Thomas Cooley Law School's Reputation Is In The Dumps… So It's Thinking About Changing Its Name

from the beats-actually-improving dept

We’ve written a few times about the Thomas M. Cooley law school — a 4th tier, bottom of the barrel law school known for letting in a very high percentage of the people who apply… and also for coming up with its own ranking system (which includes “total volumes in the library” and “total law school square footage” among other factors) that says it’s one of the best law schools in the world. If you value square footage, I guess. It’s also known for suing a bunch of its own students for being critical of the school.

Of course, our friends over at Above the Law have written many, many, many more posts about the somewhat infamous Thomas M. Cooley Law School, and the name has become something of a punchline among lawyers and legal followers. So what’s a law school with the reputation of a joke to do when faced with the fact that anyone with a Google account can find out about its actual standing in the world? Why, change its name, of course.

Apparently, the law school may be ditching the name of the former Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court with a sort of merger-but-not-merger with Western Michigan University, that would allow Cooley to take on Western Michigan’s name in exchange for… well, that part’s not clear. The two would remain financially separate, but might have students share certain services and classes.

The law school would get a new name but it would maintain separate finances and leadership under the proposal that leaders are considering. Details are still being ironed out, but the alliance could open the door for Cooley law students to take classes at Western Michigan University and utilize its student services, and vice versa, said Associate Dean for External Affairs James Robb. The partnership could also allow faculty to engage in interdisciplinary teaching and research, he said.

WMU’s reason for doing this has something to do with the fact that it already has a medical school. Yes, I said medical school. What does that have to do with anything? Your guess is as good as mine.

“The result of such an affiliation with Cooley would make our University one of fewer than 90 universities in the nation to have both a law school and school of medicine,” notes WMU President John M. Dunn. “The benefits that accrue from that distinction would pay dividends to our students, faculty and staff for years to come. The opportunity is made even more intriguing by the common mission and values of our two institutions.”

So, um, they could be better at… malpractice law? Forgive me, I’m just not seeing how that’s a benefit. It sounds like WMU decided it needed a law school for the prestige part, but the way you do that is by starting a law school, not giving your name over to the joke of the law school world. And, as Above the Law points out in its post on this, it’s not like this is about money from students, since Cooley will keep its finances separate (though, you wonder if there’s possibly a payment involved in all of this, rather than a cut of the tuition fees). But if it’s prestige WMU wants, a simple Google search would suggest that this sort of partnership probably won’t bring very much.

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Comments on “Thomas Cooley Law School's Reputation Is In The Dumps… So It's Thinking About Changing Its Name”

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Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

It's all about the correlation and the causation

So, um, they could be better at… malpractice law? Forgive me, I’m just not seeing how that’s a benefit. It sounds like WMU decided it needed a law school for the prestige part,

…and that’s the (perceived) benefit right there.

A few years back, here in Seattle there was a big kerfuffle going down about the owner of the Seattle SuperSonics, the local NBA team, selling the team to Oklahoma. One thing that a lot of people were annoyed about was that Seattle was about to go from being a city with three top-league sports teams (baseball, football, and basketball) to only having two.

If you look around the country at the cities with three such teams, and the cities with two such teams, the ones with three tend to be bigger and just generally “cooler” than the two-team cities, so the idea was that this was somehow diminishing Seattle in some way.

Of course, this is the correlation/causation arrow pointing in the wrong direction. The teams don’t make the cities big and cool; bigger, cooler cities can afford more teams than smaller, less cool cities due to being bigger and cooler than them. And having our basketball team move out really hasn’t changed Seattle all that much; it’s still the same city it was when it left; just with less nasty traffic snarls on game nights.

If Western Michigan University is trying to acquire a law school alongside its med school “so that it can have both,” you can bet that the same sort of thinking is in play here…

Wolverine Law 2013 says:

Re: Re: Re:

I received my JD last weekend from The University of Michigan, and while living in Michigan I knew several friends graduate from Cooley. To be quite honest, it’s not that bad of a school. Hey, all 5 of the Cooley grads I know are making as much money as I have been offered. One of them took the California Bar last year, passed, and is making upwards of $120,000 a year. The other took the Texas Bar, passed,is now working in Oil and Gas, and is making over $180,000, however, she is also a Chemical Engineer who received her undergraduate degree from Rice University. Another one of my Cooley friends was an associate for Geoffrey Fieger, enough said! I used to be an elitist snob too. I used to be a Cooley critic, but once I was exposed to a handful of Cooley graduates; my views changed. It really doesn’t matter where someone attended school, remember George Bush went to Yale for crying out loud, it matters how successful one is throughout their career. In my opinion, if my life was on the line, I want the attorney who can sway a jury, not the egg head who hasn’t a scintilla of common sense. That’s just my humble opinion. Not everyone who attended Cooley is as dumb as a box of rocks.


alanbleiweiss (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Xe —- Blackwater — Academi LLC

hahaha a rogue mercenary providing hired thug company named “Academi” because it’s most likely to be disassociative of their verified and testified and acknowledged criminal activity. (They’ve paid out almost $50 million in “fines” (read that payoffs to the fed so they could continue operating and continue getting contract work from the fed)…


alanbleiweiss (profile) says:

So like wouldn’t a “prestegious” university have fiduciary responsibility to perform due diligence when coming to an arrangement like this?

I mean it doesn’t take a rocket scientist (I am pretty sure no rocket scientists sit on the board at WMU but I could be wrong) to do some basic Googling to discover the overwhelming volume of complaints about the hack law school…

So yeah I am betting on the belief someone got paid off to make this happen.

Adam says:


You clearly need to educate yourself. Cooley was established because most people outside of Detroit did not want to go to Detroit for post grad. Cooley, for years, prided itself on being the school for the rest of Michigan and aligning itself with WMU is not far off. Further, from my understanding on many occassion MSU entered into talks with Cooley for a similar arrangement. It didnt work out and Cooley expanded. I know many Cooley graduates who are great at their profession. Those with a grind to pick are typical those who could not handle their workload.

Nisah Tahara says:

Sounds Like A Personal Issue

Since Cooley grads must sit either in Feb or July for the SAME Bar exam for which every other law school grad must sit, it seems to me that any of those graduates who are successful in passing the bar, character and fitness and the MPRE, are then on an equal footing. Sounds like someone is chewing sour grapes for some odd reason, perhaps you were not successful?

Johnathan Carter (user link) says:

Thomas M. Cooley Law School Alumni

Thomas. M. Cooley Law School has instilled in many of its graduates the skills necessary to become a successful. It’s difficult to argue to with facts. Here is the link to SuperLawyers who have graduated from Thomas M. Cooley Law School:

In addition, Thomas M. Cooley Law School is one of the larger law schools in the U.S. meaning that it a graduate of the school has a larger network of alumni to refer work to and from.

tophawk says:

Some people just cannot cut it

I can say that your reasoning about the Cooley / WMU may (or may not) be on track… I am not privy to the reasoning. But a point to be made is that Cooley is GROWING! They added a new campus in Tampa, FL this last year.

If this is a hack law school, we must have alot of people wanting to be hacks. I use to agree that Cooley was an easy law school because they allow almost every applicant to attend. But after learning that it also has a VERY HIGH rate of people not cutting the grade and being asked to leave, I realized that they just give everyone a chance to try to earn a degree- IF you aren’t up to speed they quickly can and will show you the door. Not saying they do not help the struggling- just that they have no problem letting the weaker ones know it may be futile to stay and they should seek out another EASIER school or career path.

I agree with the Alumni post and the recent Wolverine grad- Cooley has put out some of the best lawyers. OF course you can look at the ones who did not take the advice and leave because they were just above the required 2.0 grade. Those seem to be the ones, like the others from other law schools, who can not pass a state bar and who file suits blaming the school for not getting them a job or preparing (ie teaching them)for the bar. Cooley teaches the law- unlike other school that teach the bar. Maybe that’s why Cooley gets a share of the super lawyers…

Hutch says:

Cooley's All Right Afterall

I am a recent Cooley graduate who is currently slaving through the IN bar exam prep through one the highest rated bar prep courses known. I spent nearly three years at Cooley with what I thought was a certain type of people, and after spending nearly two months re-learning the law with students from each of Indiana’s few law schools, I have come to one conclusion…anyone graduating law school is fit to practice law. I knew some serious dipshits at Cooley who are now licensed, and living great lives practicing law. I have now met recent law students from Indiana, Valparaiso, and Norte Dame, and the information we are learning is all the SAME, and was the same in law school (except for the state specific electives like “Gaming Law” dealing with casinos that I was fortunate enough to take).

To agree with an above post, Cooley admits A LOT of students, and is definitely a business. However, the school does through its faculty, i.e., professors, does an incredibly efficient job of weeding out those students who want to practice law “for the money” or because it seems like a cool job. I was fortunate to work for the school in a student related job, and was in regular contact with both processors and alumni, and was able to truly appreciate the quality education that Cooley provides. For example, Cooley requires it’s full-time professors to have practiced a certain amount of years in their field before being considered for a position. In fact, my property professor and advisor (now my mentor) was a real estate guru in Chicago making butt-loads of money decided to venture to Cooley and serve as wonderful professor when he had opportunities to do whatever he wanted to (and still does).

I’m not trying to say Cooley is Ivy League, or anything close. According to the “rankings” systems (including Cooley’s bogus one), Cooley is consistently a very low ranked school. I equate this to being the nerdy kid or loser in high school. It’s easy to hate on the “nerdy” or “loser”when in reality, Cooley is not all that bad.

Oh and a side note, I was awarded my civil court clerkship out of five applicants. It’s funny how this “Cooley” student landed a pretty sweet clerkship over an Indiana and Notra Dame law student.

Cooley Who? says:

Re: Cooley's All Right Afterall

This professor and mentor you speak of, was it the arrogant asshole who is also the founder’s son? That’s why he left his lovely Chicago job. He was the reason I transferred to Vandy. Cooley is a scam. The admin is conniving, selfish, and generally trashy. The students, at least at the Lansing campus, are mostly ‘hoodrats.

Shit school. I would be embarrassed to display a degree from this substitution, if you choose to call it that.

This name change is not exactly like putting lipstick on a pig; this name change is like putting lipstick on a piece of rotting shit. That is Cooley.

StevieP414 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Cooley's All Right Afterall

Get your degree from Vandy? You practicing law? How were you doing before you jumped ship? What a shameful characterization of people you probably didn’t even know; “hoodrats”? What is a hoodrat? I am sure you are in a position to define the term inasmuch as it usually takes one to know one. I am excited over the fact that you decided to leave b/c I would ashamed to display my degree from TMLS if you had the equivalent on your wall–as it now stands, while Vanderbilt is a fine school, it isn’t and never will be TMLS b/c they chose you!

Mr. Nash says:

A Question on Motive

I confess, I am not an expert on American law schools; however, it is interesting that I have heard more than a few glowing comments on the “Cooley” Law School. In fact, my International Environmental Law tutor said that she once had a Cooley student study international law under her – this student was “very bright” – the words of an Oxford professor.

Rather, it makes one wonder why such strong criticism exists. Isn’t it true that we tend to take aim at personalities that have somehow injured us in the past. A more interesting question is this: “What person or past event associated with Cooley injured Mr. Masnick, thus, compelling him to write such criticisms?”

Dale Mullins says:

Mike the innovator/business owner

Instead of bashing the author- one should have compassion for him. It’s clear he is an intellectual phenom of some sort! You know he once wrote a full USEFUL analysis on converting his desk to a sit and stand elliptical friendly desk?! He breaks it down thoroughly.(Please google mike masnick) The guy is a CEO, always on the road- stacking paper left and right! Keep up the good work, your tenacity is exemplified through these captivating articles you produce on a consistent basis. Various blogs you grace your presence with have audiences enamored! Smh, I’m proud of you bro, 38 and still you have maintained your clownish success. – yours truly, dale m. Cornell class of “98”

Jane Davis says:

Cooley gave me an opportunity and I passed the bar on my first try. Just like any consumer product, please do your research before buying. To be honest with you, I had no other law school to fall on. Cooley is listed on the fourth tier. Graduates are not going to be highly recruited by law firms. Let’s not kid ourselves. They generally end up setting up their own small firm or staying with the company they were working previously. These lawsuits or cooley bashing really are a product of bad I mean really bad legal job market. We are beyond over saturation. Even people with Michigan law degrees can’t find work. Instead of paying back the student loan, some want a quick fix blame others like cooley. I am very proud of my degree at cooley. I also attended a very prestigious law school for my LLM but cooley is better minus the name recognition. Also I only had to pay 50% at Cooley as I got scholarship. We need school like cooley.

clarity says:

I love how all the pro-Cooley comments are full of anecdotal evidence like ?I?m smart, I went to Cooley? or ?I know a guy who went to Cooley who is making $120,000 per year in California!? Sure. But here are some facts:

Only 32.62% of Cooley?s 2012 graduates had found full time permanent jobs that requires a JD within 9 months of graduation,19% were completely unemployed and searching for work and 9% simply went missing. The other 50% were in some form of temporary employment or employment that did not require a law degree. Note this is self-reported, so there is a good chance that the actual numbers are a good deal worse. (generate the report for Thomas M. Cooley Law School).

A Federal Court has said that its likely that Cooley reports inaccurate salary data for its graduates.

Of Cooley graduates taking the California bar in July 2013, only 13% of first time takers passed, 16% of second time taker. (page 9)

California is hard. What about Michigan?

43% of Cooley grads taking the Michigan bar failed the July 2013 sitting. That was the worst in the State.

A Cooley gradates hated the school so much he put up a blog:

Cooley sued him to get him to take it down. Cooley lost.

You should read that blog.

Just some *facts* that might want to make you read the pro-Cooley trolls above in a more critical light.

eric says:

Cooley Law School

I don’t get the negative talk about Cooley. It seems to be prior students who couldn’t cut it or people who never went there or know anything about the school. I graduated from Cooley 13 years ago. I loved the school, the professors and the students. It was very flexible and offered many courses. Those who complain about the ranking system it created fail to recognize it is a school based ranking compairing all of the schools. It is not a student based ranking aimed at things students look at necessarily/traditionally for graduating and obtaining employment. Its ranking system fairly ranks facilities and what each has to offer. Most people, however, are more concerned with whether they can get in, graduate, pass the bar, and get a job. I was at the Lansing campus and the facilities and technology were excellent. I graduated, got a job right away, gained experience, started my own firm, became a Super Lawyer, make several hundred thousand per year and couldn’t be happier with my degree and experiences while at Cooley and what I’ve been able to accomplish afterwards. Yes, it gives people who aren’t good at standardized tests a chance…it gave me a chance. They hold you responsible for your successes and failures. They have programs and help for those who struggle…but it’s up to you to work hard and succeed. Honestly, I’m not sure how I came by this site, I was looking for information on its merger with WMU. But, I’m glad I did.

StevieP414 (profile) says:


Look, perhaps the idiot authoring the aforementioned nonsense can explain to the reader (me) the source(s) of his information. I am a 1983 graduate of this so-called “dumpy” law school and can, without equivocation, state I have done quite well for myself, Indeed, when New Jersey’s pass rate on the Bar was well below 60%, I passed on the first try with a multi-state score that allowed me to waive into many other jurisdictions. Those seeking a Law School education may be better suited for a different career if they are researching the garbage that you folks are throwing their way. Yes, contrary to some pseudo experts referenced, law school is what you make of it; just as life is! I could give a rats ass about the sophomoric manner in which you levy your criticism however you are doing a disservice to many of the readers, especially those looking for a school, by placing any emphasis on these less then scientific ratings.

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