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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Friday, February 26, 2010

Cooley Law School Stadium is a Minor League Ballpark

Thomas E. Brennan, former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice, and the founder of Cooley Law School, was in Ann Arbor in October 1982 giving interviews to the Michigan Daily, and the now defunct Ann Arbor News as a Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor.  It was the early-Regan era and I escorted Mr. Brennan through town as Dick Headlee's campus chairperson.

The former justice was asked by a reporter what he would do if Democrat James Blanchard moved into the Governor's Mansion.  Mr. Brennan paused as though the thought had never occurred to him, then said, "I'll go back to running the law school; we're developing an innovative curriculum at Cooley."

He was true to his vision.  There can be no doubt that Brennan developed the "business model" that is the Cooley Law School.  Cooley has tapped deeply into the American Dream, lawyer style.  As a result, it has enjoyed a healthy balance sheet, boasting one of the largest collections of law books in the country, pioneering the use of satellite "campuses", and swelling the ranks of its students to staggering proportions.

The law school dropped just under $1.5 million this week on it's first baseball park sponsorship; the former Oldsmobile Park inside the Capital Loop in Lansing.  The decision was met with mixed reviews from the law pundits and among the extensive network of Cooley Law Alumni.

Ashby Jones of the Wall Street Journal's law blog interviewed Cooley's dean, Don LeDuc, earlier this week about the sponsorship.  Dean LeDuc explained that the idea for the stadium came from past alumni-student gatherings at Tigers games in Comerica Park.  According to LeDuc, Cooley's stadium now allows them to bring the ball game to Lansing, so their students don't have to go so far.

LeDuc listed the advertising benefits of the sponsorship, sounding more like a marketing director than a law school dean.  In the blog interview, LeDuc admitted his was a revenue-driven operation with a multi-million dollar marketing budget.

The blog, Above the Law, was far less polite, calling out the mamoth law school (3500+ students) as a "diploma mill", and speculating that its graduates will be paying-off student loans with jobs at McDonalds.  The ATL blog critiqued the stadium sponsorship in a post that has attracted more than 150 comments; mostly negative.

A recent Cooley Law alumna admitted to me in confidence when discussing the ballpark sponsorship, "Cooley can't figure out whether it's a law school or a community college..."

The nation's largest law school does seem to attract its share of criticism.  It claims to be "ranked" as high as 12 on its own website, using its own criteria.  Most professionals not affiliated with the school, however, relegate it to "fourth-tier" status all day long.

All this raises the question: "Do we really need some 1200 new lawyers pumped into Michigan's service economy each and every year?"  Oakland County already has nearly 11,000 lawyers to Wayne County's 7000.

Over the past three decades, Thomas Brennan's law school business model has been a fiscal success.  Over those same years, I've come to know many a lawyer from Cooley with outstanding lawyering skills.  Former Michigan Governor John Engler is a Cooley graduate.

These days, however, I just have to wonder how many more lawyers we can take; whether or not they graduated from Cooley.  Brennan's vision of the American Dream has been tapped, but good.

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18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very good analysis. With Cooley's financial success comes a lot of clout with the legal press in these parts. No one in the state seems to be talking about the fact that there are no jobs for law graduates in the state and yet Cooley strives to turn out more and more JDs every year. Instead, we get horribly written fluff pieces in the Bar Journal about how Cooley has replaced UM as a leader in diversity (...in sheer numbers, the authors discreetly concede).

The State Bar and the national Bar Association ought to examine more closely the role law schools are playing in the abysmal legal employment market. Cooley isn't the only offender, but it's a poster child. And its leaders seem more cynical about celebrating their enrollment numbers as a purely good thing.

March 10, 2010 at 3:22 PM 
Blogger Timothy P. Flynn said...

Here's an article from the Sunday NYT about the trade-school version of an oversupply of graduates. Once the eager students matriculate, their student debt burden is very oppressive when salary expectations are not realized. This is called, "the new poor."

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/14/business/14schools.html?hpw

March 14, 2010 at 6:24 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Very good analysis. With Cooley's financial success comes a lot of clout with the legal press in these parts. No one in the state seems to be talking about the fact that there are no jobs for law graduates in the state and yet Cooley strives to turn out more and more JDs every year. Instead, we get horribly written fluff pieces in the Bar Journal about how Cooley has replaced UM as a leader in diversity (...in sheer numbers, the authors discreetly concede).

The State Bar and the national Bar Association ought to examine more closely the role law schools are playing in the abysmal legal employment market. Cooley isn't the only offender, but it's a poster child. And its leaders seem more cynical about celebrating their enrollment numbers as a purely good thing." - Anonymous

Clearly you are biased in some way, because your statement is full of factually unsupported assumptions disguised as true statements. Don't you know that law schools publish statistics that they are legally bound to and cannot misrepresent that show amongst other information placement rates in a law-related position within first year after graduation, and bar passage rates? Why didn't you include any of these facts in your criticism of the law school? If Cooley was simply pumping graduates out into a market that couldn't support them (p.s. your statement ignores the fact that law students can sit for the bar exam in any state they choose and are not stuck in michigan,) wouldn't it be necessary that the placement rates in a law-related position within first year after graduation were low? Wouldn't supply and demand dictate that a job market that couldn't support the amount of graduates Cooley is creating would display its weakness in low post-graduation employment rates? If Cooley is simply a diploma mill, then why do they not have low bar passage rates?

Oakland Press, are you simply pumping out mindless garbage information to niche markets due to culture's enjoyment with tabloid style slanderous editorials disguised as legitimate news? What would your motive be... the profits of legitimate advertisers and subscribers that you fraudulently deceive into reading articles completely devoid of simple facts or statistics that can be obtained from the website of Cooley as a legitimate news organization would?

Maybe an update with a couple FACTS would do your readership justice. I would do it for you, but isn't that your job to research and write?

March 25, 2010 at 1:56 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bump!

April 1, 2010 at 2:28 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Cooley was simply pumping graduates out into a market that couldn't support them wouldn't it be necessary that the placement rates in a law-related position within first year after graduation were low? If Cooley is simply a diploma mill, then why do they not have low bar passage rates?
Maybe an update with a couple FACTS would do your readership justice.
================================
Here is some data that ranks Cooley among 185 law schools:

Acceptance Rate = 1
Bar Pass = 141
Employed after 9 months = 181

Source:
http://www.ilrg.com/rankings/law/index.php/4/desc/Employ9Mos/2009

http://www.ilrg.com/rankings/law/view.php/100

April 3, 2010 at 8:06 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is why your out-of-context facts don't support your conclusion.

Acceptance Rate:

Would it not be logical that the number one largest law school in the nation, which is rare in that CLEARLY states the criteria for acceptance and scholarships, would have the highest acceptance rate?

Bar Pass = 141 of 185

Take in consideration that the school has the largest student body and below average admission requirements and they have a 79.9 percent bar passage rate. That should say something about the quality of education it offers. Any reputable employer would look at a student's transcript either way and wouldn't hire a poorly performing student so there is not much importance in some of these statistics regardless.

Employed after 9 months = 181

Again, with the largest student body in the nation a percentage of 73.3% is not a bad deal if you ask me. If you end up in the 27% that have to wait slightly longer to find employment (you probably have substantially less student debt to worry about anyway) than quite frankly you should take personal responsibility because the odds were in your favor. I believe there is also a statistic around half of students attending receive some degree of scholarship. So if you pay less and receive a more competitive atmosphere. If you can't succeed there than why practice where it is more difficult and client's lives are on the line?

April 6, 2010 at 3:02 AM 
Anonymous doctor_gogol said...

WHy do I get a poking and nagging feeling that the posters viciously defending Cooley, while using mounds and mounds of data that a Cooley grad or average person wouldn't realize existed, are acually publicists and marketing defenders on the Cooley payroll.

These people are far too "rah-rah, hooray for Cooley".

Take what these people say with a grain of salt. There are similar message boards with similar toned posters scrubbing Cooley's image across the net.

April 11, 2010 at 3:05 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All these "data" don't mean squat, and if they DO mean squat to you, compare the data with those of other schools. Cooley grads WILL BE at the bottom of the pile as far as bar passage rate and jobs are concerned.

Keep in mind, also, that "employed after 9 months" could mean (and often does mean) that the employment lasted only for a few months. Furthermore, the low-paying jobs (e.g., $35K) with long hours are NOT the ones these graduates are expecting. They're fed a bill of goods, as far as the reality of the field of law is concerned.

I'm an attorney in the midwest, and Cooley is considered a joke. An institution whose minions are to be avoided.

April 28, 2010 at 4:51 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with doctor_gogol. In the real world, these data are not relevant or recognized. Cooley defenders can defend all they want; they know as well as I do that if a more esteemed institution would have ANY of them, they wouldn't be attending Cooley.

April 28, 2010 at 4:53 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In 2009, Cooley had an 82% unemployment rate among its law school graduates. Assume it'll be higher for 2010, and since law is undergoing shattering changes as far as billables, etc., are concerned, further assume things will continue to change -- aggressively. Salaries are dropping; tuition is up. Call me crazy, but at least to me, I'd need much more than an "18%" chance of finding a low-paying job.

April 28, 2010 at 5:06 PM 
Blogger Timothy P. Flynn said...

As I thought would happen, any discussion swirling about the notion of a lawyer-glut tends to get folks' opinions out in the open. We really do have too many lawyers out there; licensed to kill and prowling for clients.

I'm mystified as to why nearly everyone that comments on this subject hides behind "anonymous". But folks, there really are "shattering" and "aggressive" changes going on in the legal field. Legal information is devolving to the people and becoming much more accessible, which is a good thing. This does not mean the end of lawyers, but a drastic shift in their role. Those members of the bar minted prior to 2000 that do not roll with this shift are doomed professionally. Seems like those minted in this century are wired technotronically and fully understand and embrace the information revolution.

My 13-year old son and his friends do not look things up on Google; they use YouTube. That's just the way it is with his generation. In about 15-minutes, some other information platform will take over, and then another one a year after that, and so on...

Wonder what it will be like in a century? Perhaps Darwin was on to something after all.

May 1, 2010 at 8:36 AM 
Anonymous Auto Accident Attorney Houston, Texas said...

If Cooley is just providing diplomas and no placement then its ranking will be down soon.then, it will be out of top league schools.

May 28, 2010 at 4:34 AM 
Blogger Timothy P. Flynn said...

Auto Accident Attorney: Many would question your premise. It is doubtful that Cooley has ever been among the "top league schools". For example, the most recent US News & World Report had Cooley ranked near the bottom of all law schools. It is only in Cooley's own rankings that place it near the top; no one else does. All this does not mean, however, that Cooley grads are not good lawyers. Some of them are among the best. MSU, Wayne State, and Univ of Detroit Mercy are all treated unkindly in the rankings. They pump out droves of excellent lawyers each year as well. It just that now, there is nowhere for them to go.

May 28, 2010 at 5:54 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

cooley is a rip off. The founder is a crook.

June 7, 2010 at 4:41 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice

September 28, 2010 at 4:43 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a current Cooley student and 49 years old. I chose Cooley because it was the only law school in the country that allowed me to earn my JD on a part-time, weekend-only schedule. I must say that most of the weekend students come from a variety of backgrounds and most are 35 and up. We're dedicated people chosing a second (or third) career later in life. That said, our career experience is much more valuable to potential employers than the piece of paper we'll earn.

Now if you were a puppy fresh out of college when you started law school and mommy and daddy sent you to law school without any experience, and you're posting negative comments about the students at Cooley, you should know you're not in the same league as the professionals who choose to go back to school while working full time with young children at home. The bottom line is that you'll probaby be out-lawyered by those of us who've worked our tails off despite the obstacles of age, family needs and work obligations. Even going to school part time, we're putting in our 80+ hour weeks with all things considered.

I'm a former engineering manager from the auto industry and used to hire engineers to work for me. I never let a GPA or the name of a school stand in the way of finding a good candidate. I found the top engineers came from schools like Wayne State, not UofM, and that once a candidate had 3 or more years of experience, their source of education and performance in school was no indicator whatsoever of their potential or work ethic.

I now work as a patent examiner for the USPTO and have received legal arguments from attorneys all over the country. The more persuasive arguments are typically from attorneys from little known law schools, and I've successfully argued against top magna-cum-laude Harvard and Stanford grads, and senior partners in top IP law firms. So from practical observation, the school means very little if anything, other than perhaps when you're looking for that first job.

The JD and passing the bar gives you the license to practice. What you do with it is up to you ;)

BTW - Cooley is known to have tougher exams than many top law schools, that's perhaps why the drop out rate is so high. I know this first hand because many of my colleagues are also law students and I've shown them my exams and reviewed theirs. It's admittedly an easy school to get into with its mathematical formula admissions policy, but very difficult to graduate from.

October 20, 2010 at 12:38 AM 
Anonymous J said...

I am a recent graduate of Cooley and there are some things I didn't like about Cooley. Having said that I'm glad they gave me an opportunity. I passed the Maryland Bar on my first try. I know when I saw the results there were many fails and I know these students weren't from Cooley.

Face it the whole law school admissions and ranking system is political. A good LSAT score or tier 1 ranking doesn't neccesarily make a good attorney. I could go on and on but I take from my J.D. what law school made me become. I developed a stronger work ethic and I set a goal and achieved it.

I'm currently unemployed but so are my friends that went to tier 1 schools with more debt. I think law school in general is not what it once was but its up to the individual to make it.

December 2, 2010 at 5:25 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm two and a half years out of Cooley and still unemployed. Every interviewer asks the sane question: "Why Cooley?"

Cooley was a waste of three years and thousands of dollars.

January 20, 2011 at 8:54 PM 

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