The Law School's Mission & History

The Law School's Mission & History

founded on important guiding principles

Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School is a private, independent, non-profit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt law school dedicated to teaching students the knowledge, skills, and ethics needed to succeed in both the law and its practice and to be valuable members of society.  The Law School is affiliated with Western Michigan University, a major national research university enrolling more than 23,000 students from across the United States and 100 other countries. As an independent institution, the Law School is solely responsible for its academic program.

Leader in Modern Legal Education

President and Dean James McGrath joined the law school on July 1, 2019 to become only the third president and sixth dean to lead WMU-Cooley Law School. 

James McGrath


History and Background

Founded in 1972 by Hon. Thomas E. Brennan. and other Lansing-areas lawyers and judges, the school was named for Hon. Thomas McIntyre Cooley, one of the greatest jurists of the 19th century. Since its founding, the Law School has grown from a local law school and later a regional law school into what is now the seventh largest law school in the nation, attracting students from around the world. The Law School was founded in 1972 by a group of lawyers and judges led by then-Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court.

Boasting more than 20,000 graduates working in private law practice, corporations, legislatures and governmental agencies, prosecutor and defender offices, public interest groups, and academia, WMU-Cooley offers the nation's most comprehensive accredited, part-time legal education program. A fair and objective admission policy and tough, practical, professional legal education have created an important and distinguishing place for WMU-Cooley in American legal education. 

WMU-Cooley's Approach to Legal Education

WMU-Cooley's legal education curriculum and program are designed to prepare its students for the practice of law through experienced-based teaching of the law and lawyering skills. Students learn to apply legal theory to situations they may encounter as practicing attorneys. As part of our Ethics, Service, and Professionalism Programs, students are also taught the professionalism principles adopted by the Law School community.

WMU-Cooley is committed to providing a legal education to people from all walks of life and is proud of its diverse national and international student body where students can feel empowered knowing they were accepted through fair and objective admission policies.


WMU-Cooley stands firm in its belief that the study of law should not be an esoteric pursuit and that the practice of law should not be an elitist profession. The School was founded on the premises that an individual's formal knowledge of the law is beneficial to society as a whole and that the strength of a democracy depends upon the ability of people to understand their laws.Toward that end, WMU-Cooley is proud of its ability to offer admission to a diverse group of applicants. The Law School enters new students three terms each year, in January, May, and September, and operates on a "rolling admissions" system, which means applications are processed at the time they are received. When all required materials are received by the Admissions Office, a decision is made and the applicant is informed of his or her admission status.

WMU-Cooley's Strategic Plan

The Law School's Strategic Plan 2020 guides us in our teaching, research, and service by setting forth our core mission, values, and vision. Click here to see the Law School's Strategic Plan 2020.  Below are the core elements of our plan.

Our Mission

The mission of WMU-Cooley Law School is to prepare its graduates for entry into the legal profession through an integrated program with practical legal scholarship as its guiding principle and focus. This mission includes providing broad access to those who seek the opportunity to study law, while requiring that those to whom that opportunity is offered meet WMU-Cooley's rigorous academic standards.  The preparation for practice mission means that WMU-Cooley graduates must:

  1. Master the fundamentals and basic skills required for the competent practice of law and representation of clients.
  2. Demonstrate the substantive knowledge and skills required for passage of a bar examination and admission to the bar.
  3. Understand and embrace the legal, moral, ethical, and professional responsibility of lawyers.

Our Values

WMU-Cooley Law School is a collaborative community of students, staff, faculty, administration, and alumni who work together to create an educational experience that transforms students into respected members of the legal profession.  Our WMU-Cooley Community reflects the diversity of the communities in which we live, study, and work.  As members of the WMU-Cooley Community:

  1. We embrace and encourage opportunity, inclusivity, fairness, and equality.
  2. We approach challenges with creativity and a commitment to innovation.
  3. We foster respect, tolerance, collegiality, open communication, and collaboration.
  4. We strengthen society through leadership, service, and dedication to the rule of law.
  5. We operate as a unified law school with multiple campuses.

Our Vision

Holistic and Transformative Legal Education

WMU-Cooley challenges law students to go beyond classroom learning. To embrace the complex and vital role lawyers play in our diverse society, law students must examine their thinking, their work ethic, their beliefs, their lifestyle, and how their professional contributions and choices will impact not only their clients, but also our society.

To achieve this Vision, WMU-Cooley CREATES a supportive learning environment that cultivates student and graduate success, INSPIRES commitment to personal and professional growth and service to others, and STRIVES for continuous improvement.

WMU-Cooley's Accreditation and Licensure

WMU-Cooley has been accredited by the American Bar Association (321 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60610; Phone: 312-988-5000) since 1975, and by the Higher Learning Commission, a member of the North Central Association (30 North LaSalle Street, Suite 2400, Chicago, Illinois 60602-2504; toll-free telephone number: 800-621-7440; fax: 312-263-0456) since 2001. The Law School is also licensed in Florida by the Commission for Independent Education of the Florida Department of Education (325 West Gaines Street, Suite 1414, Tallahassee, FL 32399-0400; toll-free telephone number (888) 224-6684).  Click here for a fuller description of our accreditation


WMU-Cooley Law School
300 South Capitol Avenue
Lansing, Michigan 48933 
(517) 371-5140

Click here for a full sitemap

Click here for Consumer Information
(ABA-Required Disclosures)

Get Adobe Acrobat Reader
Get Adobe Acrobat Reader

Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School is an independent, private, non-profit educational institution affiliated with Western Michigan University. The affiliation between WMU and WMU-Cooley, which are legally and financially independent institutions, will end on or before November 5, 2023. As an independent institution, the Law School is solely responsible for its academic program. Accredited by the American Bar Association and the Higher Learning Commission. 

Read non-discrimination policy

If you encounter accessibility barriers while on our website, please notify our Accessibility Office using the Inaccessible Content Notification Form.

WMU Cooley Logo
In corde hominum est anima legis.

© 2021 WMU Cooley Law School