumni body of more than 250,000 WMU graduates and nearly 20,000 Law School graduates located in every state of the nation and in many foreign countries.
The schools share overlapping missions and goals, including graduating students who possess requisite knowledge, master appropriate practical skills, and understand and embrace professionalism and ethics.
Both schools are deeply committed to providing access to education and improving diversity within their educational programs and the society into which their students graduate. WMU's commitment to diversity is enhanced by WMU-Cooley's initiatives and programs. WMU-Cooley enrolls more minority students than any other law school in the nation.
Similarly, WMU enrolls a large minority population, which aids the Law School’s efforts to provide under-represented groups with access to the legal profession.
Beginning September 2016, the Law School will be offering first-term law classes on WMU's main campus in Kalamazaoo in Schneider Hall, home of the Haworth College of Business. The Law School has full campuses in Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Auburn Hills, proximate to many of WMU's regional locations, which are located in Lansing, Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Battle Creek, Benton Harbor, and Traverse City, while WMU has moved its Metro Detroit location to the Law School’s Auburn Hills campus. The Law School also has a campus in Tampa Bay, Florida.
WMU-Cooley presently has shared degree programs and other institutional relationships with Olivet College, Davenport University, and Eastern Michigan University. It remains free to continue and expand those relationships, through which it looks forward to expanding the range of educational opportunities for students.
Law School students will attend class and graduate from Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School. The schools maintain separate educational programs. Except for students admitted to the shared-degree programs, Law School students are not admitted separately to WMU.
Employees of each institution continue in their respective employ, although WMU-Cooley employees work for what is now known as Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School.
Alumni may now, if they wish, refer to the Law School as Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School. Sometimes context will warrant using one name over the other. We are currently using WMU-Cooley Law School or WMU-Cooley as a shorthand version of our name.
Alumni may also, if they wish, obtain an updated diploma through the alumni page of the website at cooley.edu/alumni. The cost is $60 ($50 for current members of the Alumni Association) plus shipping.
There are no current plans to change the name of Cooley Law School Stadium.
James D. Robb
Associate Dean for External Affairs
Thomas M. Cooley Law School
(517) 371-5140 ext. 2008
Cheryl P. Roland
Executive Director of University Relations
Western Michigan University
An independent, private, non-profit educational institution affiliated with Western Michigan University. The Law School, as an independent institution, is solely responsible for its academic program. Accredited by the American Bar Association and the Higher Learning Commission. The Law School has campuses across Michigan in Lansing, Auburn Hills, Grand Rapids and in Tampa Bay, Florida.
© Western Michigan University Cooley Law School 2015