Cooley Law School Stadium is a Minor League Ballpark
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.