School's Advisory Committee sets course for future

Archer keynotes inaugural meeting

By Debra Talcott
Legal News

For the past 10 years, the professionalism programming at Cooley Law School has been inspired and guided by the Professionalism Plan adopted in 2002. That plan, which earned the Gambrell Professionalism Award from the American Bar Association in 2006, called for Cooley to establish its Professionalism Advisory Committee to guide future programming. The group of legal and higher education leaders who comprise that committee will help shape the next decade of the law school’s professionalism efforts.

Amy Timmer, associate dean of Students and Professionalism, says the combined experience and expertise of committee members will help Cooley Law School set a course for continuing to graduate students with well-developed professional identities, excellent character, and commitment to service.

“Preceding its inaugural meeting on July 13, committee members identified the issues they believe are affecting the legal profession, law school, and higher education in the area of professionalism,” says Timmer. “At the meeting, we came together to get know one another, share thoughts about those identified issues, and devise approaches Cooley Law School can take to positively impact the professionalism of our graduates.”

Former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer was the keynote speaker at the first meeting, which was attended by 43 of its 57 members, along with six Cooley Law School students. An attorney since graduating from Detroit College of Law in 1970, Archer has spoken publicly on the need for diversity in the legal profession-one of the six major issue areas identified by Professionalism Advisory Committee members.

“Mr. Archer addressed the diversity issue as well as the need for more lawyers, generally, especially those willing to take on the legal needs of the lower economic classes who cannot afford high-priced legal help,” says Timmer.

Historic Lovett Hall and the Ginger Meyer Garden at the Henry Ford provided an inspirational setting for the kickoff event, chosen for their proximity to Metropolitan Airport and the beautiful Dearborn Inn. Tickets for the popular Titanic Exhibit were provided for attendees who wanted to tour the museum.

“Some of the committee members are nationally-recognized leaders in lawyer professionalism and were flying in from around the country, so we wanted a venue that is near the airport, has a hotel within walking distance, and offers entertainment that showcases Michigan’s rich history,” says Timmer.

The new Professional Advisory Committee is chaired by Edward Pappas, chairman of Dickinson Wright, former president of the State Bar of Michigan, and a member of Cooley’s Board of Directors.

“Mr. Pappas had dedicated his term as president of the SBM to improving lawyer professionalism. When Cooley Dean and President Don LeDuc asked him to chair this committee, he gladly accepted,” explains Timmer.

In his welcome letter to committee members, Pappas acknowledged Cooley Law School’s significant emphasis on professionalism and ethics, saying, “After studying and appreciating Cooley’s substantial efforts to positively impact the hearts and minds of its students, I was pleased to join Cooley Law School’s Board of Directors. I am equally pleased to chair Cooley’s newly established Professionalism Advisory Committee. I hope to learn from all of you what the professionalism issues are that Cooley should anticipate its applicants will bring from their undergraduate education, and what professionalism challenges its graduates will encounter as they leave law school and enter the work force.”

The Professional Advisory Committee will support Cooley Law School in its mission to prepare graduates for entry into the legal profession through an integrated program with practical legal scholarship as its guiding principle and focus. Cooley takes pride in providing broad access to those who seek the opportunity to study law while simultaneously requiring that students who are afforded this opportunity meet rigorous academic standards, according to Timmer.

“To be prepared for practice,” says Timmer, quoting Cooley’s Strategic Plan, “Cooley graduates must, first, master the fundamentals and basic skills required for the competent practice of law and representation of clients; second, demonstrate the substantive knowledge and skills required for passage of the bar examination and admission to the bar; and, third, understand and embrace the legal, moral, ethical, and professional responsibility of lawyers.”

Timmer says Cooley finds itself at a critical time in its continuing commitment to professionalism, and she embraces the challenge to turn out lawyers with the right combination of skills and ethics.

“We must fashion plans for the future steps we can take to cement the progress we have already made and to reach beyond our current grasp to continue to graduate the most professional and ethical lawyers in the country. We are grateful that these prominent leaders in law and higher education committed their time, energy, and great ideas to help Cooley continue to graduate ethical lawyers committed to helping serve all who need legal service.”